No Points for Thinking of Richard Branson

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar sonmi451
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    One argument I’ve seen is that there’s not much of mass cultural signifiers anymore, that our culture and entertainment is so balkanized, that what we actually have is signifiers for class, race, geographic region, religion, etc etc. So it depends on how Murray is defining “mass cultural signifier”, wouldn’t it? And some of these questions are clearly an effort to define it a certain way:

    Have you ever participated in a parade not involving global wrming, a war protest, or gay rights?

    Have you ever had  a close friend who is an Evangelical Christian?

    The Life History part is the best and most relevant part, I thought, but the others, well, I think a lot of them reveal Murray’s own prejudices and preferences.

     Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
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      Maybe a less charitable way to put it is the people he’s most concerned about the upper-class and middle-class not understanding are white working class people. That’s the sense I got from the questions anyway. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe he should not pretend that he’s concerned about all “ordinary Americans”Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451
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        While it wasn’t a scientific survey, there was some fairly race-blind justification given to each of the questions, I thought:  the top-grossing movies, the most popular TV shows, the biggest restaurant chains, and so forth.  He might have asked a question about hip-hop music rather than country, and I’d probably have flubbed that too.  But still, not too bad.Report

  2. Avatar Loviatar
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    This the same Charles Murray author of the discredited Bell Curve. I don’t think I have any interest in reading any further work of his or taking any test he may have constructed.

    Life is too short, and when you’ve authored such a soul wrenching piece of crap as the Bell Curve you don’t get a second bite of the apple from me.Report

  3. Avatar Steve S.
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    I’m afraid I quit after reading only the first two questions.  They were not answerable.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Steve S.
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      Why not?Report

      • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        The neighborhood I have lived in for many years has all classes of society, except very rich, within easy walking distance, and I’m not sure what relevance that would have anyway since I only ever talk to a handful of them.

        My father’s occupation is difficult to categorize because it was both high prestige and low-to-modestly paying.

        And it appeared that I would have to write my answers down manually.  What is this, the 1970s?Report

  4. Avatar Jesse Ewiak
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    I got 11 out of 20, of course this quiz ignores the fact that million’s of working-class urban poor don’t have cars or any reason to buy a pick-up truck. Also, the idea a large section of current working-class America has a lot of veteran’s among the under-40 set is sort of silly.Report

  5. Avatar Jesse Ewiak
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    Also, the idea that the OWS protests haven’t effected the politics is sort of silly. Obama went from offering the farm to John Boehner to get a deal on the debt to talking about how the rich don’t pay in much as taxes as they should.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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      It is silly.  It’s also not what I said.  You’re talking about elite opinion, which has been changed through OWS, while what I wrote was that, “The people in the parks never connected with the people for whom they were ostensibly protesting.”

      I still think that’s true.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Well, that’s because the people always agreed with most of the OWS principles, even if they didn’t like the dirty, stinky hippies. There’s been 2/3 support for more investment, going after the banks, and higher taxes on the rich for the entirety of Obama’s presidency. Heck, even during the nadir of Obama’s debt ceiling deal, majorities of people still thought it was more important to create jobs than lower the deficit. The deficit has always been an center-right elite thing that the right-wing has occasionally gotten upset about when they’re out of power.Report

  6. Avatar Plinko
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    Left-leaning and 60 here, though maybe it should be 58 since you tipped the Branson thing so I got the answer (not the bonus).

    I agree with Somni above – there are still some of Murray’s biases evident here. Fishing but not hunting? NASCAR but not high school football? Branson, MO is not a place blue collar families in the Northeast or Northwest are going to go, and not even a place most working poor families will go if they live outside of Missouri.

    On the other hand, pace Bryson, upper middle class and rich families now have more options than ever to enjoy different entertainments than the bottom 90%, so I think it is important to look at those more than it would have been 30-40 years ago.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Plinko
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      Fishing but not hunting?

      Is hunting rather than fishing more popular among blacks?  That seems incorrect to me, though I admit I’m going on a hunch.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Fishing is actually more popular (anecdotal evicdence) than hunting among blacks, but not the type of fishing Murray talks about. The type of fishing black people do largely consists of a cheap fishing pole, their $10-$20 fishing license, and public access to a lake or river. It doesn’t consist of the $50,000 dollar boats, depth finders, and GPS fishfinders that are all made and marketed to exurban/rural white people with money to burn.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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          Everybody I know that enjoys fishing enjoys fishing off a dock as much as floatin around in a boat, with or without a fishfinder.

          Fishfinders do make it easier to know the period when schooling fish will swing by, but that just helps you time when you open your next beer.Report

        • Avatar BradP in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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          Where do you get all this?  Do I have to change my answer since I don’t have any of the things you mentioned?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to BradP
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            By occasionally waking up early on Saturday and Sunday and being too bored to switch it off the outdoor shows that are 99% white, filled with advertising within the show that’s aimed at exurban/rural consumers.

            As for the ancedotal part about black people, I’ve lived in both the Rust Belt and the PacNW near the shore. In most cases, it’s not well-off white people sitting on the shore with a simple fishing pole.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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          Murray may talk about the Bassmasters Tournament, but that’s surely not the only fishing he’s referring to.  The question absolutely did not restrict itself that way, so the claim that’s what he meant has no substance.  Heck, the type of fishing I (Mr. Whitey) do is exactly the type that your stereotypical black person does.

          And to tip my hand on how I did on this quiz, I remember a Greyhound Bus Ride from Detroit to Chicago where two people on the bus had (cheap) fishing poles–me and a black guy.Report

      • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        You’re probably right, though I would not be surprised if you correct for rural/urban breakdowns that the proportion is not all that different.Report

  7. Avatar Cometary
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    Murray is full of crap, so it’s not surprising his test is full of crap.  He calls Chipotle the equivalent of Whole Foods, which it isn’t.  He doesn’t seem to know that a TV season is not called a ‘sequence’.  He gives a point for hitchhiking 50 miles (sorry ladies, you effete snobs) and also a point for watching The King’s Speech.  His test is designed for conservative elites to feel that they are more in touch with America than liberal elites, with their sneering disdain for Busch beer and bass fishing.  Also, “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your ?fty nearest neighbors did not have college degrees?”  Yes, I have, it was called college.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Cometary
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       He calls Chipotle the equivalent of Whole Foods, which it isn’t.

      I believe it’s called drawing an analogy.  If you’d like to challenge, you may.  Do explain.  You make a couple of eminently fair points and then…

      also a point for watching The King’s Speech.

      Because of its gross during that year.  He might have excluded it in the same way that he excluded Chipotle, and I’d say that doing so might make the test stronger. But, eh, whatever.  It’s not meant to be rigorous, only thought-provoking.

      His test is designed for conservative elites to feel that they are more in touch with America than liberal elites

      I think that might be true as well, but I’m unsure how much it actually succeeds.

       Also, “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your ?fty nearest neighbors did not have college degrees?”  Yes, I have, it was called college.

      Does a college campus count as a neighborhood?  That doesn’t quite seem right to me, but yes, it might have been stated more clearly.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        It’s worth noting, that though he included the King’s speech, he actually excluded seven of the top ten grossing movies: Toy Story 3, Alice and Wonderland, Harry Potter 7A, Shrek 4, Twilight 3, Tangled, and How to Train your Dragon.  I get two points either way, but only because I was to busy working my swing shift retail job to go see the movies more that a few times a year.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to Cometary
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      His test is designed for conservative elites to feel that they are more in touch with America than liberal elites.

      I don’t see why conservative elites would score that much differently than liberal elites, given that many of them probably live in the same kind of neighborhoods and are more likely than not to share experiences and tastes. I somehow doubt Sean Hannity goes home from bashing liberals to watch NASCAR and throw back a Bud Lite or two, anymore than Wolf Blitzer does.*

      “Elites chosen at random.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Bonneville in reply to Michelle
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        Perhaps Wolf Blitzer’s normal sized friends pour some Bud Lite into a thimble for him to sip from.Report

      • Avatar Aaron W in reply to Michelle
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        Yeah, I probably qualify as a ‘liberal elite’ or something, and yet I go fishing, own a pickup truck, have been on a factory floor, lived in a rural area, etc. You can definitely tell there’s a slight bias against liberals with questions about gay pride (And I’d like to know where these global warming parades are because I’d like to attend one) but I don’t think it’s really that bad.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Bonneville in reply to Aaron W
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          My first response to that question was, “I’ve been to a parade that wasn’t about those things!”

          Then I realized that the parade I had been to – about AIDS in Africa – was logically the same thing. Zero points for me!Report

          • Avatar LauraNo in reply to Ryan Bonneville
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            Me too. I was going to count some Take Back The Night parades with lighters and all but then I realized it was the same thing as Gay Pride parades (which I’ve also attended as well as protests against the police for never noticing all the gay men who had been disappearing until Jeffrey Dahmer was caught). I counted my son’s being in the Santa parade as a taekwando student and Veterans Day parades as an Air Force cadet because we help with the arrangements. Maybe that was wrong but I did it anyway! 🙂Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Aaron W
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          Well yeah the parade question was pretty lame…he really let his own bias show through. He didn’t exclude Tea Party protests now did he.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Aaron W
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          Aaron,

          As I was telling my Research Methods students today, we have to be careful about the ecological fallacy–the assumption that a member of a group is identical to the group’s statistical identity.  Almost certainly we can impute a roughly normal distribution to the liberal elite on such things as pickup truck ownership, fishing, etc.  Possibly you’re a standard deviation or two from the liberal elite mean.

          Which just means you’re extra interesting for not fitting the stereotype.Report

  8. Avatar Winston McFart
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    52.  I’m real America.  That’s what I get for growing up in very rural New England.Report

  9. Avatar Sam Wilkinson
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    I scored a 40 after having it held against me that I don’t buy any alcohol (my favorite when I did drink was Miller High Life), that I don’t watch network television, and that I didn’t want to play high school sports despite having the capability. It is absurd that one would be penalized and judged for these entirely reasonable decisions. In no case did I decide, “Oh, I’m such a haughty a$$hole that I won’t do these things!” They just aren’t, or weren’t, for me. Assuming that this is necessarily reflective of class concerns and not personal preference is just ridiculous.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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      I wouldn’t take it so personally.  I earned my low, low score by being an unrepentant liberal arts geek who is generally more interested in the pop culture of 200 years ago than the pop culture of today.  I had no sports ability whatsoever in high school, and I had to exclude myself from the question about lettering in high school.  It was for the chess team.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Well, respectfully, I do take it personally, because what he’s implying is that I am a haughty a$$hole because of my score, as if I should be ashamed because I’d rather bowl than fish, because I’d rather watch football than NASCAR, because I’d rather watch Breaking Bad than any of his top ten television shows, because I bought a station wagon instead of a truck, etc.

        (Incidentally: what would Charles Murray score on his own test?)Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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          No, Sam, we’re not “real” white people like our fathers and grandfathers.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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          because what he’s implying is that…

          I don’t get any of those implications at all.Report

          • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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            Patrick,

            And I quote: “The disdain of the new upper class fordomestic mass-market beer is nearly as intense as its disdain forpeople who smoke cigarettes”

            That sounds to me like he’s describing people unwilling to drink mass-produced American beer as classist a$$holes. Sure, I might be reading that into it, but he’s the one who chose a word like disdain rather than something more innocuous, like preference.

            And I quote again: “The stereotype of the overeducated elitest snob as a teenager is someone who either went to a private school where team sports were not a big deal or went to a public school where he held him-self aloof from the team sports and collateral activities that aresuch an important part of the culture of public high schools. Does the stereotype ?t you?” 

            No, the stereotype doesn’t, as I didn’t go to a private school (there are private schools where sports are not a big deal?) and I wasn’t aloof so much as I wasn’t willing to engage in the nonstop politicking that is required of playing such sports. But neither explanation seems to be acceptable in Murray’s mind; didn’t play sports so it must be because I’m a private school attendee or an aloof jerk. He’s the one introducing the incendiary language and explicit judgement, not me.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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              The stereotype of the overeducated elitest snob as a teenager

              I’m pretty sure this stereotype exists.  I’m not sure he describes it inaccurately.  The stereotype, that is.

              That is different from actually believing the stereotype.

              I’ll read it again.  I think I might have read it differently because I took no ideas about who Murray was into the first read.  Let’s see what happens when I read it again.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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              “The stereotype of the overeducated elitest snob as a teenager is someone who either went to a private school where team sports were not a big deal or went to a public school where he held him-self aloof from the team sports and collateral activities that aresuch an important part of the culture of public high schools. Does the stereotype ?t you?” 

              Participating in sports is something that requires certain physical talent and gifts, no? What about those who lack that latent and gifts? Are they to be lumped with the “overeducated elitist snob” as well because they can’t run fast enough or catch a ball good enough to “letter” in any sport? How is this even remotely a relevant question to who is considered an ordinary American?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Jason, I was /captain/ of the chess team and didn’t get no stinking letter for it. Fortunately I ran track (sprinter) and although one of the few whites in that group, set a record that never was broken (lol, because track went from yards to meters about a decade later).Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to wardsmith
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          We didn’t have a captain, but I was first board.

          Also edited the newspaper and had one of the lead roles in the school play.  And did quiz bowl.  We didn’t have a debate team.Report

  10. Avatar b-psycho
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    I scored a 55. Unless Steel Reserve (does malt liquor count as “mass market”?) doesn’t count on #14, in which case I got a 53.

     Report

    • Avatar b-psycho in reply to b-psycho
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      Then again, the evangelical christian I know is also an anarchist, the Steel Reserve is occasionally replaced with either homebrew or various strong craft ales, I actually was on the debate team, and of the big movies the only one I saw was Iron Man.

      But both my parents were long term factory workers and I am poor as shrimp, so I’m Reel Merkin enough despite being a black atheist who can’t stand rural areas and would prefer the state cease to exist.Report

  11. Avatar BradP
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    I scored an 81, but I took credit for my wife watching Judge Judy.Report

  12. Avatar Patrick Cahalan
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    59.  I mis-read Branson as Bronson, thanks to too little sleep and Jason unintentionally priming me for the wrong mis-reading, or I would have got 60.

    While all the complaints about rigor are obviously valid (as Jason has already pointed out in the OP and twice in the comments, so he’s clearly aware, dear readership), the inquiry behind the methodology is legit.  And he probably is onto something.

    It is one thing to feel bad for working class Americans.  It’s another thing to work in a slaughterhouse, it informs you at a somewhat deeper level in what ways you *ought* to feel bad for working class Americans.  Yanno, as one of us upper-middle / lower-upper class over-educated elite types.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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      Yup, if I hadn’t worked for a few years at a pizza shop and a few months at a factory, I totally wouldn’t understand why it’s a bad idea to increase the retirement age of Social Security.

      I just don’t get how “whiteness” equals heterosexuality and political conservatism. I mean, I don’t fish, own a truck, or drink any type of beer regularly. Heck, I might not even be scared if a future daughter brings a non-white guy home. Obviously, this is proof I have no real connection with America and the only way to fix the fact is by watching some Judge Judy before heading over to the non-existent salad bar at Applebee’s.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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        Keep on keepin’ on, Jesse.

        Being dismissive of the possibility that you might not only not know everything, but you might also not know something important… is probably going to lead you to sitting there shaking your head the next time a GWB nets a second term. If you never understand the people you disagree with, you’ll never understand how to convince them of a damn thing.

        As long as you’re okay with that, rock out.Report

        • Avatar BradP in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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          His posts seem to show a bit of disdain for those who are most likely to score well on that quiz.  I feel like he’s kinda proving Murray’s point.Report

          • Avatar LauraNo in reply to BradP
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            What would ‘scoring well’ be? I don’t see the test as finding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people. It is trying to find elite and non-elite people. Elite being inappropriate word if you ask me. Upper-middle and upper class is more like it. They actually are the people who make decisions that affect the rest of ‘us’ but no where is it implied that scoring as one of them is bad. IMOReport

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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          Patrick,

          I’m not sure I understand your argument here, so without taking sides, I’d like to clarify: are you saying that only unless a person scores highly on this particular test, you can never understand the people you disagree with? And is it really fair to connect the notion of America only with working class white people?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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            Are you saying that only unless a person scores highly on this particular test, you can never understand the people you disagree with?

            Oh, no.

            I think, however, that expressing a ton of disdain for the limited instrument probably indicates that you have a blind spot or three, which makes it unlikely  that you will understand the people you disagree with.

            And is it really fair to connect the notion of America only with working class white people?

