The Widdershins


Posted on: December 2, 2016


Sawubona. It’s an African Zulu greeting that means “I see you.” It means much more than “hello.”  It says, “I see your personality. I see your humanity. I see your dignity and respect.” In the African village context, where everyone knows one another, it’s an exceedingly powerful representation of understanding.

As this election recedes in our rearview mirror, the image is one of a distorted mishmash of demoralization.  Try as I might, I’m still dwelling on the “why” of the election.

The absolute best analysis I’ve read is this one from Vox by David Roberts entitled:  Everything mattered:  Lessons from 2016’s bizarre presidential election.  WTF just happened?  It is a long read, but I urge you to read it if you can make the time.

Mr. Roberts, in a very thorough colonoscopy of the election, parses and susses out what went wrong.  As Mr. Roberts explains, everyone has a theory.  The conjecture is varied and in no certain order includes:  Misogyny, James Comey, rogue FBI agents, Putin, hackers, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, third-party candidates, under educated males, white working class, rural whites feeling left behind, Republican elites, fake scandals, right-wing press, the press in general, voter suppression efforts, Hillary’s campaign style, and campaign overconfidence.

In coming to the conclusion, “F**k everything and blame everyone,” he says:

Like everyone, I buy some of these more than others.  But there are bits and pieces of evidence for all of them.  Some of them don’t hold up on their own – voter suppression probably didn’t swing the election, nor did third-party candidates – but all of them plausibly played a role or have some grain of truth.

The most agonizing implication of the narrow loss is that everything mattered.

Every decision to hype Clinton’s emails.  Comey’s extraordinary violation of precedent.  WikiLeaks, Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches.  Her refusal to dissociate from the Clinton Foundation.  Her poor retail politics.  Trump not releasing his tax returns.  Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan hiding out, Sanders tarnishing Clinton’s image among young people.  Institutions standing by and doing nothing as Trump shredded democratic norms.  The gamble that Trump’s misogyny and racism would render him unacceptable.

Fake news on Facebook.  Epistemological bubbles.  Elite self-absorption.  Hot take after hot take delivered to the choir.  Americans making the contest into a crass reality TV show fueled by Facebook memes.  The press refusing to cover policy.

And whatever else you can name.  The Electoral College turned on a 107,000-vote margin (now less than 80,000).  All of it mattered.  If you’re prone to haunting, crippling regret, that’s where you should focus your energy.

There is one more issue Mr. Roberts delves into at length – racism.  He says:joel-pett-you-and-your-identity

Why be coy or euphemistic about this?  Study after study after study came to the same conclusion:  What most distinguished Trump voters was not their economic status, but their attitudes on race, gender, and immigration.  Trump ran on white male resentment and won because white male resentment appeals to a lot of white people.

Identity.  Simple as that.  Let me say this point-blank:  Politics is identity.  All politics is identity politics.  You can’t divorce someone’s identity from their voting patterns.  Trump’s unvarnished call for white identity resentment drove more non-voting white males to the polls on Election Day than Hillary’s imploring us to find our better angels of inclusion.

There are those who call that type of thinking wrong-headed.  For instance, Bernie Sanders, who continues to litigate the primary in his quest to take over the Democratic Party said:

It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.

So just a few clicks away from the white male resentment, you’ll find Bernie’s white bro manifesto.  It’s a creed of believing in a mystical socialistic dream world where systematic prejudice magically disappears and divine class equality replaces them.

In this romanticized world “identity” is always secondary to class struggle.  Who you are doesn’t count.  What matters are the dragons Socialists always want to slay – corporations, banks, and the Establishment.  There is a failure to understand this is the same old song of “wait your turn, go to the back of the line,” that has stymied women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community for generations.

It is the age-old game of societal Dungeons and Dragons where white males are out chasing dragons while everyone else is held captive in the dungeon.  An excellent essay by Spandan Chakrabarti on the subject is, In Defense of Identity Politics: The Soul of the Democratic Party will not Sit Down and Shut UpWhen I read this essay the only comment I could leave was, “This! More of THIS! Please!”

As we look at the future of the Democratic Party, hearing that we must chase the wants and needs of fewer than 80,000 white guys in the upper Midwest is the epitome of idiocy.  It doesn’t even qualify as a fool’s errand because you don’t have to send out for something that foolish, it will always deliver itself.

