Not all 74 million Trump Voters Can be Racists

Credit: Whitehouse.Gov

By Nikolaos Gavalakis
BERLIN, Nov 25 2020 – Donald Trump will have to leave the White House in January. Although there will be a few skirmishes in the US courts in the coming weeks to sort out whether some votes were legitimate or not, the outcome won’t change.

No sooner had the main US broadcasters declared Joe Biden the winner than some experts began writing the epitaph of the entire populist right. Sociologist Ivan Krastev spoke of a ‘devastating blow for Europe’s populists’. And former EU Council President Donald Tusk exulted that ‘Trump’s defeat can be the beginning of the end of the triumph of right-wing populism in Europe too.’

But not so fast. First of all, a look at the political map reveals a few sobering facts. In France, Marine Le Pen is already on the starting blocks for the 2022 presidential elections. In Great Britain Boris Johnson’s chaotic government is still heading for a No-Deal Brexit.

In Italy Matteo Salvini’s nationalist Lega Nord is ahead in the polls. In Poland the ruling PiS (with the support of the constitutional court) recently restricted women’s abortion rights. And in Hungary Viktor Orbán continues to wreak havoc unhindered.

Things don’t look much better outside Europe either. Despite his catastrophic handling of the corona crisis and over 150,000 deaths, Jair Bolsonaro is, according to polls from September, more popular in Brazil than ever before.

There is no denying that right-wing populists have achieved unprecedented success over the past decade and have made it into the highest offices. With the election of Donald Trump as the world’s most powerful man, this phenomenon probably reached its peak in 2016. Four years later, Trump has been defeated; but what lessons can be drawn from the election for the battle against right-wing populism?

Trumpism is here to stay

After an initial fright, as the vote count progressed, the following narrative crystallised among many in the media and on the centre-left spectrum. Never before has a candidate in the US presidential election received as many votes as Joe Biden.

His nationwide lead over Donald Trump is more than six million votes. Nor is the lead in the electoral college a narrow one. The tyrant is defeated. So, everything is fine, right?

No; there are also downsides. Donald Trump got over ten million more votes in this election than four years earlier. Just how close the election was in the decisive swing states can be seen from the following: according to the latest count, in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the share of the vote that went to the Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen was bigger than Biden’s lead over Trump. If a few thousand of these votes had gone to Trump, he could have been in charge for another four years.

Although the pain and anxiety caused by Trump’s relatively strong performance is quite understandable, an explanation based solely on racist structures seems insufficiently complex.

The sobering and, for many, shocking observation remains that, despite a pandemic with well over 200,000 dead because of the Trump government’s mismanagement, his abundantly documented lies and chaotic administration, his cruel migration policy and his destructive behaviour following the death of George Floyd, the voters have not turned away in droves from the Republicans after four years of Trump.

On the contrary, he was able to win over millions of people who in 2016 voted for another candidate or did not go to the polls.

It’s not just racism

How could this happen? MSNBC presenter Joy Reid put the election results down to ‘a great amount of racism and anti-blackness’. Charles M. Blow took the same line in his article, citing the ‘strength of the white patriarchy’ as the reason for the outcome.

The idea of the backward white Trump voter is however not accurate, as a look at the structure of the electorate reveals. The President succeeded in significantly broadening the Republican voter base.

Since 1960, no Republican presidential candidate has been able to win a higher share of non-white voters (one in four voted for him). Among Afro-American men, it was almost one in five, and among African American women, Trump was able to double his share of voters from four to eight percent.

He gained ground among Latino voters and white women, more than a third of Asian Americans put their cross next to Trump’s name, and he was also much more successful among the LGBTQ community (28 per cent) than four years ago (14 per cent). Even people of colour are not immune to the lure of right-wing populism.

Although the pain and anxiety caused by Trump’s relatively strong performance is quite understandable, an explanation based solely on racist structures seems insufficiently complex. After all, it is only eight years since Barack Obama scored a landslide victory over Mitt Romney.

The idea that almost 74 million Americans are supposed to be racist, or at least willing to swear unquestioning blind allegiance to a thoroughly racist system, is in any event a very bold argument. There are four aspects that offer a better explanation.

Social democracy is popular among Americans

First, it is often assumed that members of minorities who have personal experience of discrimination automatically vote for left-wing parties. However, the reasons for individual voting decisions are much more complex.

Latinos often have very conservative views on issues such as the right to abortion. Demographic groups cannot be regarded as monolithic. ‘Despite what many progressives seem to think, minorities don’t just sit there stewing in their Otherness all day,’ writes Antonio García Martínez.

Voters are individuals with different views and attitudes, not mere representatives of the population group they have been ascribed to. And they make decisions based on the political choices available and their personal preferences.

The critique of identity politics is here explicitly not directed at attempts to improve the situation of disadvantaged people, but rather at a world view that sees social developments and conflicts primarily through the lens of group identity.

