October 07, 2016

Mudsill: The one word that explains the Trump phenomenon

Why Donald Trump?
And not Ted Cruz?
If you're not familiar with the non-literal (or the literal) use of the word "mudsill," or the theory based on it, or the U.S. President who exemplified it, well, now is the time to get some familiarity.

I'm generally not a fan of what can be overly simplistic explanation of political, social, cultural or historical matters and turnings, but this one fits. (Edit: In general; I should add that it's not a total explainer, or it's not philosophically sufficient for all supporters, or even his core. But, it fits overall.

First, it fits the heart of Trump support — Appalachia extended, and the portions of the Great Lakes area that saw the biggest part of the first and second Great Migrations from the South — which, going beyond Wiki's narrow focus, included significant numbers of whites, not just blacks. I know that, because I used to live in Flint, Michigan, and lots of first- or second-generation white migrants from Tennessee and Kentucky worked in the auto plants. And, a certain chunk of them were racist. (Michael Moore, sadly, won't tell you much about this.)

All the other matters — the higher death rate, the religiosity, etc., are second to this key factor, as I see it. And, they're statistically, not causally correlated to Trump support.

Mudsillism, though, is, in my estimation (there's no way to prove causal correlation with a sociological term like this) causally connected.

Why did today's ersatz mudsills latch onto Trump?

Let's go back to 2008.

The depths of the Great Recession had not yet hit. Nor had the length of its lingering been seen. So, mudsills voted "generic Republican" if they backed John McCain.

In 2012, both those calculuses changed. But, who did the GOP offer as its nominee?

Mitt Romney. No richer than Trump, but a totally different, button-down personality. And, his "47 percent" comment may have hurt him with mudsills. Trump's long record of similar comment is buried in his massive volume of verbal diarrhea in general, is my partial explainer as to why he's not been burned.

But why Trump instead of other Republicans?

Jeb Bush wore glasses. Can't vote for him.

Chris Christie? Maybe the "fat" part of "fat bastard" hurt.

Mike Huckabee? Even if mudsills come from a Pentecostal-heavy area, most of them aren't likely to be minster-friendly.

John Kasich? Too buttoned down, and too sensical within today's GOP.

Finally ...

Ted Cruz? He strikes me as a somewhat smarmy, even more somewhat prissy, buttoned-up schoolmarm lecturer. And I bet many mudsills feel the same.

That left Trump.


And, yes, I know the baggage the term carries, too.

See what I said above about Flint. I've read books on the social psychology of this phenomenon. I know what the term means. I think there's an arc from the breakdown of poor white-black alliances at the start of Emancipation, through southern Populism at the time of William Jennings Bryan and its largely anti-black stance, on through the rural economic struggles after World War I in the South, the Great Migrations and more.

After that, there was Nixon with his code word of "busing." (And Jimmy Carter, though not a racist himself on the Democratic side, was OK with a bit of dogwhistling as the two parties finished their realignments.)

Look also at "nice, polite, Republicans." Consider things like the welfare queen in a Cadillac that Reagan talked about. Just convenience that she was African-American? That's not to mention Reagan launching his 1980 campaign at the Neshoba County Fair, with his infamous "states' rights speech."

And, yes, I'll likely do a follow-up.


Kevin Wilson said...

Here's a perspective from one of the Appalachian diaspora who was literally in Andrew Johnson's house a couple months ago.

Mudsills lumped Bush, Christie and Kaisch together as institutional politicians in government for themselves. Cruz was the closest candidate to an Andrew Johnson "strict constitutionalist." However, Cruz also positioned himself as an Evangelical. You can't be both mudsill and Evangelical. So Cruz got Huckabeed.

My only challenge to your premise is that there are too few mudsill to get Trump nominated. I realize Wikipedia underestimates the number of ex-Appalachians scattered from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to Chicago. However, a good number of Appalachian expats are Democrats. Some of us are conservative Independents who did not vote for Trump.

Fodder for a future post: Which other unexpected sociological group combined with the mudsills to get Trump nominated?

Gregg Fowler said...

I think it a very good general explanation of the phenomena. Yes, there are not enough Mudsills to get him elected. Let's throw in "hysteria" and then use the mudsill premise as the seed or core of the hysteria. The reality is that I have not spent enough time thinking about "why" it is the way it is and a lot more time just shaking my head, because I truly just do not get it. I just can't understand some other people's "reality".