Simply put, the Democratic table will never be large enough to allay the sociological angst of these white males.  Given the societal changes and the perceived threats, these white males will never share the table.  By their very existence, the various Democratic constituencies are intimidation personified to the aggrieved white males.


What this election has taught me, among other things, is that identity matters.  Hillary was a champion of all those who have been left behind.  She stood for those who were neither heard nor seen.  She tried to weave a tapestry across cultures, colors, and orientations.  She saw the beauty of our differences and the sanctity of our uniqueness.  She taught us that dignity and respect means seeing one another, first as who we are and then as we hope to be.

Hillary said to America, “Sawubona.  I see you.”  Someday I hope we evolve to the point where we can reply, “Ngikhona,” – meaning, “We are here.  We have been seen.  Our personal dignity has been recognized and respected.”  If we progress that far, Hillary will be owed thanks for beginning us on this path.  But until that time, we will just have to admire the superior cultural enlightenment of our Zulu brethren.

What’s on your mind today?



21 Responses to "Sawubona…"

Prolix, I read (albeit quickly) the Vox post last night. It was ok but yours is much better! Catch you all later tonight!

Excellent post Prolix as usual. The Zulu have a lot to teach us. Beautful people. I saw bits and pieces of Donald’s Victory rally at the carrier plant. I don’t know what disturbed me more, Donald being the same shameful demagogue he was on the campaign trail or the jubilance of the apparently all white crowd still cheering Build a Wall and Lock her Up. Will we survive this?

@1, thanks Annie, but the Vox article is a tour de force, he curses much better than I do.

@2, Cats, thank you. Honestly, while watching the Gloating Rally last night, I had to mute it on more than one occasion. I just couldn’t listen to it. His demagoguery just turns my stomach. These crowds have bypassed the pitchforks and torches and have the tactical nukes out.

You asked, “Will we survive this?” I find myself, for the first time in my life, truly worrying about that. Over and above Trumpanzee, the devolved man and all his shortcomings, not taking security briefings is so worrisome to me. We know his “gut” is even worse than Dubya’s was. He will overcompensate if ever confronted by events. Then you have that nutjob Flynn as Nat’l Security Adviser, “Mad Dog” as Def. Secretary, and who knows who else. It is scary.

Great post, Prolix! Loved DYB’s last one too.

The Democratic Party is definitely struggling with its brogressive/male white constituents. Tim Ryan’s challenge to Pelosi was a real manifestation of the stupidity and self-centeredness of this group. Let’s chase people who will never vote!! Yes, that will work!! Maybe we can lose both the Electoral College and the popular vote next time!!!

I really think the Democratic Party needs to go to a successful marketing company and have it craft their message. Maybe one run by millennials!

I think a good political brand has an action and consequences implied in it. Drumpf’s had them. Hillary’s “Stronger Together” only had the consequences, not the action. And sadly, the new Democratic talking point “the GOP’s war on seniors” will be just as unsuccessful. All they have to say is “We aren’t declaring war on seniors. We love old people!” The media will report both sides without context and the message will be lost in a haze of equivalency. I’d call it something like the GOP’S Health Care Destruction Plan. That covers ACA, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security all at once. And you’ll notice, there are consequences and action. Just saying.

@5, totally agreed on Tim Ryan. There is no self-awareness whatsoever on the part of the brogressives. I think it, ergo, it must be true. I’m really offended by Ryan using the Party and in particular, Pelosi, as foil for his gubernatorial run in Ohio. He can now say, “I’m not one of those Democrats. Nancy Pelosi has cooties, ewww, and she’s a girl.”

I couldn’t agree more on the messaging. The Dems have got to find a Frank Luntz. Death Panels worked pretty well against the ACA — maybe the Republicans’ New Medicare Part D Plan — Death. How about GOP’s Health Care Destruction Scheme — that brings in Wall Street.

@5 Madamab: Could you explain what you mean by “action” in the context of Drumpf’s brand had it and Hillary’s didn’t? Are you talking about messaging or issues/policies?

@5, I don’t think it was the branding, and “Stronger Together” with the implied strength in unity sounds far more appealing to me than the MAGA longing for some time in the past when all the rich white men were happy and no one else —- errr, that was exactly what they were implying weren’t they? Let’s never forget that Hillary won the popular vote by at least 2.5 million votes.

