Quote: The Deep Story of the Right

DALLAS - SEP 04 : A conservative Tea Party Express protest of big government and Obamacare in Dallas. Taken September 04 2009 in Dallas TX.

DALLAS – SEP 04 : A conservative Tea Party Express protest of big government and Obamacare in Dallas. Taken September 04 2009 in Dallas TX.

From I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans.

What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these theories. It was the deep story underlying them—an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

I checked this distillation with those I interviewed to see if this version of the deep story rang true. Some altered it a bit (“the line-waiters form a new line”) or emphasized a particular point (those in back are paying for the line-cutters). But all of them agreed it was their story. One man said, “I live your analogy.” Another said, “You read my mind.”

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8 Responses to Quote: The Deep Story of the Right

  1. 1
    Sam Cole says:

    I’m a white male. I know that I’m very privileged. And I don’t feel like the narrative the article describes is my narrative at all. I have zero resentment. (I’m also, to put it mildly, not a Trump supporter.)

    Then again, I also have a very strong social network, parents who helped pay for my college, a good education, and a comparatively comfortable amount of money. So I do sometimes wonder if it’s just “easy for me to say.”

  2. 2
    Phil says:

    After reading the article, I’m very curious what the deep story of the left might be.

  3. 3
    Ben Lehman says:

    Has there been any evidence that, out of line with historical voting patterns, the bulk of Trump’s support comes from poor whites and not middle and upper class whites?

  4. 4
    Kate says:

    Hi Ben @3, – no, actually, the reverse (that’s from 538).

  5. 5
    Mandolin says:

    America was built on grave sins, but we can make up for the wrongs we’ve done and focus on maintaining the good parts of our heritage, while not ignoring the bad, to create an ever-increasingly welcoming, beautiful, and caring country for all its many citizens. –ish?

  6. 6
    Charles S says:

    That article didn’t say that Trump had more support from lower and working class voters than other Republicans have previously had. The interview subjects from which that narrative was constructed were mostly middle class.

    Trump’s support does come disproportionately from non-college educated whites (mostly because he is losing more college educated whites, but when you are losing hard, it isn’t a question of who you are adding to the coalition, just a question of who you aren’t losing). Early on, when the author lists the occupations that the people she was interviewing had, she explicitly specifies that they include skilled trades people making $100k/year, but that almost all of them had no college education. Later on, she says: “Most of the people I interviewed were middle class:” and then lists the fact that most Tea Party supporters are.

    Also, Tea Party folks are reliable republicans, and white Louisianans likewise, so obviously Trump supporters are drawn primarily from reliable Republicans, not from former Dems. But of Republicans, college educated republicans are one of the groups he is disproportionately losing. And in terms of income, as the article Kate links to points out, compared to Kasich and Rubio, Trump and Cruz both drew more of their support from poorer Republicans (at least as reflected in their supporters having a lower average income).

    I think the idea that one is losing out on the American Dream is a pretty common one among middle class Americans, although I can’t find any surveys that measure that. The best I can find is that only 3 in 10 white Americans think their kids will be better off than they are, while more than 6 in 10 black and Latino Americans believe that, so there is at least that bit of support for the broad existence of that sense of white grievance about the American Dream.

    One major group of Tea Party Republicans is middle class white people in areas of the country with high levels of poverty (Appalachia and the Deep South). This article describes those people in Louisiana, I’ve read other articles about this group in Appalachia. I’m sure they aren’t representative of all Tea Partiers, but I think they are a significant faction. And certainly Tea Partiers are Trump’s bread and butter (or at least his bread, I think White Supremacists are his butter).

  7. 7
    desipis says:

    Hi Ben @3, – no, actually, the reverse (that’s from 538).

    From that article:

    The exit polls have asked voters to describe their 2015 family income by using one of five broad categories, ranging from “under $30,000” to “$200,000 or more.”

    The fact they asked for family income, rather than individual income, makes me skeptical that the data supports the claim that conservative supporters are better off. Asking the question in that way would bias the results in a way that makes couples appear more wealthy than single people.

    For example two single people earning $50,000 each would both report $100,000 “family income” if they were a couple. I would hazard a guess that left leaning voters will be more likely to be single than conservative voters, leaving that a potentially significant factor, rather than outright individual income that would drive the apparent discrepancy in the results.

    If they had also asked number of adults and children and produce some sort of per-person income it would produce a more meaningful number, however it doesn’t appear they have done so.

  8. 8
    Sarah says:

    Desipis, I think two people living in a household with $100,000 to spend every year are pretty much the definition of higher-class than single people living in households that earn only $50,000. It doesn’t take twice as much to house two people living together, because costs can be shared – including the biggest expense most people have in their lives, which is rent or mortgage payments, which is one of the key reasons why people live together in the first place. The existence of legal marriage also provides tax benefits in some cases that a single person wouldn’t receive.

    So it would probably tell us more about the demographics of different voters to know how many people live in their households, but dividing total income by household size to achieve “per-person” income is too simplistic. I would be inclined to think two people living together and making $100k are higher class than two people living separately, each of whom makes $50k. Especially if the couple really do qualify as a single household for tax purposes.