Poor white people whose families were ravaged by 15 years of unending war frequently voted for Trump against Clinton. That is the theme of a new study – Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House? – by Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen, two Harvard Ph.D.s, one teaching at BU, the other at the Law School of the University of Minnesota. shows. Neither candidate was any good on the issue of war. But Trump was not in favor of escalation with nuclear armed Russia, where Clinton was. Trump put “America First” “national sovereignty” a la Steve Bannon as the quasi-fascist slogan of his campaign, one which might suggest a withdrawal from foreign wars and international alliances to more defensible policies (Bannon, however, also believes in a civilizational crusade against Muslims, a new world war…). Trump has gotten all his money from Russian oligarchs for over a decade – and is suborned, as Jr.’s emails revealed last week. But in the campaign itself, Clinton was gung-ho for confrontation with Russia, and sought and got an alliance with belligerent neo-cons like Robert Kagan.
As one of several lies, Trump claimed to have opposed the war in Iraq loudly at Republican debates.
But Clinton and others stood for an establishment which could not care less about ordinary people who go fight (some, like Barack excepted). It throws away their lives. Ralph Nader has often made this point; it is the one true point that Bannon offers about his former colleagues at Goldman-Sachs – “they care more about people in London or Berlin than in Georgia or Kansas.” And beyond factories or coal jobs moving and permanent unemployment or part time employment, this was a central motivation – really understandable to any of the majority of us who opposed these wars and occupation – in poor white communities first voting for Obama against Clinton in 2008, and then, for Trump against Clinton in 2016. But none of this makes the corporate press…
Here is Kriner and Shen’s telling beginning:
“Imagine a country continuously at war for nearly two decades. Imagine that the wars were supported by both Democratic and Republican presidents.
‘Continue to imagine that the country fighting these wars relied only on a small group of citizens—a group so small that those who served in theater constituted less than 1 percent of the nation’s population, while those who died or were wounded in battle comprised far less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the nation’s population. And finally, imagine that these soldiers, their families, friends, and neighbors felt that their sacrifice and needs had long been ignored by politicians in Washington.
“Would voters in these hard hit communities get angry? And would they seize an opportunity to express that anger at both political parties? We think the answer is yes. And the proof is the 2016 victory of Donald J. Trump.
In fact, only the corporate news media, in thrall to militarism, could have suppressed/missed this point for so many years (Rachel Maddow and the New York Times, too). Note the article this weekend by Joshua Green in the Times which attributes Trump votes to an irrational, other world created by Breitbart News. Green has written an intelligent account of Bannon’s decisive role in Trump’s campaign – Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency – but this claim just echoes silly establishment elitism, arrogant blindness to suffering, and often belligerence.
No, white people hurt by war don’t live in another reality. Nor do blacks and Chicanos whose one time votes for Obama and continuing criticisms of Clinton on this issue were also suppressed. Instead, theTimes and other New York and Washington columnists and pollsters pretty well do live in a militarism-denying fantasia…
For Kriner and Shen note obvious anti-war facts about American politics, arising from opposition among all poor and working people, blacks and chicanos hurt worst, but poor whites ravaged, too, in defeating Republicans starting in 2006 and extending to Obama’s victory against the warmonger McCain in 2008:
‘By 2006, the continuing deterioration of the situation in Iraq emboldened Democrats to promise to end the war in the Middle East. That year’s midterm elections returned Democrats to power in both chambers of Congress for the first time since before the 1994 Republican Revolution. Underlying this sweeping change was a further erosion in support for the GOP among the constituencies hardest hit by the war. In both the Senate and the House, Republican losses were steepest among communities that had suffered disproportionately high casualty rates in Iraq. Finally, in the 2008 presidential election one of the starkest points of contrast between Barack Obama and John McCain was their diametrically opposite views on the Iraq War. McCain was a steadfast supporter and argued that the U.S. must assiduously stay the course to ultimate victory. Obama had opposed the war from the start and promised to end the conflict. Voters ultimately chose Obama in a landslide.
The electoral punishment suffered by Republicans in the 2000s was a story of both casualty and economic inequality. The communities suffering the most from the fighting overseas were communities with lower income and education levels. These communities, in turn, increasingly turned against political candidates insisting on more combat. The resulting GOP losses in communities hardest hit by the war echoes findings from previous conflicts. When the United States goes to war, the sacrifice that war exacts in blood is far from uniformly distributed across the country. And in the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, constituencies that have suffered the highest casualty rates have proven most likely to punish the ruling party at the polls. While previous research tells us much about how incumbent politicians lose votes due to battlefield casualties, it offers few clues as to how a candidate might win back such voters.”