In the battle against right-wing populism, sweeping generalisations about electoral groups are not helpful; what matters is to address people’s actual, and not their presumed, interests.

After both Trump elections, one thing is now finally clear: the demonisation of right-wing populists in purely moral terms (‘If You Vote for Trump, You’re a Racist’) doesn’t work.

Second, there is a common misconception regarding the reasons for people’s voting decisions. The term ‘demagogue’, which is often used for right-wing populists, implies that the voters support them out of ignorance. However, this paternalistic view fails to take into account that there are often rational grounds for their voting choices. For example, the PiS in Poland improved living standards for millions of people with an unprecedented welfare state programme.

In their short essay, Eszter Kováts and Weronika Grzebalska set out with impressive clarity the reasons why women in particular, perhaps surprisingly, support the Polish and Hungarian right-wing populists. And there are also rational grounds for Trump’s election: for example, during his term of office, the unemployment rate fell to a 50 year low – which particularly benefited those without a high school diploma.

In the US, it is classic social democratic issues that are popular with voters. According to exit polls conducted by Fox News – not a source suspected of pushing a left-liberal agenda – 72 per cent want a public health plan, also known as Medicare for All.

Democratic Party candidates for the House of Representatives who support Medicare for All did significantly better in the elections than their party colleagues who oppose it. In Florida, a state Trump won, 60 per cent of the citizens voted for a phased increase in the minimum wage to USD 15 per hour.

Colorado voted for paid leave for childbirth and family emergencies. This should come as no surprise: measures that secure or improve people’s standard of living are widely supported.

Demonisation doesn’t work

Third, it is clear that even Trump’s unbelievably poor handling of the pandemic did not seem to make much difference. In a country with hardly any effective social security, many citizens have more profound urgent existential needs than dealing with the coronavirus.

With them, Trump’s promise to avoid a lockdown and to keep the economy running at all costs was effective. 82 per cent of Republican voters surveyed cited the economy as their chief concern.

Here it is helpful to think of the economy not as an abstract term, but as the backbone of prosperity and job security. Robert Misik already stated at the Vienna state elections that ‘social Democrats and other progressive parties will only win at this time if they are seen to embody people’s need for security’.

Similar developments can also be observed in Great Britain. The reform course initiated by Keir Starmer – turning away from ideological identity politics pursued under Jeremy Corbyn, emphasising security and a left-wing economic policy – is beginning to bear fruit. According to recent polls (hopefully more accurate than those in the US), Labour stands fully five percentage points ahead of the Conservatives.

Fourth, the relationship between social elites and the general population is striking. There are millions of people in the US who are fed up with the moral entreaties of the coastal elites with their preachy political jargon. Especially in the interior of the country, people feel patronised and culturally scorned by the liberals.

‘Political correctness is thinking you’re better than somebody else—it’s correcting someone,’ says Elissa Slotkin, who represents the Democrats in the House of Representatives. ‘People do feel looked down upon.’ The simple language of populists like Trump is closer to the reality of many people’s lives. For 80 per cent of the American population, political correctness is a problem.

After both Trump elections, one thing is now finally clear: the demonisation of right-wing populists in purely moral terms (‘If You Vote for Trump, You’re a Racist’) doesn’t work. Similar approaches failed already when Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister and against right-wing parties like the AfD in 2017 in Germany’s federal elections. Of course, right-wing populists must be criticised.

If you want to win the battle against them, however, rather than stigmatising voters and pushing leftist wishful thinking in the form of identity politics you need concrete policies that will measurably improve people’s lives: decent wages, compensation schemes for short-time working, unemployment and health insurance, affordable housing and so on.

Especially when it comes to social policy, centre-left parties surely have a variety of tools in the policy box.

Source: International Politics and Society (IPS), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)


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Online Attacks On Female Journalists Are Increasingly Spilling Into the ‘Real World’ – New Research

A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By External Source
Nov 25 2020 – The insidious problem of online violence against women journalists is increasingly spilling offline with potentially deadly consequences, a new global survey suggests.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of female respondents to our survey – taken by 1210 international media workers – said they had experienced online abuse, harassment, threats and attacks. And 20% of the women surveyed reported being targeted with offline abuse and attacks that they believe were connected with online violence they had experienced. The survey, which concluded this month, was fielded by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Online violence is the new frontline in journalism safety – and it’s particularly dangerous for women. In the digital environment, we’ve seen an exponential increase in attacks on women journalists in the course of their work, particularly at the intersection of hate speech and disinformation – where harassment, assault and abuse are used to try to shut them up.

Misogyny and online violence are a real threat to women’s participation in journalism and public communication in the digital age. It’s both a genuine gender equality struggle and a freedom of expression crisis that needs to be taken very seriously by all actors involved.

