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How Academic and Media Excuse-making Normalizes the Abnormal

How Academic and Media Excuse-making Normalizes the Abnormal

Mike Lofgren

Ever since the 2016 election we all know that economic distress and anxiety out in the Great American Heartland caused white working people to vote for Donald Trump. How do we know that? The media have told us so repeatedly, from corporate NBC to the wonkish FiveThirtyEight.

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“Perhaps James M. Buchanan, one of the founders of public choice theory, got it all wrong. Or maybe the presumed rationality of ordinary citizens in his theory was just window dressing for his real message to his true constituency: his patrons, the rich. They were the only group worth bothering about (as Buchanan’s own ideology made clear), and his message to them was to forget all the sob stuff about noblesse oblige or good corporate citizenship, and to ruthlessly press their advantage. In view of the contrasting behavior of the rich during the last several decades, and that of the mass of the American people, Buchanan was certainly onto something.”

For a detailed evaluation of Buchanan’s “contribution” to American politics, I recommend Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (2017).


These analyses will go on since they generate academic papers and it is well known in that world that it is publish or perish. It is hard to believe that main explanation for Trump’s win wasn’t racism. The central theme of his platform was racism. Studies have shown that rural areas in states east of the Mississippi are filled with people with racist views and obviously many of those have to be farmers. Data from analyses of Google searches have been very revealing showing that right after Obama was elected for the first time searches using the N word were extremely prevalent in rural areas, not just in the south but in states like New York and Pennsylvania. Many of these searches were for jokes. Many people who voted for Trump were doling quite well economically. Focusing on those who were struggling can be misleading. The phenomenon appears to be mainly a fascist personality cult. Looking for economic reasons for his win is probably a wild goose chase.

I’ve heard MacLean speak several times on Democracy Now! and my local community radio station, KBOO. She makes a compelling case that the Kochs and the foundations and universities ( George Mason U.) are not only cold-blooded, nasty capitalists, they’re racist to the core. And, that’s a strong correlation proving $$$ (theirs) thrown around among the " professional thinking class " was the cause of Trump being elected in 2016. It took a while but academia folded to the allure of gaining power and privileges by covering up their real motivations. False science and theories, indeed. And, the British one just piles on the academic subterfuges being served up lately.
Though Buchanan was working his dirty tricks in N. Carolina many decades before Trump, and actually studied, etc. at the Univ. of Chicago, it took his bunch a massive amount cash and time to convince 46% of voters (24-25% of citizens) to comfortably " out " themselves as world class pigs, or worse. Fascists, Elites & Racists to the core running our entire Federal Government.
That’s pretty well proven less than 24 months in.


I grew up in the rust belt, Youngstown Ohio area, turning 18 in 1982, after watching all the factories in my home town close, & all the wives & mothers leaving home to work retail or service jobs to make up some of the income lost. Since then, things only got worse. Forty years of neo-liberal economics, austerity, Thatcherism, Reaganism, means 40 years of chronic anxiety and desperation among most of the working class. It distorts the thinking, leaves you vulnerable to racism, and to magical thinking…the magical thinking that Rich Man Trump could bring prosperity…somehow.

Liberals had their own magical thinking. They thought a war-mongering neo-liberal, with a quarter-century proven experience enacting austerity and neo-liberal economics would bring prosperity…somehow. They thought a 1964 Goldwater Girl who employed race-baiting in the 1990’s (‘super-predators’) and dog-whistle racism against Obama in 2008 could stop being a racist. They thought a woman who slut-shamed Monica Lewinski in 1998 and who opposed marriage equality until 2013 could become a true feminist.

Here’s what I say: Liberal neo-Liberal fantasies of their own superiority drove white working class voters to embrace the racist fantasies of Trump.