Statistically, Kriner and Shen found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” Their model suggests that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controls for party identification, comparing Trump’s performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. It also controls for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.
“Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the relationship between a county’s casualty rate and Trump’s electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant. Trump significantly outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Now Trump is the most hapless, insecure and stupid villain/fascist ninny in the world (Duterte runs him a good race, however) – and America is feared and laughed at except by the Law and Justice Fascists in Poland – now promoted to “white” but spewing hatred at others – the Saudi tyrants, those who spawned and funded the Wahhabis, and an Israel bent on ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Palestinian territories and tolerant of the demonization of George Soros (a fascist theme from Hungary’s Viktor Orban to Trump’s last campaign ad against globalization. Trump is by instinct a KKK-man (his father participated in a KKK “riot” in 1927 or a Nazi) – that is what “national sovereignty” means. Trump is greedy for riches but is now pushing war (he has largely destroyed senior State Department activity as well as organizations) He has supported the James-Buchanan/Koch/”libertarian” – Nancy MacLean, Democracy in chains: the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America – strangling of compassion toward the poor with “Trumpcare” and is now fashioned by the rest of the racist, imperial “Republican” party as he, with false promises as a racist strong man has now also fashioned them.
To this moment, Bernie Sanders reaches out genuinely (40 years of roughly the same arguments and a certain personal intensity and passion show this) to people who have been abandoned by capitalism, thrown out of industrial jobs, and whose children, must go fight and die (two of them, a Russian emigre cutting down trees where I live and a Republican precinct captain voted as libertarians for Trump, but were also sympathetic to Sanders and sure that Sanders would have beaten any Republican). In these communities sacrificed to war and American militarism (the roughly $1.7 trillion spent on military and “intelligence”; the 1180 bases abroad dividing the whole world into 6 commands) people deserve a movement which respects and mourns their losses and does something about it. These communities need an end to such wars and programs for retraining for jobs (a big public works program, for example. They do not need the tone deaf Hillary and her entourage of elite Democratic/neocon (or neno-neo-con) consultants (Hillary had a better program even for such communities, but her corruption – but a slight matter compared to Trumpiola and his family – and her being tough on waging war doomed her.
During the debates, Bernie Sanders opposed regime-change. A very dramatic and sensible shift – no Iraq aggression, for example, or none against Iran or North Korea today…His proposal was never discussed in the New York Times or on MSNBC (kept organs of the corporate elite in this decisive respect). That the corporate media enabled Trump by suppressing Sanders candidacy – and I mean specifically the Times, the Washington Post and MSNBC – is obvious to anyone who bothers to notice what happened during the primaries and Presidential election. The findings of Kriner and Shen’s study underline deeply the Clinton and corporate Democrat catastrophe – she failed to beat the weakest and most divisive Presidential opponent in modern history. And given the raft of laws to suppress voting – proof of citizenship a la Kobach, stigmatization of voter registration drives including police investigations as in Georgia and Indiana, throwing out of voter registrations, voting on easily hacked machines (even optical scan ones) and gerrymandering – Democrats are minorities in 30 states.
With a new burst of energy from young people (many who supported Sanders are now participating locally) and sit-ins at Senate town halls (most cancelled for fear of protest) and in Washington, the Trumpcare bill has again been defeated in the Republican senate. Apparently, so has McConnell’s “Repeal,” doomed, ironically, given a Republican committee of patriarchs to design a hasty health care, by three Republican women. The CBO estimates that the newest version would cut 32 million Americans from health insurance and send premiums soaring.
The defeat of these plans is a cause of celebration as well as continued pressure.
I speak as an anti- war activist. There is no alternative for Americans now but to fight American militarism and war from below (cf. Martin Luther King’s speech on Vietnam, as relevant today as the day it was written 50 years ago…) The support of masses of young people – under 40 – for Bernie in the last election and since; he is the most popular politician in the US – is witness to this. Fight against war, and as with Obama (many poor whites who had voted for Obama in these communities stayed home or voted for Trump), poor whites as well as blacks, latinos and indigenous people will join you. In these dark times, that is the only way forward.
See also a story by Phillip Weiss in Mondoweiss:
“Clinton lost because war-ravaged communities in PA, WI, and MI saw her as pro-war, study says
US Politics Philip Weiss, July 6, 2017′