Steinfels: “You Don’t Win over People By Calling Them Racists”

steinfelspeterCatholic writer Peter Steinfels reflects on the #ageoftrump in a recent piece at Commonweal, the magazine where his byline has appeared for over fifty years.  He has little patience for Donald Trump, the GOP, the  Democratic Party, and identity politics.

Here is a taste:

And that raises the much-bruited issue of identity politics. Clearly, the Democrats’ fixation on sheer diversity, a demographic checklist of age groups, income groups, and racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, has proved a failure. But what is the problem—simply the emphasis on identities or the failure to connect with some identities (e.g., traditionalist, rural, working-class) in a convincing way? Perhaps the problem, to a disturbing degree, is the loss of identities, of identities, that is, with any genuine life-shaping character, any authentic culture, rather than identities based on skin color or admiration for a reality TV star and winner at casino economics? 

I would have thought that religion might provide that kind of identity, until I looked at the 81 percent white evangelical vote for Trump and the 60 percent white Catholic vote. My guess is that these churches and, by association, religion generally, will find themselves badly discredited by a Trump administration bearing gifts. The prolife and religious freedom movements, which I consider of major importance, may win a round or two in the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, with the mark of Trump stamped on their foreheads, they have virtually doomed themselves in the cultural contests essential to their goals.

I have not said anything about “whitelash.” I never believed for an instant, as I am sure Barack Obama never believed, that we had entered a “post-racial” era. I also don’t believe that we are returning to Jim Crow or that black bodies exist in constant danger of being mowed down by white authorities on the streets. But I have neither space nor ability to address with due gravity and precision what 2016 reveals about where the nation stands in regard to this, its deepest and most threatening wound. My only observation, practical but superficial, is that you don’t win over people by calling them racists.  

Read the entire piece here.  The last paragraph reminds me a lot of Niebuhr’s “spiritual discipline against resentment.”

HT: John Haas

4 thoughts on “Steinfels: “You Don’t Win over People By Calling Them Racists”

  1. Yes, John, you understood my intention fine–the white Catholic vote, which is pretty much the only one that is up for grabs and candidate-influenced. The minority voting blocs are fairly predictable, therefore I would argue that as constants in the past 3 elections, they can be deducted from both sides of the equation.

    It is the white Catholic vote, which went for Obama and now Trump, which is probative.

    Like

  2. Yes, you understood me just fine–the white Catholic vote, which is pretty much the only one that is up for grabs and candidate-influenced. The minority voting blocs are fairly predictable, therefore I would argue that as constants in the past 3 elections, they can be deducted from both sides of the equation.

    If you follow the math here. Yes?

    http://www.mathplanet.com/education/pre-algebra/more-about-equation-and-inequalities/fundamentals-in-solving-equations-in-one-or-more-steps

    Thus, unless Hispanic Catholics don’t care about religious liberty and abortion (topics that were barely on the table in ’16), it would appear race was very much a feature shaping the election, however much the post-truthers would prefer to deny it.

    Easy there, fella. :-O Race was no more or less a factor than it usually is [except that the black vote likely sat home in droves].

    [Mr. Haas, if you hit “Reply” when you want to trash me, it’ll go directly to my email, and my reply will be more timely.]

    Like

  3. “Trump won 60% of the Catholic vote after Obama won 54% and 51%.”

    If you’re appealing to Pew’s data, you’re misstating what they’ve reported*. You’ve cited the percentage of White Catholics voting for trump, and compared it to All Catholics who voted for Obama in ’08 and ’12.

    (Perhaps you meant to be taken seriously but not literally?)

    According to Pew, it was 60% of the White Catholic vote that went for Trump, while 47% of them went for obama in ’08 and 40% for him in ’12. (The Republican share of the Hispanic Catholic vote in the last three national elections was 26%, 21%, and 26% respectively.)

    Thus, unless Hispanic Catholics don’t care about religious liberty and abortion (topics that were barely on the table in ’16), it would appear race was very much a feature shaping the election, however much the post-truthers would prefer to deny it.

    * http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/

    Like

  4. Trump took 58% of the white vote, Hillary 37%, and even among white women it was 53-43.

    When you have 37% of the white folk and 90% of black folk calling half the country racists, that alone is enough to get Trump elected. Not exactly “whitelash,” more a backlash against identity politics and the weaponization of race.

    NB: Missing from almost all the analyses of religion have been relevant facts such as Hillary Clinton’s extreme position on abortion, and the Obama [and therefore Democrat] record of open hostility to religious liberty, as highlighted by Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which Obama lost unanimously, and of course the infamous Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell.

    Trump won 60% of the Catholic vote after Obama won 54% and 51%. Some factors were surely in play beyond merely the scandal of the evangelical mind.

    Like

Comments are closed.