            Oh, I certainly hope not.  I don’t think that’s what this does, at all.  Or, maybe it does, maybe that’s his intention, and Murray is a douchebag.  BUT…

            I think this points out that those people who are working class white people are very uncomfortable about recognizing the fact that they have a very limited context, and… rather than examine that (which would probably be a valuable bit of self introspection)… they’re much more likely to trivialize the differences between their context and everybody else’s.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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              I think this points out that those people who are working class white black people are very uncomfortable about recognizing the fact that they have a very limited context,

              Hmm, see how context changes everything there Patrick? And after you’d done such a good job of clarifying “standing” too.

              Now, who’s up for getting talked down to by their liberal betters and taking it like a man/woman because after all, they are their betters. Maybe now you can grasp why the USA threw out congresscritters in record numbers in 2010. Politicians love to parachute in and tell factory workers how they should live their lives, then parachute back out again to their elitist world.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith
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                Ward, that’s the first time anyone accused me of not having standing to talk about middle class white people.

                I’m honestly flabbergasted.Report

              • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                To be fair Patrick, my gast has also been flabbered.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                not having standing to talk about [lower] middle class white people

                That help?

                Specific methodological complaints aside, there’s an intuitive truth to Murray’s thesis and the majority of angst ridden commentary here merely reinforces that meme.

                I’ve personally lost a lifelong friend who is a major liberal simply because many (not all, but a notable majority and Ryan is one of them) liberals simply refuse to engage with anyone of a differing mindset. Period. They are by far the most intolerant people I have ever encountered in a lifetime of experience that is only rivalled by Blaise’s and i say this having a very large family of Irish Catholic liberals. They do not take the effort to cultivate relationships (as your excellent post on race discussed) with the “other” – they are indeed in their own little liberal bubbles. Now that may hurt the feelings of all the liberals reading this but too bad. Look long and hard in a mirror and quit arguing minutiae – see the bigger picture.  There’s a damn good reason “flyover country” made it into the vernacular and it sure as hell isn’t a conservative’s term. Think about it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith
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                There’s a reason I scored 59, Ward.

                Neither of my parents had a college degree until I was in my late teens (Mom, night school).  We had one hand-me-down black and white TV until I was 8.  Rabbit ears and a broken dial you had to turn with needlenose pliers and everything.  Two channels: 2 and 44.  First street I grew up on was populated by a fair number of working poor.

                Mom wound up making a decent amount of money, but it was a while before my family made it to middle-of-the-road middle class.  We went to private school, but the priest in the family helped out quite a bit on that score, it wasn’t because we were rolling.

                I’d hazard a guess that I know far more about working poor than most people in my current socioeconomic bracket, having been there myself.Report

              • Avatar LauraNo in reply to wardsmith
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                One thing. A family is a tribe, no? I think if you want to study liberals and their ways you would find them at all kinds of places, geographically as well as in different social situations. I wouldn’t think to go to a Baptist church to study conservatives. Unless I wanted to study Baptist conservatives, of course. You have studied, anecdotally, an Irish family, most or all of whom you consider to be liberals.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                I’m afraid I didn’t fully understand what that comment did mean. Namely, how any of this (a conversation between mostly non-working-class people) reflects on the limitations of context among working class people. Could you elaborate?Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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          I don’t have disdain for people who are evangelical Christian’s who enjoy NASCAR, Two and a Half Men, and go to Chili’s every week. I have disdain for conservative “intellectuals” who tell me the only way to know real America is to go to a megachurch, watch NASCAR, and head over to Chili’s.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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      I’m not sure what, in particular, he’s onto, unless the goal is loaded questions specifically designed to produce particular outcomes. Take, as one example, his question about Jimmie Johnson: Murray maintains that Jimmie Johnson is, for tens of millions of Americans, “the most important figure in sport.”

      I’ll call nonsense immediately.

      While NASCAR might be hugely important to tens of millions of Americans (although that’s debatable, given the circuit’s ratings), Jimmie Johnson isn’t the entirety of NASCAR. Fans are loyal to particular drivers, not necessarily the best of them. Murray argues that NASCAR rivals other leagues in popularity; this is debatable at best, and ludicrous in regard to the NFL. The highest rated NFL game got a 27.4 share; NASCAR races don’t come anywhere close, with only one race in 2011 getting a viewership of more than ten million, much less the “tens of millions” that Murray is claiming.

      Of course, there’s a reason for picking NASCAR – I’ll let you see if you can figure it out from this picture.Report

      • Avatar BradP in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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        You do realize you get points for simply knowing who Jimmie Johnson is, right?  I don’t think the question would have been any better if he had picked the most prominent baseball, basketball, or football player because of sponsorships and the like.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to BradP
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          I understand that I get points for this, but he’s talking about working class Americans and seeming to suggest that their favorite sport is NASCAR. I’d question that, given the ratings, as well as his contention about the relative importance of Jimmie Johnson himself.

          But the bigger issue is his selection of this particular sport as being representative of working class Americans. I think there’s probably a reason he emphasized NASCAR over a sport both more popular and more diverse.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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        Given the demographic swing in the country, should have picked a soccer player.  However, NASCAR’s popularity overlaps with football’s in a way that basketball’s or baseball’s popularity doesn’t.  He’s not writing about “the true America”, he’s writing about upper-middle class, lower-upper class people.  They are going to be predominantly highly educated, likely to be white, and much more likely to watch football than know anything about NASCAR.

        Yes, granted, again, his methodology ain’t rigorous (how many times has this been said already) and shows his own biases pretty baldly.  He’ obviously read too much “Stuff White People Like”.

        Regardless, it’s very likely that many of his underlying points are as valid as, “the 1% doesn’t understand the 99%”… the 10% isn’t really likely to understand the 90%, either.  I’m in the 10%.  I’m surrounded by people that don’t know a damn thing about poor people.

        Hell, Jesse apparently believes that if you fish and drive a truck and drink beer, you’re likely to be upset if your *daughter* brings home a non-white boyfriend.  Oh, and he’s sexist, too… assuming that you’d get upset if your daughter brings home a non-white boyfriend, but not if your son brought home a hot Asian!

        Or maybe he’s not.  Maybe that’s part of the point.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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          says:

          Nitpick: The other thing about NASCAR is its somewhat of a regional sport, its much more popular in the south. If you replaced jimmie johnson with Alex Ovechkin most people outside of the northeast and upper midwest would be left out.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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          says:

          Again, that’s part of the issue – since when has football been an upper middle class game? I would suggest that there is no significant divide between football fans and NASCAR fans, save their numbers. There are far more football fans than there are NASCAR fans. But there is a key difference between the two: diversity. It’s why I’d wager Murray overemphasizes NASCAR’s importance on the sporting scene.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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            says:

            Yup, as greginak said, why was NASCAR picked. For another example, pro wrestling is probably about as popular as NASCAR in week-by-week ratings. Or, hell, UFC. There’s plenty of second-tier sports or for that matter, second-tier ‘activities.’ For example, why was fishing/hunting chosen instead of bowling? Likely, because even liberal elitist douchebags like me have been out bowling with a group of friends recently.

            I mean, it’s a great test if you want to bash liberals because you don’t think liberals do much of these things.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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            says:

            Again, that’s part of the issue – since when has football been an upper middle class game? I would suggest that there is no significant divide between football fans and NASCAR fans, save their numbers.

            Part of his thesis is the generational divide.

            If you are the children of middle class parents, you probably liked football.  You may not have liked NASCAR.

            If you are the children of lower class parents, you probably liked football.  You are more likely to have liked NASCAR (NASCAR being southern in appeal, and the southern states having lower per-cap incomes).

            As a whatever-you-are-now, you probably still like football in either case.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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              says:

              But, a person growing up in Washington or Maine no matter their educational or socioeconomic status isn’t as likely to watch NASCAR because it’s simply not as popular a sport, even at the peak of the sport about ten years ago.

              I mean this seriously, pro wrestling would’ve been a better comparison. It’s national, is considered low-brow but was popular enough during the  old days that people of all ages watched, and is something that is consistently popular even though it bubbles up in popularity every so often (much like NASCAR).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak
                Ignored
                says:

                I mean this seriously, pro wrestling would’ve been a better comparison.

                No argument there.

                But again, the question isn’t nitpicking about the methodology, which Jason and James and myself have all already agreed is flawed.

                The question is: do you find the question that he’s hamhandedly approaching interesting or no?

                I find the question interesting, that’s all.  It’s definitely the case that my experience working for a slaughterhouse, for one example, when related to a number of people of my current social class, draws gasps of disbelief and incredulous looks.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                Sure, but that happened since the beginning of time. If you went back to the good ole’ days of the 50’s and 60’s, a bunch of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals would be shocked at the experience of a slaughterhouse. The difference is now there’s less people working at slaughterhouses and more at office’s.

                So, no, I don’t really find the question’s that interesting.  You could’ve done the same test in 1954 and got the same results among upper-middle-class white people by changing a few of the names of the brands.Report

            • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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              says:

              Patrick,

              Part of his unstated thesis though is that working class peoples aren’t minorities. Which is why he picks NASCAR. That’s the objection.

              Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “If you are the children of lower class white parents, you are more likely to have liked NASCAR…” but even then I’d question the conclusion. Unless he’s suggesting that lower classes are drawn to an overwhelmingly white sport regardless…and I think we can all question that conclusion.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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                says:

                Sam, isn’t this quiz attached to a book that is looking specifically and intentionally at white people and the white class divide? I’m not sure that he is saying “working class people aren’t minorities” but rather looking at working class people who aren’t minorities.Report

  13. Avatar Will
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    says:

    I admit I found this quiz fascinating, probably because it confirms my own intuitions about class in America. I think the surest indication of the cultural shift Murray is talking about is our vocabulary: We literally had to invent terms like “yuppie” and “hipster” to describe these new social cleavages.

    Here are some quick thoughts:

    1) If this cultural shift is occurring, isn’t it driven in part by the success of sophisticated consumer capitalism? People with more disposable income develop different, more expensive tastes, which are then catered to and expanded upon by advertisers, whose products and services then reinforce distinctions between different classes of consumers. It’s interesting that Murray is approaching this from the perspective of a conservative concerned with cultural and social solidarity, because the success of conservative economic policies have arguably done more to encourage these trends than anything else. At the very least, the expansion of the welfare state isn’t the only thing to blame.

    2) We’ve discussed how college and other institutions of higher learning have shifted from teaching practical workplace skills to inculcating norms and expectations that allow students to easily segue into white collar workplaces. To me, this is a reason to worry about the yuppie meritocracy Murray describes. If your fitness for a particular job is tied to certain class-based markers instead of actual skills, we’re looking at a situation where merit is increasingly irrelevant in the hiring process. A while back, Megan McArdle had an interesting post on how high-level financial firms screen prospective applicants. To deal with an admittedly massive pool of applicants, these companies look at what school you went to, what extracurricular activities you participated in, and so on before they bring in anyone new.

    AEI put up an online quiz drawn from Murray’s book that everyone might be interested in:

    http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=how-thick-is-your-bubble

    I’d add that he’s missed the fact that middle class 20-somethings eagerly appropriate the trappings of blue collar ‘Murica. PBR and Marlboro reds are just as likely to be consumed by a 20-something hipster nowadays.

     Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Will
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      says:

      I’d add that he’s missed the fact that middle class 20-somethings eagerly appropriate the trappings of blue collar ‘Murica. PBR and Marlboro reds are just as likely to be consumed by a 20-something hipster nowadays.

      While listening to entirely different music.  Clearly, then, not real Americans.Report

    • Avatar Maxwell James in reply to Will
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      says:

      <i> We literally had to invent terms like “yuppie” and “hipster” to describe these new social cleavages.</i>

      That’s true, but we also lost some terms – WASP comes to mind.Report

      • Avatar Will in reply to Maxwell James
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        says:

        Right, because WASP connotes a specific ethno-religious background (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The new elites aren’t tied to a particular geographic or ethnic group – they’re defined by shared cultural norms.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Will
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          says:

          The “Anglo-Saxon” bit is dated.  The White and Protestant parts still hold up to a degree.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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            says:

            Not sure about protestant, actually. Or, at the least, it would need to be qualified with “mainline” or something. But the white catholic ascent, and the Jewish community, have become a part of the upper fabric, in my view (and that’s excluding a likely increasing percentage with no religion at all). While some strains of protestantism are more likely to be identified with the lower classes.Report

        • Avatar Maxwell James in reply to Will
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          says:

          My point about WASPs is that I think Murray is wrong in his history. One-half of my family were big-time WASPs back in the 50’s (and before), and they absolutely would have flunked the equivalent of these questions back then.

          Similarly, how much would Italian or German or Irish Americans, 50 or 100 or 150 years ago, identify with mainstream white working class culture?

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of elites having a better understanding of working class culture(s) – though not just white, of course. But I don’t think it’s any more of a problem now than it was then.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Will
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      says:

      Write a post, Will!Report

  14. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    I scored a 53. I didn’t know how to answer questions about my family background. For many years, my father turned wrenches for aircraft, a good-paying job that is technically blue-collar in substance, but required a college degree; eventually he became a manager and our economic status improved considerably. And during my Lean Year, I had some degree of family financial support, but did have a very low income and significant difficulty making ends meet.

    I am also chagrined to have missed two easy sports points, confusing “Jimmy Johnson” for “Jimmie Johnson” because I read the question too fast. I may have cheated on the domestic beer question, as I bought the beer to stock for a party knowing it would please my guests, rather than for my own consumption.

    I am disappointed in many commenters who saw that the quiz was authored by Charles Murray, noted that he wrote The Bell Curve, and automatically concluded that because he wrote one generally-discredited book, he must perforce have nothing meaningful whatsoever to contribute to anything else.Report

  15. Avatar Will Truman
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    says:

    I scored 47. There were some cases that I got points where I shouldn’t have, but others that I think I deserved extra credit on. It probably evened out, roughly speaking.

    A long while back my coblogger Sheila had a “Prole Test” that was along *very* similar lines. She was ahead of her time, I suppose.Report

  16. Avatar Alex Knapp
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    says:

    Scored a 60, but this is pretty weighted towards the experience of the rural, and especially white, working classes. There’s a better than decent chance the urban working class, white or minority, wouldn’t score as highly as I did.Report

  17. Avatar Ryan Bonneville
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    says:

    I scored 42.5 because I took half credit on the “living in poverty” question. From ages 3-12, my mom was single and did not have much in the way of money. At the time, she did a masterful job of trying to hide that from me, but stories I’ve heard since indicate that things were occasionally a little more dire than I realized. I’m not sure about her exact income, so I can’t say for sure what was going on – I figured 2.5/7 was appropriate.

    What’s funny is that “A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and moviegoing habits” is a very decent descriptor of exactly what I am (although I hate the term “middle-class” because it implies my master’s degree, white-collar government consulting job, and dual-master’s Fed almost-wife are somewhat less well off than we probably are).

    I cleaned up on the first question, having grown-up in a far-out exurb of Detroit (I considered it part of a metropolitan area, giving myself no points on the third question). I also scored very well on movies (I watch a lot of them) and restaurants (I adore chain restaurants). Best part – to complement Jason’s chess club comment – is that I also scored zero points on the lettering question because I lettered in debate. Ell oh ell.

    Like many on this thread, I thought the quiz was at least interesting. I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that one of the most valuable things we tend to lack (in all political and cultural discussions) is empathy. It may not make us better at policy to know which sports “truck drivers” like to watch, but I cannot imagine how it could make us worse.Report

  18. Avatar Michelle
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    says:

    I scored 29, a score that would have been lower if my husband didn’t have a taste for Miller Lite and a couple of our good friends didn’t enjoy meeting for breakfast at Denny’s or IHOP.  Also, because my husband is a Russian immigrant, a number of our good friends are rabid right wingers, although I am close to a couple of other Republicans not counting my family.

    While I found the quiz interesting, I’m not sure Murray’s overall thesis holds up. Segregation by class (and culture) is certainly not a new phenomenon in American history. Wealthier and upper-middle class people have sought ways to differentiate themselves from others since time immemorial. What has changed is the extent to which our particular consumer niches identify who we are and the vast array of items now available for consumption. For example: beer. When I grew up back in the dark ages, only a few kinds of beer were available at the local supermarket. You were really going out on a limb and identifying yourself as some kind of snob if you bought imported beer (if it was even available). Now, you walk into the grocery store and you have well over a hundred brands of beer and ale, including local brews, to choose from (well, except here in PA where you can’t buy beer in a grocery store).  Hence, there’s a lot more diversity and a lot more ability to plug yourself into a particular consumer niche depending on your proclivities.

    Ditto television. There used to be three commercial channels and public television. Not a whole lot of choice. Now there are a gazillion. In other words, consumer culture now allows for a greater diversity of subsets.

