SocraticGadfly: Mudsill: The one word that explains the Trump phenomenon (updated)

November 10, 2016

Mudsill: The one word that explains the Trump phenomenon (updated)

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.)

(UPDATE, April 29, 2018: Per CNN, a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences adds more credence to the mudsills idea. From the abstract:
Support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 election was widely attributed to citizens who were “left behind” economically. These claims were based on the strong cross-sectional relationship between Trump support and lacking a college education. Using a representative panel from 2012 to 2016, I find that change in financial wellbeing had little impact on candidate preference. Instead, changing preferences were related to changes in the party’s positions on issues related to American global dominance and the rise of a majority–minority America: issues that threaten white Americans’ sense of dominant group status. 
Lays it out pretty solidly. Were that Leo Lincourt were still alive to discuss this further.

A new Atlantic piece lays it out further. Near the end, "The Birth of a New American Aristocracy" talked about how the 0.1 percent helped stoke angers of the 90 percent at the 9.9 percent in between, while also looking down and "kicking down," which the piece exactly says. More in Mudsills Part 4.)

(UPDATE, Nov 10: I'd argue that — while noting that no political campaign boils down to a single issue — the returns from Tuesday's election provide at least partial validation of my claims. Note the states Trump flipped to red from Obama 2012: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. [Wisconsin got a lesser degree of the migration that went to Michigan; Pennsylvania is the northern end of Appalachia of course, and eastern Ohio borders it and gets spillover, plus the Great Migration.]

And, in all fairness to Moore he did, weeks before the election, even if not fully saying why, straightforwardly predict something just like this might well happen, down to enumerating the four states by name.

As for critics of this being even a partial explainer, who counter about how rich Trump backers are? Most of them start with Nate Silver, but ignore that while Trump backers, in the primaries, were richer than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters, they were well poorer than John Kasich and Marco Rubio backers and a touch poorer than Ted Cruz's. Indeed, his findings, while not confirmatory of my general lines of thought, I do not consider to be directly refuting.

In fact, Silver drills further into his own weeds, noting voters in general tend to be richer than nonvoters, among other things. That said, we shall see if the numbers were roughly the same in the general election.)

Further update, Feb. 15, 2020: More data from  the 2016 elections once again show this. The Atlantic notes that, among working-class white voters, sociocultural anxiety, and NOT economic anxiety, pushed such voters who indulged any anxieties toward Trump.

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.

Update, Nov. 9, 2017: In places like Johnstown, Pennsylvania, heartland of the northern end of Appalachia, Trump is like crack cocaine. They feed on his anger at "others" — who are often racial "others." Sorry, dear departed Leo Lincourt, but reality is reality. Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about this in West Virginia in his new book, too. And, a new Atlantic piece has more.

Mudsills, Leo.

Not a majority of his white support, surely, but a fair-sized minority. And, per the Atlantic piece, especially, another fair chunk of his white support, while not being mudsills on the class-based steps of life, still had one foot, at least, in the sewer of racism, contra Joe Biden.

And now, July 2018, we have multiple racists and affirmed neo-Nazis who are GOP general election candidates. When Ted Cruz tells Illionoisians to vote Dem if they don't have a write-in, it's serious.


Unknown 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?

Totfit 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".