Thursday, July 6, 2017

NYTimes piece on rural, far northern California struck a nerve among liberal elites

Let me begin this post by acknowledging that I am a member of a group I often reference, frequently pejoratively:  "liberal elite."  This is different, mind you, from being a liberal elitist.  But I am in the privileged position of being an academic, and I am liberal/ I must own up to being a liberal elite. I am also a coastal elite by virtue of the fact I've lived in California for the past 18 years, doing the job that conferred "elite"-ness on me.  But I found myself really annoyed at another group of liberal elites yesterday when, following the New York Times story I blogged about here, some of the ones on Twitter started bashing the great grey lady (the New York Times, that is) for running that story!  Joy Reid of AM Joy (an MSNBC weekend program) let loose with this Twitter storm, partly captured in these images, but then transcribed below because the screen shots can be difficult to read.

Joy Reid: So let me get this straight: they got the president they wanted and receive the bulk of federal/state aid but they feel disempowered?

NYT Politics: Conservative voters in the northernmost reaches of California feel alienated by the state’s liberal urban majority

Joy Reid: And now they would very much like to secede from “liberal cosmopolitan elite” California but they’re broke so they wouldn’t survive alone?

Joy Reid: So in sum, they want their dole, they want all the guns they can stockpile, AND they want to run California and dominate their benefactors?

Joy Reid: Otherwise they’ll feel sad and disrespected and the @NYTimes will write doleful odes to their misery so the rest of us will pity them?

Joy Reid: People please. Your ethos is now running the United States. We are run by your rural, right wing Christian “values” and Ted Nugentian ethos.

Joy Reid: The vulgar, erratic, embarrassing president you wanted plods through the White House daily.

Joy Reid: Despite getting millions less votes, your congress IS expanding water and air pollution and gun proliferation and legislating women’s bodies

Joy Reid: just as you want. Sure, you may loss your Medicaid, but THAT’S WHAT YOU VOTED FOR: to “repeal Obamacare!” and free you from liberal tyranny!

Joy Reid: You hate clean air and water rules? Meet Secretary Zinke! I’m sure he’ll be turning over federal lands to your billionaire friends soon

Joy Reid: and I’m SO CONFIDENT they will trickle down the benefits to you (though I would advise against holding your breath w/o healthcare.)

Joy Reid: You are getting everything you wanted PLUS blue states/cities money to pay your dole. What is it you want now? Hugs? A parade?

Joy Reid: Hollywood to make movies about you so you feel important? @robreiner could you please get on that right away???

Joy Reid: These durges are getting old. These demands that we pity the poor victors who have achieved rural domination of urban America.

Joy Reid: You know who I feel sorry for? Urban America, whose values are denied while our hearts bleed to GIVE red states our money…

Joy Reid: Urban communities who have now been told their country will no longer fight climate change, and will let polluters run free to poison them.

Joy Reid: Immigrants who now live in fear of federal raids, Muslim students afraid to go home for holiday breaks or to wear their hijabs outside…

Joy Reid: Black motorists terrified of MAGA-amped police and children taunted with “Trump” as they are bullied for being brown or girls or LGBT.

Joy Reid: Let’s have some durges about how they feel. I’m weary of these demands that we cradle the people who clairm they “took their country back.”

Joy Reid: You go the White House and congress. You don’t need a cuddle. And we in the majority have bigger fish to fry than your hurt feelings.
* * *

In a similar vein, Anita Creamer, formerly of the Sacramento Bee, Tweeted:
Anita Creamer: THIS. What next, NYT? Want to interview the 5 sad Trump voters in Hawaii who are scared and lonely and need a hug? Enough.
Various folks chimed in to cheer Reid on, with one calling her Tweet storm "poetry." 

I guess the best way to sum up my response to Reid (and the many others who chimed in by re-Tweeting her or by writing their own similar Tweets) is to publish my own Tweet storm response here, in full:  

Lisa Pruitt: I find the tone of this #thread disdainful & #unproductive. Would we coastal #elites have spoken this way to #rural #white folks be #Trump?

Lisa Pruitt: No, before #Election2016, we were largely ignoring them, forgetting them, letting them know they & #food they produce don’t matter #rural

Lisa Pruitt: Here is my analysis of #rural bashing by #media #MSM during #Election2008.… Must we #liberalelites be so contemptuous

Lisa Pruitt: Oh & where’s evidence that folks in #rural northern #California are on the dole? Not saying it doesn’t exist, but let’s map data, show it.