    Murray seems to be pining for some kind of common culture that doesn’t really exist here (the lack of which troubled social commentators in the 1930s and 40s if not earlier). His solution is to have the better-off move themselves and their kids into poorer neighborhoods to broaden their horizons and open themselves up to new experiences. Somehow, I doubt that’s gonna fly.Report

  19. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    51, though I could go up close to 60 if I interpreted the questions with sufficient liberality.  Based on the scores I’m seeing above, by the way, his thesis seems to be pretty much wrong.

     Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Mark Thompson
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      says:

      To be fair, this site attracts the sort of weirdos who would skew the results. And I mean that in the best way possible.

       Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Will
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        says:

        I’m actually not so sure about that.

        His assumption about upper middle class elites just doesn’t ring true to me.  Sure, it may ring true about the typical overprivileged college kid, but the typical overprivileged college kid hasn’t even been on the planet long enough to have many of these experiences.  It also may well be true of too many politicians, but if so, then Murray’s questions are too-slanted to favor conservative politicians over liberal ones.  It would not at all be difficult to change the quiz in a way that would favor liberal politicians over conservative politicians.

         Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mark Thompson
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          says:

          Sure, it may ring true about the typical overprivileged college kid, but the typical overprivileged college kid hasn’t even been on the planet long enough to have many of these experiences.  

          I don’t know if I agree with this one, but I don’t disagree strenuously.  I think that most kids who get to the point of graduating college probably ought to have experienced a good portion of these, really.

          It also may well be true of too many politicians, but if so, then Murray’s questions are too-slanted to favor conservative politicians over liberal ones.

          I don’t know that this is the case either (although conservative politicians would like to think that it does).  I agree with Michelle up here.

          If there’s an underlying thesis that is interesting, it’s that the upper-middle class is becoming disconnected from the middle and lower classes.  That doesn’t say much about political inclinations, just socioeconomic ones.Report

  20. Avatar Ian M.
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    says:

    Scored a 48. Parent’s were blue-collar working class when I was young for political reasons, but were college educated and came from middle-class backgrounds. A 48 is pretty spot-on for someone who’s split much of their life traveling between suburb and city. Scored most for living in poor neighborhoods and living poor, most of the cultural stuff I scored like someone who went to a small liberal arts school. For Branson, I thought of Branson,MS but because a particularly thrilling Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novel had some key sequences there.

    I don’t think the test is about guilt, but humility. There seems to be a lot of defensiveness in this comment thread, which I just don’t get.Report

  21. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    71. Of course, I live in Canada, so that might skew it some. Of course we fish several times a year- what else are you supposed to do up here? Branson I knew from a song.Report

  22. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    I don’t think of myself as left-leaning, but everyone else does so I jumped in and scored a tepid 45.

    I’m not entirely sure to what degree I think this test is a good indicator of what it is suppposed to show, but I’m dubious. A few of the questions, such as the incomes and education levels of the people who have surrounded you in your life feel like good indicators, but only in the “no s**t” way.

    A lot of the others seem contrived, and like they are based on what someone pictures a cardboard version of a rube to be. For example, most guys I know my age in PDX know what Branson is. This is not due to a love for Branson so much as loving the irony of Branson’s existence. In fact, it’s considered fairly hipster to have actually gone there. I’d bet a lot that I you went into the more impoverished parts of Portland no one would know what the hell Branson was.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Tod Kelly
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      says:

      I think 45 is not-so-tepid, actually.  Based on what Murray is saying is “typical,” his thesis would suggest that for a “typical” second gen upper middle class elitist, even one who “made a point of getting out a lot,” the median score should be a 9.  Even for a first-gen upper middle class person with middle class parents, Murray suggests that a 33 would be “typical.”   That he views these as typical scores is critical to his thesis, it would seem to me, as those are the scores he would expect if the upper middle class were really becoming increasingly incapable of relating to working class whites.  A lot of scores in the 40s-60s might not necessarily make one a Man of the People for purposes of this quiz, but such scores also suggest that Murray’s expectations as to how increasingly little these groups have in common with middle class whites are way off.Report

  23. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    65.  So far, topped only by MFarmer.

    And I’ll stack my methodological training up against anyone here, and tell the critics, yes, you’re right, but you’re missing the damn point and essentially reinforcing Murray’s thesis, for all the reasons Jason and Pat have pointed out.  If your first response is, “well, it should have been football, not NASCAR,” or “but fishing is for rich folks who can afford 40 HP bassboats,” then you are definitely reinforcing his point.

    The issue is not that there is a “real” America that liberal elites are missing; it’s that there are real Americans (not “the” real Americans, just “some” real Americans) that actually matter, and that most liberals really don’t get them.  This is a big issue with me, because in grad school I ran into lots of what we called “trustafarians,” students who were liberal, had good amounts of support from their upper-middle class families, and talked a lot about what working class Americans really needed (or, if they were of the Marxist “false consciousness” school, what working class Americans really “wanted,” if they only really understood).

    For the record: I grew up a lower middle class child of a factory working mom and low-end white collar dad in a flyspeck farm town in flyover country; I now live in a dying industrial town of well under 50k (less than half that), in flyover country, in a neighborhood where almost none of the residents has a college degree, and our friends two doors down are a factory worker and his cigarette-smoking wife.  When I hear the liberals here trying to claim they don’t misunderstand middle America that much, I can only shake my head.  Come on over next summer, we’ll have a cookout and you can meet my neighbors.  Bring good beer, though–I got a zero on that question because I am a beer snob.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      The issue is not that there is a “real” America that liberal elites are missing; it’s that there are real Americans (not “the” real Americans, just “some” real Americans) that actually matter, and that most liberals really don’t get them.

      Do you think conservatives elites get the type of real Americans you’re talking about any better than liberal elites do?Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      You finally caught our 75-year long trick, Hanley. I’ll inform Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, and Al Gore that we’ve been found out that we really don’t know what middle-class American’s need at all.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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        says:

        Jesse,

        Sorry, that went right over my head. But I stand by my point.  I can half give you Michael Moore,* but the people I hear talking about his films are not Miller Lite drinking factory working fishing buddies, but my academic colleagues.  And Al Gore?  What the frick does that pampered and blow-dried pseudo-Tennessean know about middle America?  Olbermann, well, I get zero points on him.  I know he was on some cable network and got fired for something or other, and that’s about it.

        *Michael Moore fans should read Ben Hamper’s Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line.  He and Moore were (are?) friends, and Hamper–unlike Moore–actually worked on the assembly line in the auto plants.  The book’s a great read: funny, intelligent, informative, and definitely a blue collar liberal sensibility.  Hell, I despise Moore and I loved this book.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          You’ve figured our liberalism’s sinister plan – to look at data and figure out the best policy on how to help people. When, all we should’ve done is just ask a random selection of people at a NASCAR race or maybe go to Applebee’s.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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            says:

            Actually, Jesse, a good political approach would do exactly that.  Do you have any idea of how many top-down ideas have been implemented that failed abjectly because they didn’t take into account the attitudes, beliefs, and preferences of the people they were allegedly supposed to help? Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom has built much of her career studying such cases.  She no conservative, I can assure you, but she complains regularly about policy failures resulting from elites failing to consult the people they’re designing their policies for.

            Simply put, “good” solutions are not always independent of the people they’re supposed to be helping.  And by emphasizing the elite knowledge over the local knowledge and preferences, you demonstrate exactly what is wrong with your general approach.  You don’t respect the people you think you’re helping enough to get their input!

            No, it’s not liberalism’s sinister plan–it’s liberalism’s foolish blind spot.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              Should a doctor ask for my advice before he cuts into me? Should my lawyer ask me what case he should cite before he argues in front of the judge for me? Should an engineer go interview some random commuters before he builds a bridge?

              If you asked the average American, they’d ask for more spending, less taxes, and a balanced budget. Yes, average people should be consulted, but at the end of the day, you have to go with the experts. And by experts, I mean actual experts, not people who have been on the right-wing welfare circuit for all of their lives. So yeah, when it comes to a poverty program, I’m not asking much for their help. If that makes me an elite, so be it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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                says:

                Should a doctor ask for my advice before he cuts into me? Should my lawyer ask me what case he should cite before he argues in front of the judge for me? Should an engineer go interview some random commuters before he builds a bridge?

                No, absolutely not.

                However, the doctor should explain to you what the consequences of her cutting into may be, how that may affect your quality of life, and allow you to come to your own decision about whether or not the surgery is necessary.

                The lawyer should find out what your intentions are regarding the case, and advise you accordingly.  If you are pursuing civil penalties in a case when you are unlikely to win, simply because of your own sense of justice, a good lawyer will point out that you’re likely to lose, and make sure that you’re aware of that fact.

                An engineer ought to goddamn know what the traffic patterns are for the bridge.  Also, whether or not he’s building it in California, where earthquakes happen, or Florida, where hurricanes happen, or on the Mississippi, where floods happen.

                James has a damn good point:

                Do you have any idea of how many top-down ideas have been implemented that failed abjectly because they didn’t take into account the attitudes, beliefs, and preferences of the people they were allegedly supposed to help?

                Yes, I build IT systems for a living.  The case study literature alone would make you weep.

                Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom has built much of her career studying such cases.

                I’ve brought up Elinor myself a time or three.  She’s not a conservative, but her policy advice would certainly come across as such.  Which makes it racist, I guess, according to some other threads we have working recently.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                Pat, my perspective on IT people is that they actively despise end users because they’re not IT people, and design only for themselves, not those who are expected to use their products.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                There are IT people who are like that, without irony.

                There are IT people who are indifferent to the people they serve.

                There are IT people who are more comfortable with systems than with people, and thus are very bad at sussing out how people actually need to use their systems.

                There are IT people who are actually good at system design, but terrible at project management, so they get into cost overruns while rolling out the least important functionality first and wind up producing a system that underdelivers.

                All of the above are bad at building systems that people actually need to use, but for different reasons.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                I’d like to think there are more of the third kind than the first and second kind combined. It’s a lot more forgiveable, as they can still be essentially decent people.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                The third and fourth are both very, very common.

                I’ve tried to get people in my line of work to read books on decision-making and management and human interface and sociology and psychology and a goodly number of them would rather just muck about in the code.

                In my entire career there’s maybe three people I’ve worked with that would get an unqualified recommendation from me.  Lots that would get very qualified recommendations, though.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                Patrick,

                If you make it to Vegas, or I make it to your neck of the woods or you to mine, we will have to talk about IT and Electronic Medical Records. Maybe the early Linux years, too.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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                says:

                I will buy you a drink, sir.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
                Ignored
                says:

                Jesse,

                You’re right; the people affected shouldn’t be involved in the decisionmaking because they’re too stupid to understand anything.  And you wonder why you’re treated as an elitist? And you get ticked off when someone points out that you really don’t know what these people want?

                I’m sympathetic to Pat’s answer, but my response is a little different.

                Should a doctor ask for my advice before he cuts into me?
                Her sure as hell should! Maybe I’m a Seventh Day Adventist. Maybe he’s planning to operate on me for cancer, and I’d rather try another treatment first. Yes, any doctor that didn’t ask my advice before he cut into me would find himself the subject of a malpractice suit.

                Should my lawyer ask me what case he should cite before he argues in front of the judge for me? <
                No, but he damn well better ask me whether I want to plea bargain or not.

                Should an engineer go interview some random commuters before he builds a bridge?
                Not necessarily random, but he sure as hell better study traffic patterns, as Pat says. Rather than just looking at a map from afar and deciding where a bridge is needed, he’d better get down in the dirt and see where people are actually driving, to see if a bridge in that particular location would make sense.

                So the general answer to your question is, yes, the expert needs to get information from the affected non-expert, because they have information the expert needs to make a fully informed decision.

                I’m not talking about big broad things like amount of taxes and spending–I’m talking about asking the people in the worst performing schools whether they’d like to give vouchers a try, something I’ve noticed liberals are exceptionally uncomfortable doing.

                @Pat, You have no idea how much the idea of Elinor Ostrom’s policies being racist made me laugh! I’ve rarely met anyone more at ease with people of any and every ethnic background, and one of the over-riding principles by which she operates is that local people, of whatever ethnicity or education level, are often best situated to solve their own problems.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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                says:

                Yes, average people should be consulted, but at the end of the day, you have to go with the experts. And by experts, I mean actual experts, not people who have been on the right-wing welfare circuit for all of their lives. So yeah, when it comes to a poverty program, I’m not asking much for their help. If that makes me an elite, so be it.

                This is an awesome comment.

                Change “right” to “left”, and it becomes transcendently awesome.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, considering there’s no such thing as the left-wing welfare circuit as there’s no such thing as the book mill known as Regency Books on the right, no national TV network on our side (sorry, three shows on MSNBC that equal Joe Scarborough’s airtime doesn’t compare to the 24 hour wurlitzer known as FOX), and that’s not even getting into the interlocking think tanks and foundations set up by guys like Scaife and Mellon. But hey, bring out the false equivocation if you must.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
                Ignored
                says:

                Jesse,  This might be hard for you to fathom, but it turns out that being to the left is not actually a requirement of “actual” expertise.  In fact it’s rather doubtful that it’s correlated (either positively or negatively) at all.

                Just FYI, are you familiar with the concept of the negative income tax?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                He said that the category of “actual experts” excludes those who have been “on the right-wing welfare circuit for all of their lives.”  That doesn’t even exclude the possibility that there are actual experts who just have right-of-center political views, much less assert that all actual experts are “on the left,” or that there is a correlation between political views and expertise.  It just excludes a certain category of “experts” who are actually paid to give only one kind of findings and policy recommendations.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      it’s that there are real Americans (not “the” real Americans, just “some” real Americans) that actually matter, and that most liberals really don’t get them

      Yeah, well, I live in a die-hard red state with a NASCAR track a 20 minute drive away, and let me say this: there are people who go to NASCAR races. They sure as hell ain’t white working class. White working classes can’t afford the tickets. The NASCAR fans I know are managers making 6 figures who hunt and fish.

      The poor working class folks without college degrees in my neck of the woods like football, minor league baseball, don’t know what the hell a Rotary Club is, listen to hip-hop, and watch YouTube videos. They go to small, diapidated churches made of sheet metal, not megachurches. They don’t hunt and fish because it’s beyond their means.

      What Murray describes are conservatives in their 50s who were lucky to grow up in a time when you didn’t NEED a college degree to make a decent living. They go to the Rotary club to get away from their wives and smoke cigars. They hunt and fish because they think it keeps them in touch with the ‘salt of the Earth’ fellas that they don’t allow to their members-only docks.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Alex Knapp
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        says:

        People don’t fish because it’s beyond their means?  I’m having a hard time buying that.

        And those folks may not go to NASCAR races (I live 20 minutes from MIS, I’ve seen the multi-hundred thousand dollar motorhomes headed up  there, so I get you), but they sure as hell do watch it on TV.

        Now, minor league baseball, that would have been a great addition to the quiz!Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
      Ignored
      says:

      I think there’s a valid point about suburban liberal elites, but on the other hand the lack of any urban, minority signifiers in Murray’s piece also gives away his biases. That is to say, I’d like to see an inner city version of this.Report

  24. Avatar Will
    Ignored
    says:

    Could you persuade Murray to do a Cato Unbound symposium? Here’s the question I’m interested in: Did these changes occur because of the welfare state, consumer capitalism, the decline of high-paying blue collar jobs, or some other factor(s)?Report

  25. Avatar Katherine
    Ignored
    says:

    I think he’s right that they’re a gap.  I was answering “no” to pretty much everything except 6, 7, 18 (18 says less than he thinks – the union local events I attended were in the “solidarity with international socialism” flavour), didn’t watch any of the TV shows, and went to 6 of the movies (although I’m dubious about the movie question – Despicable Me was pretty clearly “principally directed at children”).  The final total comes to 15.  But I’ve always known I’m pretty thoroughly upper-middle class.  The fact that I’m not from the US may also bias the answers somewhat.

    I’m a assuming a lab coat doesn’t count as a uniform.

    BTW, can someone translate question 17 for me?  I’ve never seen “letter” used as a verb before; maybe it’s may be an American thing.

    Some of the questions are better than others.  I don’t think watching more popular TV shows or movies gives anyone a better sense of what the lives of the working class are like.  But most of the rest of the questions are valuable and do illustrate that there’s a major disconnect between what I would call the intelligentsia and people in working-class professions.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Katherine
      Ignored
      says:

      To ‘letter’ is to participate in a varsity sport to a sufficient level to be awarded a chenille “letter”(usually the first letter of your city/school name) that could be stitched onto a Letterman’s Jacket/Sweater. I had to count zero because I took forensics and yearbook staff to be the equivalent of the debate or chess team.