Our survey provides disturbing new evidence that online violence against women journalists is jumping offline. Frequently associated with orchestrated attacks designed to chill critical journalism, it migrates into the physical world – sometimes with deadly impacts.

In 2017, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that in at least 40% of cases, journalists who were murdered had received threats, including online, before they were killed. The same year, two women journalists on opposite sides of the world were murdered for their work within six weeks of one another: celebrated Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and prominent Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh. Both had been the targets of prolific, gendered online attacks before they were killed.

Parallels between patterns of online violence associated with Caruana Galizia’s death and that being experienced by another high-profile target – Filippino-American journalist Maria Ressa – were so striking that when digital attacks against Ressa escalated earlier this year, the murdered journalist’s sons issued a public statement expressing their fears for Ressa’s safety..

Likewise, the death of Lankesh, which was associated with online violence propelled by right-wing extremism, also drew international attention to the risks faced by another Indian journalist who is openly critical of her government: Rana Ayyub. She has faced mass circulation of rape and death threats online alongside false information designed to counter her critical reporting, discredit her, and place her at greater physical risk.


The insidious problem of online violence against female journalists is increasingly spilling offline with potentially deadly consequences, a new global survey suggests.

The grim reality of journalism for many women. UNESCO, Author provided


Pointing to the emergence of a pattern, the targeting of Ayyub led five United Nations special rapporteurs to intervene in her defence. Their statement drew parallels with Lankesh’s case and called on India’s political leaders to act to protect Ayyub, stating: “We are highly concerned that the life of Rana Ayyub is at serious risk following these graphic and disturbing threats.”


‘Shadow pandemic’

Physical violence against women has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, in what is called the “shadow pandemic”. At the same time, online violence against women journalists also appears to be on the rise. In another global survey, conducted earlier this year by ICFJ and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University as part of the Journalism and Pandemic Project, 16% of women respondents said online abuse and harassment was “much worse than normal”.

This finding likely reflects the escalating levels of hostility and violence towards journalists seen during the pandemic – fuelled by populist and authoritarian politicians who have frequently doubled as disinformation peddlers.


The insidious problem of online violence against female journalists is increasingly spilling offline with potentially deadly consequences, a new global survey suggests.

Online attacks often spill over into the real world. UNESCO, Author provided


Significantly, one in ten English language respondents to the ICFJ-Tow Center’s Journalism and the Pandemic survey indicated that they had been abused – on or offline – by a politician or elected official during the first three months of the pandemic. Another relevant factor is that the “socially distanced” reporting methods necessitated by coronavirus have caused journalists to rely more heavily on social media channels for both newsgathering and audience engagement purposes. And these increasingly toxic spaces are the main enablers of viral online violence against women journalists.

Since 2016, several studies have concluded that some women journalists are withdrawing from frontline reporting, removing themselves from public online conversations, quitting their jobs, and even abandoning journalism in response to their experience of online violence. But there have also been numerous cases of women journalists fighting back against online violence, refusing to retreat or be silenced, even when speaking up has made them bigger targets.


What can be done?

We know that physical attacks on women journalists are frequently preceded by online threats made against them. These can include threats of physical or sexual assault and murder, as well as digital security attacks designed to expose them to greater risk. And such threats – even without being followed by physical assault – often involve very real psychological impacts and injuries.

So, when a woman journalist is threatened with violence online, this should be taken very seriously. She should be provided with both physical safety support (including increased security when necessary), psychological support (including access to counselling services), and digital security triage and training (including cybersecurity and privacy measures). But she should also be properly supported by her editorial managers, who need to signal to staff that these issues are serious and will be responded to decisively, including with legal and law enforcement intervention where appropriate.

We should be very cautious about suggesting that women journalists need to build resilience or “grow a thicker skin” in order to survive this work-related threat to their safety. They’re being attacked for daring to speak. For daring to report. For doing their jobs. The onus shouldn’t be on women journalists to “just put up with it” any more than we would suggest in 2020 that physical harassment or sexual assault are acceptable career risks for women, or risks which they should take responsibility for preventing.

The solutions lie in structural changes to the information ecosystem designed to combat online toxicity generally and in particular, exponential attacks against journalists. This will require rich and powerful social media companies living up to their responsibilities in dealing decisively, transparently and appropriately with disinformation and hate speech on the platforms as it affects journalists.

This will likely mean that these companies need to accept their function as publishers of news. In doing so, they would inherit an obligation to improve their audience curation, fact-checking and anti-hate speech standards.

Ultimately, collaboration and cooperation that spans big tech, newsrooms, civil society organisations, research entities, policymakers and the legal and judicial communities will be required. Only then can concrete action be pursued.The Conversation

Julie Posetti, Global Director of Research, International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), University of Oxford; Jackie Harrison, Professor of Public Communication, University of Sheffield, and Silvio Waisbord, Director and Professor School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.