November 19, 2019

The Reality Behind the Awful Noise

The Trump inauguration approaches just as many people are emerging from their post-election funk. Many of us seem poised to enter a new depression as “the Donald” actually becomes our commander-in-chief, tweets and all.

It is no challenge to find statements, tweets, actions and appointments of the president-elect that could justify retreat to a fetal position in a dark room. The future does look bleak for those who are concerned about the disadvantaged, access to affordable health care, childhood vaccinations and a respect for science—to say nothing about the makeup of the Supreme Court. Most of the new administration’s policy prescriptions are troubling.

To compound the general anxiety, there is emerging research that suggests that a critical portion of Trump’s electoral success can be ascribed more to racism and sexism than the economic dislocation and fear that has been the staple of most media analyses over the past two months.

Three political scientists (Brian Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta) authored a “>interview, Harvard’s Steven Pinker (the author of The Angels of Our Better Nature—among others) warns about getting too concerned with the headlines of the day and the media’s “given wisdom”. The fact is that well established trends and attitudes transcend the vagaries of one election.

He discourses on the major societal trends that prevail, no matter what happened on November 8th:

More generally, the worldwide, decades-long current toward racial tolerance is too strong to be undone by one man. Public opinion polls in almost every country show steady declines in racial and religious prejudice- — and more importantly for the future, that younger cohorts are less prejudiced than older ones. As my own cohort of baby boomers (who helped elect Trump) dies off and is replaced by millennials (who rejected him in droves), the world will become more tolerant.

It’s not just that people are increasingly disagreeing with intolerant statements when asked by pollsters, which could be driven by a taboo against explicit racism. Stephens-Davidowitz has shown that Google searches for racist jokes and organizations are sensitive indicators of private racism. They have declined steadily over the past dozen years, and they are more popular in older than younger cohorts. [Emphasis added]

In his farewell