      I don’t want to be too hard on Murray over the TV/movies stuff. I suspect his intention is to question if you’d have any possibility of discussing popular entertainment with most middle- and working-class Americans.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Plinko
        Ignored
        says:

        I think what Murray doesn’t realize that in the days of multiple TV’s in the household, expanded cable, and the slow death of the network, you can’t even  get members of most families to watch the same things anymore.Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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          says:

          Most certainly, though I think the rough idea stands that if you’ve seen a bunch of the TV shows you could strike up a conversation with some random folks at a bar in flyover country and have a strong chance of finding something to talk about.

          Of course, the idea that if you’d seen four popular movies it weights the same as spending your entire childhood in a working-class neighborhood is awfully nuts once you say it out loud.

           Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Katherine
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s an American thing. Think “letter jacket.” Play a sport, win an award, be in band, or whatever, you get a letter jacket with an emblem. So you “letter” in football or band or choir or whatever.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Katherine
      Ignored
      says:

      It basically means that you played high school sports.Report

  26. Avatar Katherine
    Ignored
    says:

    Wait, this is the guy who wrote The Bell Curve?  Okay, now I can understand why many of the questions were white-lower-middle-class-conservative specific.  Not interested any more; I’ll get my arguments from people with something more approaching decent critical thinking skills, thanks.

    (I did my undergrad in molecular biology and genetics.  If someone finds a gene that is highly correlated with intelligence and more present in certain populations – well, I’d be disturbed, but I’d at least find the argument something interesting to debate.  Absent that, though, research trying to link “race” to “intelligence” is bunk – people from two different areas of Africa are genetically more distinct than a European and an Asian.  There is no racial genetics, and thus no possible racial determination of or impact on intelligence.  There is population genetics, which is more complex and nuanced by far.)Report

  27. Avatar Aaron W
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    says:

    I ended up scoring 33, which based on either of these descriptions: “first generation upper middle class” or “second generation upper middle class” is probably pretty accurate since my parents both grew up on farms but then went to college (and my mom grad school when I was in high school) so there’s an odd mix of various class cultures there. My answer to the question of having a job where you ended up being hurt (6) is probably a little atypical since I’m a chemist and sometimes chemicals end up in places they shouldn’t like your hands. (Then again, people who work on the factory floor also deal with toxic chemicals)

    I do think despite its flaws this quiz does bring up an important point. One of the utterly bizarre things about American politics is how each political party likes to jockey itself constantly as representing ‘real America’ or ‘the middle class’. You know, despite the fact that almost all of our politicians or pundits are almost decidedly not part of the middle class even though they try to pretend they are. (And I’m not either for that matter) I think the author is not necessarily ill intentioned in trying to point this out, but it’s clear that he harbors some bias towards what ‘real Americans’ are. (i.e. Southern Evangelical conservative Christians) I’ve also found that the use of the phrase ‘upper middle class’ is indicative of this need to identify with the ‘middle class’ by elites. Let’s just dispense with the pretense and call them the ‘upper class’ already and be done with it.Report

  28. Avatar BSK
    Ignored
    says:

    46.  I am all over in the map in some ways because my parents were so different, with the gap growing ever wider after they divorced and remarried.  My dad was blue collar through-and-through… dropped out of college (though he was smart as heck but not one for school), worked as a fire fighter and landscaper, and still runs with that crowd.  My mom is a teacher, remarried a college professor, and operates in the world of independent schools.  Moreso than any of my siblings, I can navigate both worlds.  So I drink Bud Heavy and Dogfish Head.  Etc, etc, etc.  I think the quiz, to an extent, assumed a certain degree of stability within classes that might not be true for all, or assumed people lived in one world or another, but not both, as I (sort of) did, acknowledging that both worlds were still within the same general range.Report

  29. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    I scored a 70. Suck it, liberal elites! If only I’d bought a pickup, I’d have topped Farmer, damnit.

    I’ve also read The Bell Curve, and have even taught it in class at the college level. Therefore, I nominate myself for strangest combination (also, I think I’m the only post-Freddie far left non-lurker, so I win going away).Report

  30. Avatar Matty
    Ignored
    says:

    I know I’ve mentioned my faliure to get this before but if factory workers and truck drivers are middle class in America, who the fish are the working class? Is anyone identified as such or does the scale go straight from middle class to starvation poverty?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Matty
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      says:

      Matty,

      In the U.S. the working class spans the range from lower (but employed) economic status to upper-middle (relatively high-paying blue or white collar) economic status.  So in our use of the terms, middle and working class aren’t separate categories, and it doesn’t neatly break down on blue/white collar lines..

      Working class generally refers to particular types of jobs (mostly blue collar, but some lower-level white collar jobs), while middle class refers to both an economic position–not impoverished, not well-off enough to buy that yacht–and a social status; sometimes its used to refer to only one or the other and sometimes to refer to both simultaneously, and–no–it’s not always clear which is intended.

      I get the impression that in England the meanings of those categories are much more sharply defined than in the U.S.  To understand our usage you really have to just set those sharp categorizations aside, eliminate any real distinct social-class concepts aside, and accept the terms as  vague and muddled.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Vague and Muddled is an understatement.  We basically warp those terms to describe ourselves in ways that make us feel good with no consideration for anyone’s actual social or economic status.

        I came to this realization when a customer at my work– non-union retail that paid two dollars above minimum wage–said I had a middle-class occupation.

        In our country, everyone thinks they’re middle class.  The janitor who drives a twenty-year old truck to work where he cleans up other people’s shit thinks he’s middle class because he’s not on welfare.  The Doctor with two houses and a boat thinks he’s middle class because he hasn’t got the kind of boat that has a bedroom and kitchen.Report

  31. Avatar Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    True. In a way, the left and right circle around to meet each other at libertarianism. You might have to drop the natural rights stuff to fall on the left part of that curve though.Report

  32. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    says:

    Update:  A lot of you are complaining that Murray’s prole signifiers are too white.  This is a serious misunderstanding; after all, he’s writing a book about the prole-elite division among white Americans.  It’s right in the title.

    This misunderstanding suggests

    (1) very good things about his methodology, because even manifestly superficial readers were able to pick up on what he was getting at;

    (2) modestly good things about his lack of racial bias.  In the context of a book about white America, it would be a tremendous problem, indicative of racial bias, if his prole signifiers coded too much as black; and

    (3) not very good things about the reading comprehension of some commenters around here, at least in this instance.

    As to doing a Cato Unbound on this topic and the origins of the gap — as Will suggested above — I like the idea a lot and have every reason to think that Murray would be interested.  I still have to ask him and coordinate on scheduling, of course.

     Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Jason Kuznicki
      Ignored
      says:

      (3) not very good things about the reading comprehension of some commenters around here, at least in this instance.

      Sorry Jason, but I’m gonna call BS here. Your entire post appears at the first instance to mean the elite-prole division on a general level, not specifically limited to “white America”. I mean what are we supposed to take away from statements like:
      “Someone has to win the presidency every four years, and historically they’ve been some pretty elite people.”

      And your entire post works from the premise that this signifier isn’t limited specifically to white America.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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      says:

      Wait, did you not answer my complain about the whiteness of the question about how the questions have race-blind justifications? Where in the post did you mention that the book and the survey is about White Americansspecifically?

      “While it wasn’t a scientific survey, there was some fairly race-blind justification given to each of the questions, I thought: the top-grossing movies, the most popular TV shows, the biggest restaurant chains, and so forth. He might have asked a question about hip-hop music rather than country, and I’d probably have flubbed that too. But still, not too bad.”Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
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        says:

        I guess my point is, if you really wanted to make clear to the readers that the book and survey are specifically about white Americans and not Americans in general, why didn’t you just respond to my comment with “Dude, the survey is about white Americans, of course that’s how the questions would be structured! Why would you eveven ask that question?” Why did you bring up race-blind justifications at all? Frankly, I wasn’t all that interested to research what Murray’s book is about (considering the author), so yes, my information about the book and the survey was limited to what you say in the post and the questions on the survey. Isn’t the title of the book Coming Apart? How are we supposed to tell from that title that it’s about white people only?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to sonmi451
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          says:

          The full title is Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Will Truman
            Ignored
            says:

            Ok, I’m the stupid one for not noticing the smaller font. But Jason could have just dispelled all the complaining from the get go by a simple “Guys, look at the damn title!” instead of talking about how the questions are race-blind. Frankly, had I known that’s full title of the book, I wouldn’t have been interested to look at the survey. A book about the state of white America by the author of The Bell Curve? I think not.Report

            • Avatar Will in reply to sonmi451
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              says:

              I think folks may be misunderstanding the reasoning behind Murray’s approach. I read his decision to exclude other ethnic groups as a way to reduce the number of external variables that could complicate his analysis. The white middle class he refers to doesn’t have the historical/cultural baggage of other groups, so its social pathologies can’t be attributed to outside factors like the legacy of discrimination/segregation etcReport

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will
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                says:

                Quite so. I would add to that…

                If Murray (or any conservative) is going to talk about poverty and the behavior of those in poverty, he is going to be talking about either (a) minorities or (b) whites (or both). Talking about whites is easily the safest route, because talking about minorities… well we know what happens when conservatives talk about the behavior of minorities in poverty (and not without reason).

                I have lived in poor pockets with mostly white neighbors and with mostly minority. I talk mostly about the former. Not because it’s only white poverty (and the behavior of those in it) that concerns me, but because I can speak more freely without concern that others are believing that my perceptions are marked by race or racism.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                Conservatives can’t be excused from or elect not to talk about minority poverty because it’s hard for them, even if it’s more hard for them than for liberals.  That would make them in actual fact what all the caricatures of them make them out to be: indifferent.  It’s tough but you gotta deal with it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                It’s not just tough, Michael, it’s a Catch-22.

                If conservatives talk about minority poverty, or if they just talk about poverty and don’t specify minorities, then we know that they consider the real problem to be the color of their skin and not that they are hard up.

                If they talk about poverty among whites, then they’re indifferent.

                No matter what they do, we know that they care about whites and do not care about minorities (or to the extent that they care, it’s antagonistic). The conservative view of poverty can thus be written off not merely as wrong, but as unacceptable in polite discourse. At least, when discussed by certain people.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                The Catch-22 is if you’re an oppressed minority who faces hiring discrimination while being told by elites that you lack work ethic.  And yes, that still exists.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                And if you accept that racism on the part of employers persists, but do not believe that tells the whole story… shut up? Adopt the (only) acceptable point of view regarding poverty in general?

                As a white guy, my views on the reasons for black poverty are… well… largely unwelcome. Unless I accept, without reservation, a specific narrative. A narrative that I do not entirely disagree with, for what it’s worth. But a narrative that, in combination with my experiences of having lived in predominately black areas, and my wife’s experiences at hospitals serving these areas, is often oversimplified.

                Now, my views on poverty and the underclass actually aren’t all that conservative. I view it as… enormously complex. But I don’t really have the standing to talk about this group. So I’ll talk about that group. Which I guess I can’t do if I’m not talking about this group. So I guess I don’t talk about it at all?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                “The reasons for” black poverty don’t have to be the only category of thoughts you have or express about black poverty, or the first ones.

                Not talking about poverty much is certainly one way to go, on a personal level.  You’ll notice I don’t, much.  And when i do, what I try to say is that I know that poor people have a rough go of it, and racial minorities who are poor have an even rougher go of it, and I don’t have any answers.

                But you’re talking about what you do now, but you started out talking about what ‘conservatives’ should do.  And it’s probably not tenable for an entire public-policy movement to not talk about both race and poverty and theor intersection.  So they need to figure it out.  And, whatever else happens, poverty will always be a ‘minority problem’ inasmuch as it’s shared by minorities.  So conservatives are going to need to figure out how to talk about poverty, and indeed minority poverty in a way that doesn’t make poor minorities feel put-upon for being both poor and non-white (and incidentally, in ways that don’t make people feel like when they say ‘poor,’ they mean ‘black and poor,’ or other locutions.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                I mention what I do because, if my mushy views are so subject to misinterpretation, then I can understand why someone without mushy views is in even a more difficult spot.

                I’m not actually sure that conservatives do have to find a way to talk about minority poverty, actually. Well, they need to stop doing some of the things they are doing, but welfare is largely a winning issue for  them. I actually think it would be less of a winning issue if, when people talked about poverty, they were more cognizant that we’re not talking about a couple specific groups of other. I think that they need to be called on that.

                I get that the whole discussion of poverty should not revolve around white people, but I think there is little danger of that happening. I do think it a rather useful place to start from, at least because it removes us from fruitless discussions about how we need to blame it all on institutional racism or (often unstated assumptions) the way that those people are.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                Another way of looking at it is this: In my previous post, I commented that when we talk about poverty, I mentioned that white poverty is under-discussed and overlooked to the point that when we talk about poverty, there is an assumption that we’re talking about inner-city minorities. Looking specifically at white poverty is a good way to get out of that trap.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                It’s not a trap it’s a reality and one conservatives have to face head-on.  If you want to talk about poverty then you need to deal with the diversity within poverty, and expressing a concern that the issues of white people in poverty is underdiscussed is not dealing with that diversity.  If you want to talk about poverty then you need to deal with minorities.  And if you want to talk about white poverty, then you are openly ignoring the group of poor people who face greater obstacles than their white counterpoints to getting out of poverty, and just generally avoiding the issue of race in politics.

                None of it gets the job done, and all of it confirms rather than refuting stereotypes of conservatives’ approaches to both race and poverty.  Complaining that it is hard to talk about race and poverty doesn’t get you out of the consequences of just choosing not to. You should reconsider your approach.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                The trap, in this case, is thinking of poverty – and the behavioral patterns that often contribute to it – as “a minority problem”, which is what a lot of people do.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                I’m not really sure what that means.  It’s not not a minority problem, but it’s not only a minority problem.  And race remains a real problem for our society, with poverty as both a related and an intersecting issue.  Basically, poverty is a problem, but minority poverty is a problem too.  We have to deal with both. And if you say “poverty,” you are saying “minority poverty,” so it’s really impossible to avoid poverty being a minority problem, unless you choose consciously ignore many of the people dealing with the hardest set of circumstances.

                You personally don’t have to contend with poverty as an issue at all if you don’t want to, but f you choose to, you need to make what I thnk is a pretty radical choice to ignore a lot of people who experience it in a quite distinctive way if you want to deal only with white poverty.  My view is that that isn’t particularly constructive, but it may be what you want to do, because dealing with poverty per se will require having thick skin if you want to say things that you know people won’t like hearing.  People may say they think you are dog-whistling or whatever, but if you really believe the things you are saying, you need to be able to say, I don’t care, because such-and-such is true.  But this won’t work for a mainstream political party or movement, in particular, conservatism.

                They’re going to need a way to talk about poverty, and not just white poverty, and so far they don’t have a lot of success bringing minorities to their corner on the topic (although not none).  People don’t like what they have to say (in my view that’s because a lot of it is both obviously offensive and… not true, but that’s just my opinion), but I don’t think they can follow your example and just switch to only addressing white poverty in order to avoid getting a negative reaction.  They’re going to need to keep talking about poverty, including minority poverty, so if(!) they want to stop getting negative reactions from certain quarters when they do so, they’re going to have face head on why what they are saying is not well-received.  But if is a very key word there.  And that’s what dog-whistling is all about.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                By “a minority problem” I mean “a problem that is virtually absent except in minority populations.” That the behavioral issues surrounding poverty is something somehow almost unique among minorities. This, in my experience, is an unstated assumption until someone expressly brings it up.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to sonmi451
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              says:

              I don’t disagree (see my 5:56 comment). I wasn’t sure where Jason was coming from with that comment.Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to Will Truman
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                says:

                it also makes a hell of a lot of sense for charles “racial baggage” murray to stay as far away from nonwhites as humanly possible, rhetorically or otherwise.

                also his cockamamie test is biased against those of us who grew up in blue collar environments on the east coast and not in ‘murica. wtf would guidos do with nascar?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to dhex
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                says:

                wtf would guidos do with nascar?

                Root for Joey Logano?  Jeesh, you guys really aren’t part of real AmericaTM, are you>Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                That’s an interesting point, though, even conceding that Murray is only talking about white Americans, what about regional differences, as well as ethnic differences between white Americans themselves? His definition if what constitutes average, normal white Americans seems to be biased to a specific geographic region, and the white ethnicity most commonly found in that region.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                That’s a very fair criticism.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                Have you read the book?  I haven’t yet.  It could be that this quite reasonable criticism is addressed in it somewhere.  I take the survey to be an eye-opener, something to get elites thinking about cultural difference, even just among whites.  As such, it’s pretty effective, even if the consensus here seems to be that the differences are smaller than Murray suggests, and even if — again consensus — the past had plenty of analogous differences as well.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                Have you read the book?  I haven’t yet.  It could be that this quite reasonable criticism is addressed in it somewhere. 