And if Toldeo was in one of those other states instead of Ohio, she would have won the Electoral College as well. (And if not for sexism and racism and ethnophobia.) Trump got fewer votes than Romney. Not to mention that if #tRump is fighting the recalls in multiple states, there is probably some nasty evidence that he doesn’t want brought out in the open.

I’ll tell you what I’d like to know. I’d like to know what Ron Wyden knows and what he would like Obama to declassify to let us know.

We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public. We are conveying specifics through classified channels,” the members wrote.

Here’s an interesting article from Charles Pierce on how sometimes things have unintended consequences…for instance if the Repubs repeal Obamacare.

For all of those in coal country who voted for tRump because he’ll get their jobs back in the coal mines (which isn’t going to happen because McConnell said it after the election)…One of the consequences of working in those coal mines is that you may develop black lung. And I’m just going to paste in this info from the article:

But now some in coal country are worried that instead of helping, Trump’s first actions will deprive miners — and their widows and children — of the compensation they can receive if they are disabled by respiratory problems linked to breathing coal mine dust. That’s because buried in the Affordable Care Act are three sentences that made it much easier to access these benefits. If Trump repeals Obamacare — as he vowed to do before the election — and does not keep that section on the books, the miners will be back to where they were in 2009, when it was exceedingly difficult to be awarded compensation for “black lung” disease.”You couldn’t ever win back then,” said Sue Toler, a coal miner’s widow in Huntsville, Tenn., of claims for black lung benefits. “It didn’t matter what kind of evidence you had.”

I’ll add Pierce’s last statement on it here:

You voted to bring those days back. I hope the opportunity to hock a loogie at the system was worth it. I hate that I’m tempted to think that way.

@8, Luna, I read an article that said, if only 4 counties, four counties, were magically moved, Hillary would have won the EC. I don’t remember if it was Toledo in Ohio, but three of the counties were in the panhandle of Florida. Move those to Alabama, she would have won Florida.

This is a painful exercise, but I think as we go forward, it will be helpful.

Here’s the article:

@11: Prolix I believe I did read something about Toledo and the outcome.

@10, Fredster, that is a good article from Charlie. He really puts his finger on it. Krugman has talked about it. How do you convince those people with the most to lose to vote intelligently?

Like with the coal miners — the War on Coal has been the Republican jingle for a decade now and Mitch McTurtle is sitting on the legislation that will allow these bankrupt coal mines to pay pensions. Pensions that are owed and due to miners. They are in question because these coal mines went bankrupt to pad the pockets of the scumbag million and billionaire owners from paying health care costs in the first place. It is maddening!

And yet, some counties went 87% for Trump.

Here we go — how do you say, “Would you like fries with that in Mandarin?”


I hope this gets more interesting:

Prolix, good points in your post and the story behind the Zulu “I see you” is fascinating. Makes me think of the Indian and Nepalese “Namaste” which means “I bow to the divine in you,” ( or as Buddhists say, “I salute the Buddha in you.”

Oh, where did I see the Toledo example…I have to have a source. (unlike the tRumptempkins crowd who just read things on the fundie right internet). Somewhere in a tweet or re-tweeted from Krugman, Giordani, Eichenwald or Kendzior, I think. Will try to find it.

@16, Luna, there’s been so many of those stories, it could have been anywhere. I don’t think it is just us who don’t want to come to grips with what has happened. I think there are lots and lots of folks who wish things were different.

Moving counties around is a nice thought experiment of, “What could have been!” I’m having one of my many Cher moments, “If I could turn back time…”

@15, Annie, I hope so too.

@13: And Prolix, it is indeed going to be difficult to not say something like:

I hope the opportunity to hock a loogie at the system was worth it.

I know I won’t be able to resist so might as well fess up to it now.

@15: I would love for there to be something…anything we could find that would void those results. But what happens then? I don’t have a clue.

Hey guys, I don’t think Hillary’s message was bad. I also think she won AND that there was tampering!! It’s just that if the Democrats had great messaging like the Rethugs, we would have all three branches of government on lockdown, since our positions are much more in line with the majority of Americans than theirs.

I also think Drumpf’s message packed enough of an emotional punch that he came close. Again, he was a truly deplorable candidate who motivated a lot of people to vote for him…

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