You’re conflating the 1980 General Election with the 2016 General Election. Ronald Reagan announced his Presidential candidacy in Mississippi, not Ohio. Why was that?
I voted for Stein in 2016 for some of the reasons you listed. However, I’m not fooled by the spin doctors Lofgren exposes, here. As Willie Nelson said, " Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong ". The hoodwinkers won. They found the " soft underbelly " of white paranoia, and its flip side, privilege, in the body politic and put the poisonous knife in.

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Yes, at perhaps the most racist County Fair in all of the deep south, and probably the country.

Just remember there were people like Humphrey, and most of all McGovern (wanted every person to get back $1000. a year) who wanted to address these issues and were defeated. And the racism is there standing all by itself-------a deep hate for people who are different----I will never forget the night McGovern was defeated----every state except Massachusetts voting against the PEACE CANDIDATE!

There is another correlation in how people verify information and not just what they are told or who told them what to think. In that selection “the hyperpersonal model of computer-mediated communication (CMC) posits that users exploit the technological aspects of CMC in order to enhance the messages they construct to manage impressions and facilitate desired relationships”

Don’t you get that a lot, what is the reference or who told you that is true. The model is this article. The comments would be the rational thought part.

Contrary to what is often asserted (such as here), Clinton
handily won the vote among those earning less than $ 50K per year.

Diversion from DP culpability/responsibility for trump’s “win” as usual from you. Racism did play a part within the trump minority of voters only, but the majority of voters who did not even vote - about 100 million or 42/3% of eligible voters reportedly - didn’t bother to vote because they had little or nothing from the DP elite to vote FOR, only more of the same as we are seeing today! The DP establishment frauds are complicit to trump and the status quo - the DINO DP are still subverting progressives/radicals and “socialists” to push sellouts and/or corrupt crooks like Menendez, Booker, Manchin, Duckworthless, Heitcamp, Schumer Pelosi, and others who have “seniority”…some BS party MO…

Bernie Sanders gave people something to vote FOR, not the same old betrayals to big-money and power! Those new younger voters sanders encouraged have since been abandoned by the DINO Dem neoliberal corporate-whore machine…just like Bill Clinton and Obama betrayed, subverted, and marginalized before!

There was as much de facto “racism” from the Clinton campaign’s BS “southern strategy” touting wins in the south where she could never win…all the southern strategy was for was to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination…he was and remains the People’s President while the Clintons and their co-conspirator and fraud Obama are silent on issues, and trumps treason/corruption and nowhere to be found except on the GS money train! pathetic…

But the racism was stoked by assigning blame for poor economic advancement over time on people of color and foreigners.

There is a reason why the racism came out of the closet.

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Thinking in this country has been poisoned especially by 3 Brits:

  1. John Locke, and his idea that societies aren’t real units–and only exist in contractual terms.
  2. Adam Smith, who argued that competition is good.
  3. Chuck (I mean it!) Darwin, whose “natural selection” concept (which utterly lacks in empirical support!) implies that competition is NATURAL.
    I suspect that most of the economic and political thinking since Darwin has been rooted in the ideas promulgated by these three individuals.

It’s true that Darwin didn’t create Social Darwinism, but he did borrow, first in the 5th edition of Origin, the term “struggle for existence” from Herbert Spencer, and Origin makes clear that he saw competition as natural.

I am in full agreement with you. Later in the 19th century Prince Peter Kropotkin, on the basis of his research in Siberia, wrote a series of articles that argued that what he observed in Nature was cooperation, rather than competition, and those articles were published as a book, Mutual Aid, in 1902. Unfortunately, Kropotkin offered no explanation for cooperation; so that although Darwin’s argument that “excess births” explained why competition occurred, and that explanation had virtually no EMPIRICAL support, it was Darwin who “won the day”–probably because that’s what the elite WANTED to believe, because it would justify their position in society. Biology has been saddled with this false perspective ever since–and is the basis for, example, the false “selfish gene” idea promoted by Dawkins. The research results of people like Frans de Waal and Dacher Keltner are helping “turn the tide,” however.

Keltner is associated with the Greater Good Center at UC-Berkeley; they’ve put out a lot of good stuff–check them out!