                I haven’t, and I have no interest to read it, to be honest. But can’t the quiz be judged for what it is just based on the questions? Maybe that’s unfair and anti-intellectual, so if the choice is between withdrawing my “quite reasonable criticism” and reading the book, I’d choose the former. When you’ve read it, maybe you can tell us about Murray’s justification. (I hope it’s something more than coastal whites are generally liberal elites).Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                I’d definitely fault the book if it turned out that his argument was that conservative elites are just better all around at understanding real Americans.  I can also definitely see how someone might come away from the survey with that impression.

                My sense though is that conservative elites are better in touch with poorer whites, but not with those of other races.  In fact, it’s way beyond a sense.  It’s pretty obvious.  Isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                huh. i had no idea they had bass cars in nascar. also you’ve clearly never spent any time with guidos.

                but yeah, there’s at least some truth in the “not real america” thing. it’s why i live in new york. i want to be as far away from real america as possible. it’s bad enough we have guidos and bass cars and the rest of it.

                my favorite/least favorite memory of “real america” came on the E train about five months after sept 11th. a family of five gets on, and dude is straight up wearing a cowboy hat, and the kids all look freaked out, and after squinting at the crappy map he finally gives up and asks the entire car “is this the train that goes to nine eleven?”

                no one said anything. mouths agape, we stared at them like he’d just grown wings. he starts to look angry and get all mumbly to his wife, presumably about how rude new yorkers are, when finally an infuriated woman stood up and said “what the fuck is wrong with you?”

                they’d also take family photos in front of the site when the chain link fences went up. what the hell kind of vacation photo is that? “and this is me n’ margery n’ chloe by the nine eleven site”.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to dhex
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                says:

                 

                also you’ve clearly never spent any time with guidos.

                True.  For whatever reason, not many Italians emigrated to Midwestern farm towns.  Just Germans, Irish and Swedes.  I mean, didn’t any Italian farmers come to America?  They’d have loved the heartland.

                i want to be as far away from real america as possible

                Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but real Americans kind of appreciate that.

                dude is straight up wearing a cowboy hat,

                Probably a Texan, rather than a real American, but so what?

                an infuriated woman stood up and said “what the fuck is wrong with you?”

                Oh, yeah, that’s showing how superior you East Coasters are.

                they’d also take family photos in front of the site when the chain link fences went up

                This began as just kind of joking around in response, but at this point I’m thinking you folks are just all kinds of terrible.  If you don’t get it, it may not be worth trying to explain it to you. Just keep flying over us.

                Italian farmers, though, that’d be fine.  Send them our way.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to dhex
                Ignored
                says:

                James, I don’t agree.  What dhex describes here is really pretty tasteless.  Showing up to see the site of the World Trade Center, presumably to take pictures of it, and not even knowing its name?

                Tasteless.  New Yorkers had every right to be peeved.  And when New Yorkers get peeved, they swear.  Hadn’t you heard?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to dhex
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                says:

                It’s a shrine–people take pictures at shrines.  What it indicates is how deeply affected by the event people far from New York were.  And the New Yorker’s response is not, “yes, you get off at the next station and walk two blocks south,” but “you don’t know the name of the building? then fuck you.”

                Tasteless describes the New  Yorker’s response just as well.Report

              • Avatar Dhex in reply to dhex
                Ignored
                says:

                Smiling family photos in front of a mass grave and we’re the terrible ones?

                Unrelated but guido != italians in general. One of the worst i ever met was iranian. I hope that protip makes up for not jumping in to help someone who couldn’t bother to learn the difference between a calendar and a building. 🙂Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to dhex
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                says:

                I don’t think the response was because he didn’t know the name of the building. Rather the response was likely more because of the fact that he considered it a tourist attraction to take his family to.

                The New Yorker response is more than understandable. “This isn’t a fucking shrine to us, this happened in our city, who the fuck do you think you are?” would probably be my response, too.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Guidos only watch NASCAR when they’re children. When they grow up, they watch a real sport: wrestling.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to sonmi451
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          says:

          I guess my point is, if you really wanted to make clear to the readers that the book and survey are specifically about white Americans and not Americans in general, why didn’t you just respond to my comment with “Dude, the survey is about white Americans, of course that’s how the questions would be structured! Why would you eveven ask that question?” Why did you bring up race-blind justifications at all?

          I responded that way because I took the premise of the book not to be that white people are far different from other people, but that the biggest differences in American culture can be found within white America — both because white Americans are still more numerous than the other groups, and because arguably they are the most deeply divided.

          A division of that type will show up in fairly innocuous survey questions that aren’t based on race.  Does it?  I think it does, somewhat.  Does it do so enough to count?  Not what the goal was here.  I’m hoping for a much more rigorous argument in the rest of the book.Report

          • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            That’s actually a very interesting conversation (about the division and diversity within white Americans). I just wish you had made that clear in the post; maybe that would have steered the conversation in that direction, instead of people feeling compelled to point out that the quiz is biased towards white Americans, and nowhere in the post did you mention that this is a conversation specifically about white America and the divisions within.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            says:

            I think this is kind of true but also demonstrably false. A lot of the cultural signifiers that Murray uses in his “quiz” are VERY white, particularly when it comes to things like choice in movies or TV shows.

            One can also see this in the rhetoric that white conservative commentators have when discussing Obama’s “elitism”. He connects very well culturally with African-Americans of all stripes, even if some working class whites don’t seem to quite as well.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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      says:

      This obviously comes too late in the conversation to matter, but I want to briefly revisit my NASCAR criticism, but before doing so, I concede missing that Murray was only attempting to account for his alleged divide in White America (a concept that by itself is troubling). However, he writes this:

      For tens of millions of Americans, Jimmie Johnson is the most important ?gure in sports. 

      Even at the outset, his claim is dubious, if only because there is so much unsaid there. Perhaps it would be more accurate to have written, “For tens of millions of WHITE Americans…” Except that we know even that wouldn’t be accurate, because he is excluding the tens of millions of Americans on the other side of this cultural cleavage that he’s describing. So perhaps this is more accurate, “For tens of millions of lower-class WHITE Americans…” Which would be fine, except that there are more prominent examples of athletes who are at least as important athletically as Johnson is. So maybe, “For tens of millions of lower-class WHITE Americans, Jimmie Johnson is the most important WHITE figure in sports.” And maybe that’s accurate, even though people should still remain suspicious about that tens of millions claim; NASCAR’s viewership doesn’t suggest tens of millions of fans, but even if there are that many, they’re subdivided amongst numerous drivers (Hamlin, Gordon, Dale Jr, Stewart, etc…) and, as I understand it despite being merely a 40 on his chart, those loyalties run awfully deep and tend not to often stray. If Johnson is the Yankees and Stewart is the Red Sox, those fans aren’t going to celebrate the other’s achievements via recognition of the driver as the most important figure in sports.

      I recognize that people can say that I’m quibbling (Wardsmith) and that these quibbles are evidence of my detached liberalism (Wardsmith again) and that my desire to take issue with anything Murray says is proof positive that my score of 40 really ought to be 10 (Wardsmith x 3), and maybe all of those things are true. Except that it seems to me that I’ve got as good a grasp on the realities of NASCAR as Murray does and I’m not a fan of the sport nor am I proposing to use it to underline my point about how disconnected some whites are from other whites. Now, for all I know, the kind of guys who get set up to speak in Cato Unbound events are HUGE NASCAR fans. Maybe Murray himself drives around with a huge 3 sticker in his back window, because he’ll never forget Dale Earnhardt’s racing career. I doubt it, but maybe.

      My gut feeling feeling is that in attempting to find an individual who was the most important person in sports to tens of millions of Americans, he chose NASCAR because of how white its competitors are (because his only concern was white American), ignored every other sporting pursuit because of how diverse their competitors are by comparison, and assumed that Jimmie Johnson was this monolithic hero to the group of people he was describing paper.

      The famous example of this sort of behavior from conservatives is David Brooks saying that real Americans go to the Applebee’s salad bar, something that even with somebody who scores as low as 40 on Murray’s test knows isn’t a real thing. I’d suggest Murray’s made the same mistake here in his attempt to find an example that allows him to describe people who don’t know the answer as being hopelessly out of touch with what Murray is describing as the real America.

      My apologies for misunderstanding the apparent lack of reading comprehension, but I believe that my point stands whether or not I understood that Murray only wanted to talk about white people.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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        says:

        I’ll grant that Murray might not know all that much himself about ordinary white Americans.  But why is it troubling in the abstract to write a book about a sociocultural divide in white America?

         Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          When he says this upshot

          It is a problem if Yale professors, or producers of network news programs, or CEOs of great corporations, or presidential advisers cannot empathize with the priorities of truck drivers. It is inevitable that people have large areas of ignorance about how others live, but that makes it all the more important that the members of the new upper class be aware of the breadth and depth of their ignorance.

          is the concern animating your inquiry, but it turns out that it’s only elite white ignorance of how white others live that is of concern to him, that should be troubling.  Because that concern is absolutely a critically important one, and it should be addressed in full by people with the analytic chops to do it (which I actually think Charles Murray would has and could apply if he weren’t blinded by bigotry). That concern doesn’t justify and isn’t served by a book that turns out to be about divisions in white culture. That concern (again, a truly important one, which I give Murray credit for having, if he truly has it, and for articulating it) militates for a book that is actually about elite ignorance of the way most people live.  But that book by definition cannot be a book that is limited to documentation of cultural balkanization among whites only.  We need that book, and that he has written this book while saying that is his animating concern is disturbing, because that animating concern demands a treatment of the full reality of the elite-non-elite divide in this country.  And that of necessity means you have to deal with all of the culture, not just white culture.

          The animating concern that would justify this book would be “I’m interested in divisions in white culture,” but even then that still becomes problematic if not disturbing because you can’t begin to explore that for a few minutes before it becomes apparent that that topic is really just an inquiry into class, and no treatment of class in this country can even pretend to be an honest one if it doesn’t treat race and cultural divisions beyond those among whites.  Basically, there isn’t an analytical framework with which to deal with just questions of divisions in white culture that actually survives a rigorous analysis of what those divides are and doesn’t end up talking about more than just “white America” anyway.  So it’s basically a false analytical construct that you have to be blindly committed to regardless of withering conceptual challenges that you will meet along the way in order to maintain it as your organizing structure.

          All books about race are books about “blacks” and “whites.”  Blackness is defined in reference to whiteness, and no black person can go through life understanding her blackness in any way other than as fitting into a social structure in which blackness is related to whiteness.  It’s inherent to the concept.  Writing a book about white America as an absolute concept is a complete fantasy, albeit one that simply reflects a conceptual confusion that Murray shares with many other whites.

          It’s slightly disturbing that he can write such a book after the public attention his previous book received.  But the really disturbing thing is that he can pretend to be addressing such an important topic as the ignorance of the elites with such a willfully conceptually confused and ignorant monograpsh as this.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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            says:

            his inquiry…Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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            says:

            …the really disturbing thing is that he can pretend to be addressing such an important topic as the ignorance of the elites with such a willfully conceptually confused and ignorant monograph as this – in light of the conceptual impossibility of writing about whites in society without writing about what whiteness is in society, and thus writing about non-whites, but moreover that he can pretend that the subject of the ignorance of the elites could be addressed just by writing about white elites as versus non-white-elites, even if that were itself possible, much less honest.Report

        • Avatar Sam in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          says:

          Because I have a very difficult time believing the idea that there’s a white America. I’m from West Virginia, which is awfully white. But even a place as demographically white as West Virginia takes influence from a multicultural collection of actors: singers, athletes, performers, etc. I just don’t know how Murray can seem to pretend like there doesn’t exist this sort of crossover cultural connection between different races.

          As somebody wrote earlier, the notion of race itself is complicated, but for Murray, there’s blacks and whites and presumably, other colors too. From those groupings he starts his research. I think that’s a grossly oversimplified way to engage with a modern, multi-racial society and it leads him to make claims like the one he has about Jimmie Johnson, just as it leads him to need to find a sport that remains overwhelmingly white and working class, because heaven forbid he consider other, more diverse sports that appeal to the people he is talking about.Report

  33. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    44. This means that I get to call RTod a hillbilly!Report

  34. Avatar sidereal
    Ignored
    says:

    56.  And when I sit around with my evangelical, political-disagreeing friends having a smoke, drinking a Coors, and watching Jimmie turn left, we mostly talk about how much of a clown Charles Murray is.

    Got most of my points from growing up in a town of 800 with a dirt poor truck driver as a ‘breadwinner’.Report

  35. Avatar Jim Hall
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    says:

    73.

    I’m an professional engineering consultant/ business owner who drinks good beer. But I grew up on a rural chicken farm in the middle of nowhere and drive a pickup truck. And I guess I would now be considered “old”.

    I am suspicious of the quiz as well as the premise. With that said, I am surprised at the much lower scores of most of the commenters. I think that it is human nature to assume that everyone else has the same background/motives/underlying reason for being that the “assumer” has.

    You are odd ducks. All of you.

     Report

  36. Avatar b-psycho
    Ignored
    says:

    I wonder what a similar quiz about detachment/attachment re: American city life (most citizens live in cities or attached suburbs) would look like…Report

  37. Avatar Babylon Bike-a-thon
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    says:

    LIbertarian with a score of 54. Grew up in a lower middle class family in southern West Virginia. I can’t help but think it’s a little bit weird to say I’m in tune with the values rural America though. After all, I’m the guy who’s currently putting off studying for the MCAT to browse political blogs.Report

  38. Avatar MFarmer
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    says:

    I don’t know if anyone recommended this, but someone should write a book about the comments here.Report

  39. Avatar MFarmer
    Ignored
    says:

    This might be a little off track, but the beauty of an examined life is that individuals can trandscend the norms, biases, misconceptions, etc., of their upbringing/community/group/tribe and become something much different than what they would have been if they had simply drifted through life, pre-programmed, without any re-assessment of value judgements.Report

  40. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    A few off the cuff thoughts.

    1. I don’t know that Murray is right about this problem getting worse.  I think one could plausibly hypothesize that a Yale prof today is more likely to empathize with truck drivers than the Yale prof of 50 years ago, because back then it was mostly only the elite who even went to college, much less going on to grad school and earning a Ph.D.  Today I’d guess there’s an improved chance that a randomly chosen Ivy League prof grew up in a middle class home than that the retired prof s/he replaced did.

    2. Nevertheless the problem he points to really does exist, imo.  The things I hear from liberals, as a group, are not the things I hear from the middle class people I grew up with or that I live with now (and I live in a lower middle class neighborhood).

    3.  In my experience, few things get liberals as worked up as making this claim.

    4. Those who are pointing out that conservative elites probably wouldn’t score high on this quiz are probably right, but nevertheless those conservative elites have done a lot better job at figuring out how to communicate to those middle Americans than the liberal elites have done.  I think liberals ought to take that problem seriously, face up to it, and figure out how the hell to catch up with conservatives on this score.  (Here’s a hint; having your presidential candidates say Job is their favorite book of the New Testament ain’t the way to do it!)Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      4. Those who are pointing out that conservative elites probably wouldn’t score high on this quiz are probably right, but nevertheless those conservative elites have done a lot better job at figuring out how to communicate to those middle Americans than the liberal elites have done.

      But we’re talking about middle WHITE Americans, here, no? With the title of the book, and the questions on the survey? Obviously conservatives have done much better with that group compared to liberals, but let’s not pretend we’re talking about ordinary Americans in general.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
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        says:

        Yes, that clarification is entirely correct.  I’m not sure how good a job liberals have done of talking to ordinary Latinos (not as good as they think or at least hope, I suspect), but I’d bet conservatives have done even worse, despite having a leg up with family values and pro-life talk.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          All of the family values talk in the world can be undone by a single “PRESS 1 FOR ENGLISH???” joke.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          James,

          Why are you assuming that ordinary Americans are either for the family values I think you’re referring to or pro-life? With divorce prevalent throughout the United States, but especially concentrated in the sorts of Red States that Murray may be trying to go to bat for? With birth control use rampant everywhere?

          I think one of the irritations of liberalism is this notion that conservatives have cornered the idea of “ordinary American” as if such a thing exists. I’d argue that your idea that your notion of who or what is an ordinary American is at least as condescending as anything that anybody else is saying, liberal or otherwise.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Sam Wilkinson
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            says:

            Why are you assuming that ordinary Americans are either for the family values I think you’re referring to or pro-life? 