Lisa Pruitt: #federal & #California funding streams not same: cannot tax #publiclands; #spatialinequality #unevendevelopment problems to be reckoned with

Lisa Pruitt: If we want to tell these folks to “move to town” & be #urban, then let’s be straight & say it. But many are suffering economically as is.

Lisa Pruitt: I understand how easy it is to be angry at #Trump voters; I’m furious at them, nearly unconsolable. But his thread is contemptuous of #rural

Lisa Pruitt: The #thread & its tone are so #destructive. Garnering #Twitter followers, yes, but not showing empathy or building bridges to others…

Lisa Pruitt: As for pollution, #rural areas bear brunt accdg to many analyses. Environmental injustice not only #urban phenomenon #environmentaljustice.

Lisa Pruitt: We #liberalelites #coastal #elites need to keep our eye on the prize: removing #Trump from office & then #coalition building to bring #USA back.

Lisa Pruitt: or is our plan to extract proverbial “pound of flesh” #poundofflesh from #swingvotoers #Trump voters if we get out of this mess alive?

Lisa Pruitt: Remember marital advice: do U want to be right or do U want to be happy? Do #liberalelites want to be right or build coalitions for future?

Lisa Pruitt: And why bash @nytimes for running this story on #rural northern #California? a polestar of #media integrity that we should support #MSM.

Lisa Pruitt: On @nytimes bashing, did U notice story ran on page 9? do we want further polarization where #NYTimes doesn’t cover #rural America at all?

All of this reminds me of something someone asked several months ago following a talk I gave about some of my work on rural white poverty. Essentially, he asked me why he should care, and he later circled back to explain his hostility:
some of these people were quite powerful in some domains, even exercising electoral power over California (and me) in the last election.
Frank Rich in a March 2017 article in New Yorker Magazine expressed similar anger at Trump voters.  He argued that Democrats should not "waste time and energy chasing unreachable voters in the base of Trump’s electorate." Rich calls it 
a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving “the poorly educated” who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.
I'm reminded of a discouraging story from a few months ago that suggested that Democrats will cease to vie for seats with populations that are low-education, rural, and lacking in diversity.

Meanwhile, one commentator on Rich's article challenges the proposition that the media are looking to appease Trump voters, writing:
There is nothing but open contempt for Trump voters on every channel, in every magazine. Misplaced contempt perhaps (people didn't vote FOR Trump, they voted AGAINST coastal social justice pandering and identity politics). Out side of Fox Farce, who have you ever seen publish or speak kindly about Trump voters? 
Sadly, the commenter is describing the world in which I'm living, one with surplus disdain for low-income, low-education whites, rural or not, who are all presumed to have voted for Trump and therefore to be racists and sexists beyond redemption. But I won't go there right now, for that's too big a topic for this little blog post; indeed, it would be better suited for a book...

1 comment:

Orchid64 said...

When I was growing up, "liberal" was synonymous with caring about the poor. Unfortunately, that has changed. Now, "liberal" often doesn't include any poor people who are white, rural, and uneducated. They only "poor" that are not to be blamed for their lot are urban and/or minorities. Essentially, liberals have jumped on the bandwagon that blames poor white people for their poverty. At best, they will only exercise empathy to the extent that it will change conservative minds to their way of thinking. Poor white people who can't be persuaded to come around to the coastal thinking are nothing to liberals. They are the enemy. They are useless. They are trash.

I often feel like I am now part of an extreme minority - a liberal who isn't elite. I'm a liberal who grew up poor, is now middle class (not upper, not lower - solidly in the center which I know is also becoming a minority). What is more, I don't have contempt for poor white people and don't feel that I have to choose between empathy for them and empathy for others. My empathy isn't conditional. Most liberals these days, however make their empathy conditional on sharing their values or at least recognizing that they are "right".

This is where we are at in America today and a huge reason Trump got elected. The idea that liberals in power and who put people in power didn't care about those who suffered who were white and establishment politicians did nothing for them (and they lost so much via neoliberalism) is why those left behind chose someone they saw as an outsider in the hopes that he'd take care of them when nobody else would. The fact that he spoke to them and recognized them when no one else would was a big piece of this. Now, liberals do speak to them and recognize them, but only to vent their disdain and hatred at them.