            Sam, in that bit I was talking about Latinos.  (Granted I would call them ordinary Americans myself, but in casual political talk they never do seem to be brought in under that terminology.)  They tend toward a pro-life position because off the prominence of Catholic adherence, and tend toward family values much more, I think, than whites as a group do, at least if “family values” is defined as being really family oriented, tending to live in multi-generational households, and having big-ass family picnics in the part on Sunday (the picnics are a running joke among whites in SoCal, but I always thought the whites were really missing out on the deal).

            And since Republicans are mostly pro-life, and love to use the phrase family values, they would seemingly have an in-road to Latino voters through those means.  And they thought so, too, when they started thinking seriously in the 1980s about the growing Latino vote.  But Jaybird’s joke is spot on and stands in for a whole lot of other errors the conservatives made that had a much larger (negative) effect on Latinos’ perception of the GOP than any positive perception that might have come from the family values talk.

            With rare exceptions (Cubans, some anti-communist Asians and Russian emigres) conservatives have always done a lousy job of wooing ethnic immigrant populations.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      So, it’s OK for you to claim that liberals don’t know how to reach out to middle-class voters, but if we disagree with that view, we’re being overly defensive about that. Nice little circular logic there. That’s not even getting into the whole expanding a couple of dozen people you know into every person in this country when in fact, actual polling of middle-class people show they prefer liberal policies when it comes to a whole lot of issues. I’ll admit the Republican Party has been very good at throwing shiny things like scary brown/black/muslim/gay people in those white voter’s face to get them to vote against their own stated policy goals, but nothing more.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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        says:

        Jesse,

        I wrote and rewrote a very long response.  I decided it was better not to hit submit on it, because I sincerely don’t want to start a flame war.

        But I’ll just say two things.  First, you really don’t want to get into a debate about the middle class with a 46 year old guy who’s been relentlessly middle class every single second of his life, who did shitloads of blue collar work before becoming an academic, and who purposely chose a lower middle class neighborhood in which to raise his kids.  You can’t win that one.  I’m wondering how we match up on that quiz.  Have you ever walked a factory floor?  Have you ever had a job that made a part of your body ache?  What kinds of jobs did your parents have?  If you’re ever going through Michigan or Northern Indiana, I invite you to come on by.  I’ll treat you.  And we’ll go hang out with my Harley riding factory working Union Democrat neighbor and his motorcycle buddies–if you’re totally at ease with them you’ll win my undying admiration and I’ll never question your middle class creds again.

        Second, if, as you say, the middle class really does prefer liberal policies, then you liberals look even worse for not being able to win them to your side.  No, blaming conservatives for doing a better job doesn’t absolve liberals of responsibility for not doing as good as conservatives.  It’s a contest–if your side can’t do better than your opponents in winning a group that really is on your side, then you really need to sit down and figure out what the fuck your side is doing wrong.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          Some of it is just political calculations, right? For example, if the Democrats feel that pandering to white working class voters would lose them support among African Americans and Hispanics, the groups that have generally shown loyalty to the Democrats, why would they risk it? What’s that saying – a bird in hand is worth two in the bushes? Is it worth alienating the core of the Democratic constituency for the much-heralded white working class? Why is the white working class voters more special than other special interest groups?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
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            says:

            Sonmi,

            I have no problem with political calculation.  The Democrats do have a fundamental difficulty trying to keep their diverse constituencies together.  If we’re talking a purely practical calculation, the population of white working class voters is bigger than the population of black Americans, and Democrats do seem to lose (I think…no solid data there beyond vague thoughts of Reagan Dems) when they lose the white working class. But, again, that’s just political calculation, and I don’t envy Democrats their task of trying to balance those groups.

            It’s the smug condescension of Jesse’s tone that grates.  He knows what the white working class really wants, because he’s seen polls.  So he certainly doesn’t need to dirty himself with actually talking to them.  And there’s something wrong with them that they don’t come flocking to the Democrats’ side even though the polls show they like liberal policies; or maybe it’s the Republicans’ fault; but it’s certainly not the case that the Dems or liberals can be criticized for not winning their hearts and minds.  The lack of self-awareness is excruciating.

            For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a great middle American response to the elite coasties (link, in case it doesn’t embed).

            [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLZZ6JD0g9Y&w=560&h=315%5DReport

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              I have to look up the numbers too, but my impression is, Democrats have always lost the white working class votes, probably from Reagan years on, even in the years they actually won the presidential election. So maybe the white working class vote is not as important to Democrats’ electoral fortunes as you seem to think.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              You railed against Jesse’s generalization working white working class, but you have no problem casually throwing phrases like “elite coasties”. Surely you see the irony in that?Report

    • Avatar LarryM in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      Interesting operational definition of middle class there bub. Let me guess, not many people from the following groups there:

      African Americans, Latinos, union members, middle class professionals (I’ve lived all my life among them). That’s just a start.

      All depends upon how we define middle class now, doesn’t it?

      Now, the “middle class” you’re talking about, disproportionately southern, white, evangelical, and what passes for conservative by the debased standards of our day … I have plenty of problems with the current version of the Democratic party, but I would have EVEN MORE problem if they Dems started trying to reach out to that demographic. Those people should be marginalized, not reached out to.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LarryM
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        says:

        I’m a midwesterner, so the southern part is dead wrong.

        As to marginalizing folks, I’m sympathetic to marginalizing southerners.  I’m badly bigoted when it comes to them, I’ll admit.  But if you think it’s wise to politically marginalize folks, especially the type that carry lots of guns and are likely to know how to make pipe bombs with a few household chemicals in the proper proportions, you haven’t thought much about the prospect of real political instability.

        Reaching out to folks doesn’t mean catering to their crazier whims; it means bringing them into the fold and getting them to focus on their less crazy preferences.

        Think Nixon and China.

        But marginalizing populations?  Good lord, some days the political naivete around here is so thick it’s hard to breathe.Report

        • Avatar LarryM in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          James,

          The fact that you personally are from the Midwest is not terribly relevant; I think it is obvious from both your current posts, and your posting history, that you aren’t really part of the demographic we are arguing about. I was referring not to you, but to the demographic that Murray seems to be describing through his survey, a description that you seem to have adopted – from the outside.  (Parenthetically, “the south” is a little lazy on my part – the demographic we are talking about does not exists entirely in the south, and, moreover, as I implied in my other thread, isn’t lacking in internal diversity itself. It does seem disproportionately southern, though).

          As for “marginalizing populations” … sigh. I’ll admit to being hyperbolic. Let me put it this way, and see if perhaps we can agree to respect each other’s positions if not agree. First of all, my language was certainly careless, in that I appeared to have fallen right into the trap that many conservatives do, in equating a political movement with a population. So let’s talk about a political movement, or movements, rather than populations. The current Republican base/tea party movement – yes, not quite the same thing, hence the use of “movements,” but certainly largely overlapping – has, it seems to be, gone so far off the rails (even when some of their concerns are legitimate and other concerns are understandable), that the idea of the Democrats attempting POLITICALLY to reach out to that movement  is absurd. That’s especially true when there are plenty of politicians on the Republican party ready and willing not merely to reach out to said movement, but to pander to their worst instincts.

          The truth is that well meaning and not so well meaning advice to Democrats on this front, when it gets into specifics, ends up essentially advising the Democrats to either adopt what amounts to what passes for current conservative ideology, or to pander to said movement in a way that is BOUND to be percived correctly as inauthentic.

          So yes, I do think that this POLITICAL movement needs to marginalized. Not the population, but the movement.

          If you have any bright ideas how politicians from the left or even center can “bring] them into the fold and [get] them to focus on their less crazy preferences,” especially when there are plenty of politicians on the right who are prepared to “cater … to their crazier whims,” I’m all ears.Report

          • Avatar LarryM in reply to LarryM
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            says:

            And reading your other stuff, the place I think you go wrong is the same place Murray goes wrong – assuming that there is some unitary white middle class that needs to be reached in a certain way.

            At the risk of myself falling again into the error of conflating populations with political movements, there is a portion of the white middle class that (a) tends to be evangelical, (b) tends to be socially conservative, (c) tends to have a strong sense of cultural alienation to “other” cultures in America (whether those are non-whites or “elites” or even coastal middle class whites who don’t share other cultural signifiers; (d) tend to have positions on certain non-cultural political issues are based upon perceived favoritism towards cultural “others,” (e) tend to be very strong supporters of an aggressive foreign policy (this one is probably less universal than the other four).

            Democratic efforts to appeal to THAT PORTION of the white middle class are (a) doomed, and (b) unwise. That doesn’t mean that the Democrats shouldn’t try to appeal to other portions of the white middle class.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LarryM
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            says:

            Larry,

            I am personally not part of Murray’s demographic, by virtue of having a Ph.D.  But let me assure you that I have not “adopted it from outside.” As I noted above, I grew up in a small farm town (no stoplights). My mom was a factory worker.  There was a time when my dad was out of work for close to two years due to bad injury, and we had shit all for money (my mom did her best to make corn mush for dinner sound like a treat–it was years before I realized she served it because there was almost no other food in the house). In high school our parties were out on the farms in someone’s barn.  My family went three times a week to a conservative protestant church, and I went to the church’s small (<800 students) conservative college.  I dropped out after a few years and worked as a bike messenger and cab driver in San Francisco.  I worked stocking shelves in a building supply store while in grad school–stocking shelves involved 60 pound boxes of floor tile and 80+ pound air compressors, among other things–while most of my fellow grad students assiduously avoided physical labor.  During that time I was, in many ways, running away from my midwestern upbringing.

            Then I moved back, and as much as I am glad I left for 13 years to experience a new world, I immediately felt at home again.  While at IU for a year, I took my L.A. born wife and a Spanish grad student on a drive in the country, got lost, and asked for directions from a couple guys standing in their driveway.  When I drove away, there was dead silence in the car, and only then did it register that the guys were shirtless, holding guns, and with two dead deer in the back of their pickup.  The wife and the Spanish girl were stunned; I hadn’t really noticed. But the worst, according to my wife, was that when I rolled down the window and asked them directions, I talked just like they did (you have to know Bloomington/Bedford, Indiana to really understand).  Again, I hadn’t even noticed.

            Our daughters’ swim team had a casino trip fundraiser last week–we took our friends down the street, the Harley riding factory worker.  My wife and I laughed at the quiz question about voluntarily hanging out with people who smoked because, oh, yeah, they smoke.  And we happily shared their cigarettes until they were gone, then shared the price of another pack so we could smoke some more.

            I know you don’t mean ill, but your comment is to me the equivalent of accusing me of “passing.”  Yeah, by virtue of having lived in SF and LA and getting a PhD I’m no longer quite that demographic, but I very much come from inside it.  I tried to leave it, but it sucked me back in.  And that’s OK.Report

            • Avatar LarryM in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              Didn’t mean to accuse you of “passing.” Your background, however, I think gives you a perspective that, while valuable, isn’t really as representative of that demographic as perhaps you realize.Report

              • Avatar LarryM in reply to LarryM
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                says:

                Just for example, the sense of cultural alienation which seems to define the POLITICAL expression of at least a certain portion of the culture that we are talking about, seems to be absent in you.

                And honestly that is part of the reason why arguments which might reach you might not reach others in said demographic.

                As a related aside is the whole racism issue. I think there is some racism among the tea party crowd, but more evident is a generalized alienation from the “other” – not just racial, or even primarily racial, but more cultural. And that creates a barrier to discourse (among other pathologies IMO). I think you personally are pretty much immune from that, whatever other disagreements we may have.

                So you end up saying, more or less, “this is what you need to do to appeal to my demographic.” But that may be more what is needed to appeal to YOU, personally. Someone who may well be authentically still part of that demographic, but who ALSO has a more … frankly cosmopolitan .. outlook which is going to color your reactions to & discourse.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      James, just looking at this thread, what I see are some liberals giving their opinions, some non-liberals giving their opinions, and then this one dude getting really pretty darn worked up over it all.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Michael,

        Well, if that “dude” you’re obliquely referencing is me, it’s because being in academia I run into this kind of thing all the time–people who’ve lived the most wonderfully privilege lives growing up the children of suburban professionals who think they can speak for the guy on the factory floor. Just look at Jesse’s own comments, “Middle class people really identify with us liberals, but damned if we’re going to listen to those morons when we make policies.”  It’s a class bigotry that grates on me almost as much as racism does, and you should see how that gets me worked up.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
          Ignored
          says:

          Great, then stop projecting about how it’s the liberals getting worked up.  I bet they’re actually pretty calm while making the claims you’re so …whatever over.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
            Ignored
            says:

            Sorry, Michael, I do get worked up over class bigotry like this.   It’s my people Jesse’s talking about, and he’s insulting them coming and going while pretending to be their true friend and protector.  Maybe because we’re all white the offensiveness of that isn’t coming across, but if the word “black” had been written everywhere the word “middle class” or “middle American” shows up, you, too, would be jumping on the person who wrote that way.

            “Polls show black people prefer our policies, so they really should be voting our way, and it’s not our fault we can’t win them over when the other side is playing on their irrational fears.  And when we make policies affecting them, we don’t need to take their interests and concerns into account; we self-appointed experts will make all the decisions for them.”

            Jesse writes some great political analyses on this blog, but on this issue he’s so far out in left field he couldn’t find home plate with binoculars.  He wants to sit with the elitists sneering snidely at the middle class and have the middle class love them for caring about them so much.  There’s nothing polite to say in response to that.

            Jesse seems like a nice sincere young man, but he also seems tremendously sheltered and inexperienced.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              You’re making a lot of assumptions about Jesse’s own personal background, though, aren’t  you? How do you know that his background isn’t close to yours, even? Of course it’s possibly that like a certain other person in this blog, Jesse has written extensively about his personal life here and I missed it, in which case, I retract this criticism. But barring that, how is writing things like this not condescending to him?

              And we’ll go hang out with my Harley riding factory working Union Democrat neighbor and his motorcycle buddies–if you’re totally at ease with them you’ll win my undying admiration and I’ll never question your middle class creds again.

              Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                “it’s possible”.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, I am making assumptions about Jesse’s background.  Actually I’m making an implicit statistical inference based on the things he says, and how those things match up to what I’ve heard other people say.

                If I’m full of shit about Jesse’s lack of middle class creds he can certainly blow me out of the water with his stories of pumping gas to get through college, or whatever it may be.  But I’d be willing to wager on this.

                Heck, it’s not that I even agree with most white middle Americans politically.  But Jesse’s disconnect from and sneering disdain for  the people he claims really really do in fact like his policy proposals is just very real and visceral to me.

                When I say he’s young, I mean I think he’s inexperienced.  I don’t think he’s traveled widely in the U.S., and I don’t think he’s actually spent much time associating with the people he’s claiming to speak for. He can prove me wrong–he’s certainly no liar and if he tells me he’s worked on a factory or stockroom floor, or hung out with factory workers, I’ll absolutely believe him.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              Jesse seems like a nice sincere young man, but he also seems tremendously sheltered and inexperienced.

              You’re usually A LOT better than this. I’m a bit surprised at the level of condescension here.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              Hey, don’t be sorry about your passion, James, just stop projecting and saying it’s others who get worked up over these things is all I’m asking (and, hell, you don’t have to do that just cuz I’m asking either).  Most liberals just shake their heads over this kind of thing, not get worked up about it.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              “Polls show black people prefer our policies, so they really should be voting our way, and it’s not our fault we can’t win them over when the other side is playing on their irrational fears.  And when we make policies affecting them, we don’t need to take their interests and concerns into account; we self-appointed experts will make all the decisions for them.”

              Not to put too fine a point on it…but this is basically what nearly every Paul supporter and conservative in general seems to say about African Americans and their tendency to vote Democratic.

              As for the lack of liberal outreach to white working class folks, I think that tends to be strongly correlated to the decline of labor unions in this country. In many ways labor unions were the counter-point to socializing elements like churches that allowed the economic message to filter through as much as the cultural one. Without that element of solidarity it’s much harder to reach out.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                says:

                As for the lack of liberal outreach to white working class folks, I think that tends to be strongly correlated to the decline of labor unions in this country.

                Absolutely.  And my point is that as this has happened liberals haven’t responded effectively; they’ve mostly just complained that those folks are too stupid to understand that Democrats are the party that really has their economic interests at heart, and that the Republicans have played unfair.

                I say, get over it, stop pretending that white working class people will suddenly re-awaken to their real faith, and go out and get to know them–listen more and lecture less if you want to win them back.

                In 2004 I thought Barack Obama might be the guy who could actually accomplish that.  I was wrong–he couldn’t, liberals as a group still can’t, and they’re still deluding themselves about it.  As Michael Drew says, most liberals “shake their heads,” about being told they’re out of touch with white middle Americans, as though somehow it’s not true or significant.  Wake up, gentlemen, it’s both true and significant, and its why the GOP controls the House of Representatives.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I cannot put enough +1s behind this comment.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                I meant that liberals shake their heads at these silly, false ways that elite conservatives come up with to illustrate supposedly politically salient cultural identifiers between cultural classes of more-or-less equivalently non-elite parts of ordinary America – things entirely other than the real divides you are concerned about.

                And I don’t take you to be offering sincere strategic advice to Democrats.  Democrats have a long-term demographic electoral strategy, and its name is latino voters.  By the way, Republicans also have a long-term demographic electoral strategy, and its name is also latino voters.  Refocusing on the white working class is really bad advice when focusing on the working class in general can draw in parts of all of those groups, and the white working class is a relatively shrinking part of the electorate.

                When I hear you say that they should refocus on communicating with them, what I hear you saying is that you want them to for reasons of personal preference and identity.  In other words, special pleading.  Why should they listen to that?

                Notwithstanding that, Obama is president because he actually did manage to make progress with the white working class compared to previous Democrats, despite absolutely not undertaking any of the kind of stylized cultural communication that you imply he should be saying positively reacting to a quiz like this and saying that the party should be aware of these differences and try to communicate across them consciously.  What he did was speak to the issues he thought they were concerned about, in general terms that didn’t exclude or target anyone using meaningless cultural signifiers.  Republicans hold the House because his policies didn’t turn a severe economic downturn around in a year; because he enacted a long-time party priority that was highly unpopular with a motivated plurality of people already opposed to him, and it motivated them even more to vote in a midterm election; because he didn’t live up to a general impression of him that he would bring our wars to an end despite saying that he thought the important point was to choose our fights wisely and that one of the fights we were in was wise and needed to be redoubled; because, (largely because of the immediate foregoing) he failed to motivate his base to vote in sufficient numbers to stem that tide (something that was likely impossible in any event, but is nevertheless the case); and because midterm elections generally skew Republican absent extraordinary circumstance (such as a catastrophically botched ongoing quagmire of a war that people have concluded was unwise to have launched to begin with) because the midterm voting population skews elderly.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                Michael,

                And I don’t take you to be offering sincere strategic advice to Democrats. 

                Yes and no.  As I said elsewhere on this thread, if we’re talking about pure political strategizing, then I have  no objections.  Note that I also emphasized the importance of the Latino vote.  Ideally, Democrats could keep the white middle class working class, Environmentalist, African-American, and Latino votes all at once–but that’s a damned difficult political strategy, and if the only way to get the Latino vote is to sacrifice the white middle class vote, and that’s a surer route to political success, then that’s the strategy they should take.  I’m not sure they have to give up the white working class vote to get the Latino vote, but then I’m no elections and demographics expert.

                No, what I’m saying is that if Democrats want the white working class vote, as they say they do, then they’re going about it the wrong way.  Jesse doesn’t seem to me to be saying, “we’re sacrificing that vote to get the Latino vote.”  So your point is substantively different from his.  I’m not sure your point is correct, but it’s not offensively classist, as his is.

                When I hear you say that they should refocus on communicating with them, what I hear you saying is that you want them to for reasons of personal preference and identity.

                No. That’s not what I intended to communicate.  The “refocus on communicating” was based on the assumption that Democrats want these votes and think they ought to have them.  If they don’t want those votes, then there’s no reason to follow that advice.  It’s definitely not a claim about what white working class Americans “deserve.”

                Obama only did a so-so job of bringing in the white middle class.  He benefited wildly from running for office against the incumbent party during a bad recession.  And he made some serious blunders, like his egregiously stupid “they become bitter and cling to guns and religion” statement.  But, if Obama took Murray’s quiz, he’d probably score higher than many of the liberals here.  He did come from an economically tough background, and he’s certainly lived in a community where damn few people had college degrees.  And I think that was his strength; it was when he was implicitly channeling that instinctive understanding of what it’s like to be in an economically tenuous position that he did best.

                And when I say he didn’t really succeed in bringing those voters solidly in, that’s praising with faint damnation. I’m not saying it would be easy.  The New Deal coalition is just dead, the conservatives have been on a coordinated strategic attack for a generation now, and the Democrats problem is to find a new strategy–assuming they want to win those votes consistently–which is never easy.  But a difficult job becomes impossible when the general tone is one of smug condescension toward the targeted group, no matter who that group is.

                 Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                You want every vote. You say you want every vote.  That doesn’t determine your strategy.  You literally can’t sell out for every vote.  it’s a contradiction.

                We are also pretending this is mainly a national dynamic.  It is not. Sure, folks in Montana don’t dig Nancy Pelosi.  But then Jon Tester goes in and does his thing  there and it works.  Candiadtes do what works for them.  But it has to be because it’s who you are.  You’re not going to bridge these gaps. As Mitt Romney demonstrates, trying to exhibit cultural proclivities that are inauthentic to who you are is not a winning strategy.

                As for whether anyone ought to receive these votes, there is not such thing.  You win the votes you win, and you’ve won them.  That’s it.

                Whether you are right about this as an electoral or moral matter, though (you keep equivocating about that), the main point is that, ether way, foolishness like this kind f quiz is absolutely not a way into it for anyone.  People respond in politics to what they perceive to be their interest in it.  This kind of crap is not that.  If you can speak to their interests as they are experience them, you have a chance. No one except the people who market NASCAR experience NSACAR as an important part of their interests, I am pretty confident of that.  And if Democrats can’t win the vote of someone who works on a factory floor who can’t feel his feet at the end of the day, it’s because they’re not convincing him that they’ll advance his interests in the way he wants them advanced.  it’s got nothing to do with NASCAR.  And NASCAR isn’t the way to address that failure.

                That’s not glibly saying he’ll come back into the fold after the GOP stops hypnotizing him with visions of being able to buy the factory one day, it’s just saying that Democrats need to work to refine their message in a way that can get through to him.  And it may never convince him, but whether they share familiarity with NASCAR drivers has absolutely nothing to do with it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Michael,

                That’s all well and good; you’re arguing a point I largely agree with. But it’s not what Jesse was saying. He wasn’t talking about electoral strategy.

                No one except the people who market NASCAR experience NSACAR as an important part of their interests, I am pretty confident of that. 

                Oh, I’ll take you up on that.  You’ve obviously never been in a home where the people have a room that’s essentially a shrine to NASCAR.

                Here’s a story, just for illustrative purposes.  In grad school I got accustomed to there being a vegetarian option at every cookout.  In Oregon, it would just be rude to invite people to a cookout and not have a vegetarian option.  So once upon a time I was back home again in Indiana for a visit, and my niece’s boyfriends family–the poster family for the stereotypical middle Americans we’re talking about–had a cookout for her birthday.  Not only was there, obviously, no vegetarian option, there was nothing that a vegetarian could have eaten, unless they were willing to pick the bacon out of the greenbeans before chowing down.  It went through my mind to jokingly ask for a vegetarian option, but I’d already seen their NASCAR shrine and the hunting rifles in the mud room.  I didn’t think the joke would go over well.

                Is there a divide?  I think only someone who fails to look could deny it.  But “should” the Democrats try to win these voters back? *shrug*  That’s a strategic choice, and that’s a whole different matter.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Whether you are right about this as an electoral or moral matter, though (you keep equivocating about that)

                Of course I’m equivocating–I don’t know one way or the other whether the Dems need these voters.  I suspect they do, but that’s just a hunch, and I haven’t done any kind of research or even casual review that will really inform me.  I’m equivocating because I won’t take a firm stance on something I’m so uncertain about.

                if Democrats can’t win the vote of someone who works on a factory floor who can’t feel his feet at the end of the day, it’s because they’re not convincing him that they’ll advance his interests in the way he wants them advanced.  it’s got nothing to do with NASCAR.  And NASCAR isn’t the way to address that failure.

                Sure, NASCAR’s a marker, not a strategy, but those markers matter. A hell of a lot of politics has to do with pure identity.  For most voters identity politics matters a lot more than policy wonkishness.  Bill Clinton didn’t win the presidency because he had great policy proposals; he won because when he said, “I feel your pain,” people believed him, at least in comparison to Bush, Sr.  You have to persuade people that you understand who they are before they’re going to listen seriously to you.  I don’t care how great a policy proposal you have to offer inner city African-Americans, you can’t walk into their neighborhood demonstrating deep unfamiliarity with their culture and expect they’ll listen.  I have a friend who was a businessman in Asia–a key to his success was that he understood Asian culture and so he could make personal connections with other businessmen before they ever actually got down to business.  And while I only know about 15 words of Arabic, I got along great in Syria because when I needed help from someone the first words out of my mouth were sallam alaikum, which signaled to them that I had some understanding of and respect for their culture.

                On this issue of signaling and identity politics I’m not equivocal at all, because I know damn well I’m right.  Voting for George W. Bush because he’s the candidate you’d rather have a beer with may be a fundamentally stupid reason to vote for him, but if that’s how people make up their mind then that’s just part of the playing field.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                “I feel your pain” demonstrates what I am saying, not what you are saying.  It’s not a cultural signifier, it’s a general statement that reached out to everyone willing to listen.  I think there are better parts of Clinton’s shtick that you could point to, but I could say that Clinton never got 50% of the vote, never faced an opponent who had any common touch whatsoever, and moreover really was an authentic good-ole-boy.  it wasn’t an act, or if it was it was an epically great one. There was no gulf to cross, and there were no other options for anyone who was driven by these type of cultural signifiers.  And yes, “more Bill Clintons,” if it were realistic would be a damn good strategy for Dems.  But it’s not a repsonsible one. Besides: Poppy Bush? Ross Perot? get real.

                GWB’s was based on cultrual signifier for the base that he turned out, but their votes were neever up for grabs.  And again, it was authentic.  You can’t just “become more familiar” with these artifacts and suddenly have people warm up to you to the extent of wanting to give you their vote.  People sense inauthenticity in seconds.  The question of having a beer with him was entirely a matter of a general sense of personableness, not cultural signification, which is without a doubt and essential political quantity.  Wehther you get the sense that you want to have a beer with someone has nothing to do with cultural signifiers, it has to do with whether you get the sense that the guy can talk to you whoever you are, despite your.  It is actuall a political skill that is used to cross these cultural gaps, which again cannot be crossed by latecoming efforts to become familiar with another cultural context.  That’s what “have a beer with” means.  People who share NASCAR fanhood have no reason to think they couldn’t share cases of beer together in their NASCAR-adorned living rooms. People who think about whether they want to have “a beer” with someone are thinking about whether, despite their cultural distance from that person, they seem like someone who will be able to listen to and relate to the things they have to say.  That’s not a matter of lessening cultural distance between people, it’s a matter of bridging using the basic political skill of having a common touch.

                Entertaining notions of appealing to people through these signifiers is a trap.  People who care about these things don’t put their vote up for grabs on that basis, but they are willing to write someone off on the basis of an inauthentic attempt to appeal to them via the cultural marginalia of their lives.  Yes, you need to get people to listen be willing to listen to you, but that must be done using the essential political skill of sincerely connecting with people at a human level and listening to what they have to say first.  Using peripheral cultural artifacts (hint: ‘the language they speak” is not one of these, rather it is the essential component of authentic connection) is not the way to do this; it is a distraction from the task of winning the confidence and trust of those you wish to represent.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                “…GWB’s appeal was based on cultural signifiers for…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                If you don’t think Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain” wasn’t a cultural marker when it stood in contrast to Herbert Walker’s New England patricianism, we’re just not speaking the same language.

                So, fine, identity politics doesn’t matter, you say.  But that’s not what I hear from the campaign professionals who are actually paid to get it right.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                ON the NASCAR shrine family, I just think you are taking the idea of interest too lightly.  I absolutely believe there are families like that whose voted are up for grabs.  But I don’t for a second believe that you can reach them by being able to talk a little NASCAR with them, unless en share a culture with them, and even then I don’t think that it’ll be important for them.  For the most part, I think that those votes are not up for grabs – you could get them to say “hmm” if you could go more than two or three drivers’ names dep in a conversation with them, but they’re still going to vote the way they’re going to vote.  And if their vote is in play, it’s in play for reasons other than feeling culturally abandoned.  If NASCAR is an important politico-cultural signifier for them, then their polical affiliation is not so weak that a bit of familiarity helps you.  And if they happen to be a swing vote, it’s because they’re interested in issues more substantial that cultural signifiers.

                More broadly, the point is these are overdetermined  effects that have more fundamental causes.  It’s more that these people don’t like Democrats or liberals for fundamental and properly political reasons – don’t agree with them for ideas and policies the espouse, don’t like the cultural values that theis policies represent (is abortion a cultural signifier that Democrats should change their position on in order to appeal to the white wroking class? Seems to me it would be the most potent one they could appeal to.), don’t like what they offer them on a transactional basis.  From there, the cultural signifiers simply become expressions of cultural distance between legitimately opposed tribes.  If it wasn’t NASCAR it would be something else, and even if there seemed to be nothing, something would be found.  And lessening these cultural distinctions does nothing to paper over the fundamental political divide, which will persist, and is entirely legitimate.  It is a fundamentally weak and generally diminishing political approach for all involved, and would bespeak a dishonorable lack of seriousness about the actual meaning of politics for the candidate who adopts that approach inauthentically and as a substitute for a real conversation about issues, and a lack of respect for the constituent’s seriousness about such things by the office seeker.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                And I don’t say identity politics doesn’t matter.  I say that cultural separation of the kind Murray is trying to expose doesn’t matter for politicians.  Identity politcs matters, but it matters at a deep and authentic level.  If you are culturally out of step enough with those votes you seek, you won’t get them absent an extraordinary issue environment, but that will be a function of basically who you are, something they’ll be able to tell within a minute of laying eys on you and hearing you open your mouth.  A bit of, or even a lot of, cultutal literacy training for such fish out of water will do nothing for these candidates, and could lead them into total cultural oblivion via affecting a false identity.  One thing that can overcome such divides is true political talent – the common touch, and while this will likely make use of such signifiers, it is not the signifiers that are the operative valriable here, it is the political talent that makes use of it. Generally, however, even great political talent can’t bridge real cultural difference.  The cultural difference is either so great you cannot reach people, or it can be bridged by an adequate but not extraordinary level of political talent.  And if the gap is large it all, most likely it can’t.

                People elect people who are like them, to the extent they do, because they actually are like them, something that humans can determine quickly and irrespective of attempts to cover up basic differences when it is not the case.  To the extent that elected Republicans are more culturally in tune with those kinds of “white working class” Americans you and Dr. Murray are concerned with,  (an extent I concede nothing on except at the local, meaning House districts and lower, levels of government), it is because they just have less cultural distance from that particular culture than do Democrats, which is something that a bit of familiarization with cultural artifacts will do anything to change.  It’s overdetermined: a causal false positive; a strategic dead end.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                If that’s what they telling candidates, then why aren’t they doing it?

                I frankly don’t really see where Republican politicians do identity appeals to white working class via these kinds of signifiers (if you turn around and say, well, they do it by talking about free markets and liberty, that is the ultimate capitulation to the point that message and ideas are what matter) much more than Democrats.  Perhaps they do it at the local level, but I conceded that much of this is done at the local level, but it’s done organically and authentically or else it fails.  They all look like the same elites to me, frankly.

                Who’s telling Democrats to pander on these cultural issues, and how do we know they’re getting it right if the whole point is that Dems aren’t doing it enough?  The only way to know they’d be right would be if Dems were doing it and it was working.

                But seriously, who are you talking to?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                Wrong level of threading on this one. One reply level in.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Democrats lose among white voters every 4 years. However, they win (by a fairly large margin in most cases) among every income group under $50k a year. So why should they be worried about white folks who live outside of big cities and make under $50k a year when they really have no problem with the working class in general? This seems counterproductive in presidential politics, and it’s probably not going to help get the House back either.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Chris,

                As I’m noting elsewhere on this thread, that’s a fair political calculation.  But Jesse wasn’t making that type of political calculation.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Well, remind me not to make Jesse my campaign manager when I run for president.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
                Ignored
                says:

                So you don’t think you can win without the white working class vote?  What, you got no appeal to Latinos?  *grin*Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to James Hanley
      Ignored
      says:

      James,

      I really appreciate your original comment hear and your response to the others.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Pierre Corneille
        Ignored
        says:

        Thank you, Pierre.  I know there are some here who get what I’m saying, and I know I’m being aggressive enough to put others off.  I guess this is just a particularly sensitive point for me.  When I hear certain liberals deny they have a disconnect with white middle Americans it sounds exactly like conservatives denying they have a problem with black Americans.Report

  41. Avatar LarryM
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    says:

    The concept is an interesting one. It would be nice to have a well designed quiz to really test it.

    Unsurprisingly given that Murray is an evil, dishonest racist conservative hack, the execution is laughably bad, designed to show that “oh, those liberals are out of touch.” So all the quiz show us is yes, Virginia, our culture has divisions, and people of all stripes often stick to their own cultural milieu.Report

  42. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    A brief observation that I’ve made elsewhere and this post is the other two that I’ve put together.

    This season of football is the first one I’ve really taken an interest in since 1998 or 1999 and it’s all because of that Tim Tebow fellow. I have had extended conversations with co-workers that, prior to this, I’ve rarely shared more than a “fine how are you” kinda conversation with because of little things like fantasy football and weird field goals and whatnot.

    These are people who avoid talking politics with me because I’m waaaaaaay to the left and avoid talking religion because I’m a godless atheist but if I come in and say “From what I understand off of the google, Tim Tebow is one hell of a fantasy football quarterback”, suddenly these guys turn from casual acquaintances into lab buddies that you need to feed in order to get them to shut up.

    So I’m going to watch the occasional game and keep up with fantasy football trends next year. I honestly had *NO* idea.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Dude, sports are the great conversational equalizer for men in America. It is rare that you will find yourself in a situation talking to a strange person of the male persuasion and not be able to fall back to sports if all else fails.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      If Murray was really interested in mass cultural signifiers rather than signifier of a specific region and type of people, he would have gone for a football question rather than a NASCAR one. Even someone who hates spectator sports in general like myself knows a thing or two about football, just because it’s so damn unavoidable. You almost can’t not know. Now that’s a true mass cultural signifier.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to sonmi451
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        says:

        College football, NCAA brackets, etc. A rural signifier would actually be high school sports, particularly high school football…Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Nob Akimoto
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          says:

          I was thinking more NFL, but sure, college too, I guess. (Although my totally unscientific, anecdote-based view is gender-wise, more women probably know something about NFL than college football).Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to sonmi451
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            says:

            I think that’s totally regional. Here in Austin for example, college football is king by a long country mile.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Nob Akimoto
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              says:

              See, now you’re making me feel almost sympathetic to Murray. It’s almost impossible to set the questions without falling into some kind of bias, isn’t it? Even when the focus is on white Americans only, there’s the regional bias issue. He should have just focused on things we can quantify – income, jobs, properties, vehicles. And maybe not be such an entitled jerk and thinks he’s qualified to determine who is an ordianry American and who is not.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to sonmi451
                Ignored
                says:

                Actual survey construction is very, very hard, yeah.

                James might be able to recommend a book or two.  I have four books on research methodologies myself.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                What is the thing that the quiz is supposed to even non-scientifically (obviously) be revealing here?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                …I mean, it seems to me that if we don’t have well-identified and defined some actual thing out there in the world that we suspect exists and we want to know to what extent it does (or in this case, how much it is present in particular individuals), then any given set of questions can’t be any more right than any other set.  It’s just… a set of questions.  “How Thick Is Your Bubble?” seems to be a pretty undefined notion, which is defined for Murray… by these questions.  How could another set of questions be less wrong than these?  The flip side being, what do people’s answers to these questions show, other than that they are … people’s answers to these questions?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                 I was trying to imagine if Murray is actually honest about using mass cultural signifiers to measure how out-of-touch the elites are; in that case what sets of questions might be better and do not fall into the trap of regional biases or other types of biases. Of course I don’t actually believe Murray was honestly interested in that, IMHO he’s more interested in bashing liberals.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451
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                says:

                God …. I’m not being clear today. Simply put, the fact that Murray uses NASCAR as his sports question instead of something like football proves to me that he’s not operating in good faith and has a specific agenda in play.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                In other words, in the passage Jason provides, Murray contrasts people who grow up in one particular environment with “ordinary Americans,” as if growing up in the suburbs and then going to college is not a pretty ordinary.  r growing up somewhere else and then not going to college.  These two “types” of people could easily score the same on this test, and they’re all pretty ordinary.  Murray then turns around and says that it’s not important if ordinary Americans can’t relate to Yale professors, but it is important that Yale professors can’t relate to ordinary Americans.  Except, what’s that got to do with this test? He needs to import a truly non-ordinary class of Americans, Yale professors, to stand in for low-scorers on the test in order to try to make the case that low-scorers are nor ordinary Americans.  In fact, they are entirely ordinary, they’re just a different cultural group.  Murray desperately wants to paint a picture of an out-of-touch elite with this quiz, and, of course there is an out-of touch elite in this country, but this quiz doesn’t reveal it.  instead, what it reveals is precisely what I think its author wants to try to paper over or re-label: real cultural divisions among ordinary Americans, even just whites. Middle-class suburban and urban college-attending (and even non-college-attending) people are entirely ordinary Americans, and many of them will score low on this quiz.

                 Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                “How liberals should be ashamed of themselves for not knowing more about conservatives whites from fly-over country (I would argue the South, but maybe that’s just my bias).” I don’t know, maybe it’s a waste of time looking and nitpicking at specific questions, I certainly feel like I’ve been wasting my time anyway.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      We could set up a LOOG fantasy football league on Yahoo or ESPN or some other sports site.Report

  43. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    In the passage Jason provides, Murray contrasts people who grow up in one particular environment with “ordinary Americans,” as if growing up in the suburbs and then going to college is not a pretty ordinary.  r growing up somewhere else and then not going to college.  These two “types” of people could easily score the same on this test, and they’re all pretty ordinary.  Murray then turns around and says that it’s not important if ordinary Americans can’t relate to Yale professors, but it is important that Yale professors can’t relate to ordinary Americans.  Except,what’s that got to do with this test? He needs to import a truly non-ordinary class of Americans, Yale professors, to stand in for low-scorers on the test in order to try to make the case that low-scorers are nor ordinary Americans.  In fact, they are entirely ordinary, they’re just a different cultural group.  Murray desperately wants to paint a picture of an out-of-touch elite with this quiz, and, of course there is an out-of touch elite in this country, but this quiz doesn’t reveal it.  instead, what it reveals is precisely what I think its author wants to try to paper over or re-label: real cultural divisions among ordinary Americans, even just whites. Middle-class suburban and urban college-attending (and even non-college-attending) people are entirely ordinary Americans, and many of them will score low on this quiz.Report

  44. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    Considering the survey, it’s really seriously flawed. I don’t just say that because I’m an outlier. I’ve recognized my entire adult life that I’m an outlier among my “peer group.” That is, unlike most academics, I grew up in a small town, in the south (I lived just outside the city limits of Franklin, TN, which before the Saturn plant moved to Spring Hill just down the road, ranged between 6-8k residents), I went fishing and camping all the time, I was an Eagle Scout, etc. Hell, I didn’t just know who Naomi Judd and Darrel Waltrip were, I had met them. So my background is a bit different, I know. Still, this is the sort of survey that’s produced less from actual resesarch into the middle class than from stereotypes.

    I still know a whole hell of a lot of people from small town and rural Tennessee and Kentucky, and I don’t know anyone under the age of 60 who’s been to Branson. You know why? Because it’s just as cheap to go to Vegas, and even rednecks love Vegas. Similar objections could be raised with many of the other questions. They’re referring to a stereotype of white middle class, not actual white middle class. What’s more, in the South, white upper middle class emulates the working class. They still drive pickups, they just drive really expensive pickups. They still eat at Applebee’s, they just do it whenever they fishin’ feel like it instead of as a treat. They go to and march in parades, they’re vets, they vote Republican (my home county is one of the more conservative counties in Tennessee — in friggin’ Tennessee, with a Republican legislature that makes Texas’ look sane  — and it’s also one of the richest counties in the country), they watch NASCAR and wrastlin’, they go bow hunting and take their dogs fishing (on their own expensive bass boats, usually), they go to church on Sunday, and Wednesday, and maybe for Tuesday (pronounced Two’s-dee) Bible study too. Except for the fact that they have money, and live in big friggin’ houses on land that was probably a farm 10-15 years ago, they’re exactly like Murray’s blue collar families. And this isn’t just my hometown: it’s the white upper middle class all over the South and much of the rest of the country as well. Hell, it’s not just small towns. If you think I’m wrong, you should visit the Green Hills neighborhood in Nashville, home of lots of upper middle class shopping spots, where you might just find yourself trying to see around a Ford F850 (good luck!) when exiting a parking spot (I shit you not: I saw one in Green Hills last month with the word “Hybrid” on the side), and the Carraba’s is going to be packed on a Saturday night.

    Anyway, point being, this survey is a rhetorical device, and I find it both heavy-handed and a bit naïve. It is not to be taken seriously.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris
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      says:

      What’s more, in the South, white upper middle class emulates the working class.

      But I think that’s part of Murray’s point.  Precisely because of that they do have more understanding of the working class.  Because they drive pickup trucks (even if they’re hybrid F850s), go hunting with their dogs, and watch NASCAR, they have a better understanding of the working class than liberals who drive Priuses (Prii?), abhor shooting Bambi, and think it’s stupid to watch people drive around in circles for a couple hours at a time.

      Yes, the survey is based on stereotypes and it’s a rhetorical device; but it’s a fairly useful one for that rhetorical purpose, and the reaction here of “I don’t do any of those things but I still really do identify with the working class” reminds me of Oingo Boingo’s song “Capitalism.”

      From the serious methodological point of view, what most struck me was Murray’s ranges, where scores X1 to X2 put you in a certain group. I suspect he didn’t actually use this instrument to survey lots of people, then correlate their responses with their actual socio-economic status to create a reliable scale. If I use this work as an example in my methods class it will definitely be as an example of how not to do a good survey.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        But I think that’s part of Murray’s point.  Precisely because of that they do have more understanding of the working class.  Because they drive pickup trucks (even if they’re hybrid F850s), go hunting with their dogs, and watch NASCAR, they have a better understanding of the working class than liberals who drive Priuses (Prii?), abhor shooting Bambi, and think it’s stupid to watch people drive around in circles for a couple hours at a time.

        But that’s proof that they have a better understanding of the white working class in the South, not the white working class in general. And the lack of understanding that you ascribe to liberals are towards white working class in the South as well, not white working class in general. What’s so special about the white working class in South that they get to stand in for white working class in general? Maybe he should have called the book Coming Apart: North versus South then.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Eh, if he only means white upper middle class liberals, then perhaps he has a point (though still, Texas and Tennessee are going to be problems for him). It’s not an interesting point, and it’s so narrow as to make me wonder why he felt the need to write an entire book about it, but hey, who am I to say what largely disgraced social scientists should write books about these days?Report

  45. Avatar James Hanley
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    says:

    But that’s proof that they have a better understanding of the white working class in the South, not the white working class in general.

    The white working class throughout most of the midwest and inter-mountain west also hunts/fishes, drives pickups, and watches NASCAR–Michigan International Speedway, 20 miles from my house, hosts two NASCAR races every year.  So those activities are not regionally confined to the south.  Honestly I think Chris is in error to focus on this as a southern thing.  Perhaps dhex is correct and it’s definitely not a northeastern thing (I can’t speak for that group), but it does extend well north and to the west of the Mason-Dixon line.  Heck, even in California a lot of the white working class drives pickup trucks, hunts and fishes, and there’s a reason NASCAR runs two races a year in the Golden State. If regional means Florida to California, including all of the Midwest…well, that’s a pretty big region.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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      says:

      Who cares?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Thank you for making a reasoned argument, Michael.  I’m not sure why you’re so pissed at me, but I’ll wish you a pleasant weekend anyway.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          I don’t like how you base your understanding of what liberals think on experiences none of us can share in or analyze for ourselves, as expressed in the other thread, but other than that I’m not pissed.  My point here is, seriously, who cares about this what-they-like-where crap, for our purposes?  And how is Who cares? not a reasoned argument? It’s a straight-forward question. I’m challenging the significance of it for our purposes here, just like I’m challenging the meaning of Murray’s quiz.  Tell me why this matters. You keep saying that the point is being missed: well, yeah.  It is.  Not that there aren’t cultural divisions, but that is obvious.  The crap in the quiz is arbitrary and meaningless, absent some sensible statement of what it means.  And I haven’t seen one. Who cares is perfectly valid and reasonable question here.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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            says:

            ..And when I say the point is being missed, I mean that i am challenging that there actually is a point that the quiz demonstrates that couldn’t be simply expressed straightforwardly in words, rather than by means of cryptic, arbitrary, unrevealing quizzes. Clearly, if you have a view you want to express, you’ll probably be able to express it to me.  It doesn’t mean that the quiz illustrates this point, even if you claim it does.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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            says:

            I don’t like how you base your understanding of what liberals think on experiences none of us can share in or analyze for ourselves

            Of get serious.  You don’t base any of our understandings on your own experiences?  Or you have some experiences that I can somehow share in?

             Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              I do, but I try to do it using public sources. I base my understanding of libertarians’ views, for example, largely on what I read here, which we can all refer to, or on other public writings (BHL, Cowen, etc) that I can reference to people so they can assess what it is I am basing my picture of the ideas of the movement on.

              If you want to rely so much on your experiences in your small liberal arts college to define for you what the considered views of liberals at large are, you could record in more detail what it is the people there say and try to express what is said in its own terms rather than just skipping to your composite meta-impressions from those experiences of the entire ideological worldview.  That would be one thing you could do.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                If you want to rely so much on your experiences in your small liberal arts college to define for you what the considered views of liberals at large are,

                Michael, I don’t know why you keep trying to restrict this to my experience in my college.

                Jesus Fishing Christ, I go to academic conferences annually, and I don’t necessarily get to screen all my lunch companions or who gets in an elevator with me.  I went to graduate school in a program that was overwhelmingly populated by liberals who simultaneously despised the working class and believed that it had its real interests at heart.  I lived in San Francisco where this kind of talk is endemic.

                How can I prove to you my experiences? If you doubt them, you doubt them.  End of story.  I can’t empirically prove to you that I’ve had them.  For god’s sake I feel like this is a weird repeat of the thread on racial dogwhistles.  If it’s not an explicit statement of racism, then conservatives deny there was any racism.  All the liberals here accepted that, and every one of them would probably love to see Newt Gingrich try to make that claim in front of a black audience just as much as I would.

                Well here’s my story.  I moved out of small town Indiana to San Francisco, then moved to L.A., then went to Eugene, Oregon, and then on into academia.  And over and over I’ve heard liberals engaging in dog whistles about middle America.  Every time they complain that the working class is voting against its economic interests they’re implying the working class is stupid; every time they say “their real interests lie with the Democrats,” they’re presuming to speak for them.  Every time they say “what’s the matter with Kansas,” they’re assuming there’s something wrong with these people for not being like them.  Every time they use the phrase “flyover country,” they show that they don’t think there’s anything worthwhile between the coasts.  Every time I had someone look sideways at me because I said I’d gone fishing or had been out shooting with a friend, I was reminded that those activities aren’t acceptable among a certain set of liberals. And I can’t even remember how many times I’ve heard a liberal–from one of my first roommates in San Francisco to grad school colleagues, to conversations standing in line for coffee in D.C.–talk about how fortunate they were to have escaped from or never had to live in small town America. And yet these folks are so think this part of the 99% ought to be joining up with them because it actually shares their interests?

                Yes, I’m sensitive.  Because each of these is an implied attack on me, my family, and my friends.  If I was black and it was white conservatives saying these things, the liberals here would be all over it.  But because I’m a white person saying it to other white people you assume it’s all false; you can’t believe that there really might be anything to it.  Most ironically, you liberals who are so aware of the concept of white privilege can’t step outside yourselves just far enough to consider for a moment whether you’re not seeing it because of your own liberal privilege.  Conservatives deny their racial bias and you all go, “oh, look how dense and delusional they are,” but someone critiques a certain type of liberal for class/social bias and you leap to the defense because you can’t even imagine there might be something to it, and you never pause to think, “hmm, am I being just as blind as those conservatives?”

                No, it’s because I’m obviously wrong since I can’t empirically prove this particular claim.  But as Stillwater noted in his excellent post on racism, we can’t empirically prove the conservatives’ statements are actually racist dogwhistles, either.  But do you personally doubt they are?  Are you going to go question a black person about whether their experiences are real?  Or do only racial minorities get to have real experiences, and working class middle Americans don’t?  Tell me now, doesn’t that just sound like one more bit of liberal elite condescension?

                Michael, you’re free to believe my experiences or not, but asking me to somehow prove them to you is just fishing ridiculous.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Whenever I hear a liberal talk about “What’s the Matter with Kansas” i just shake my head and tell them they need to read up more, because that book’s been debunked by actual social science instead of pseudo-populist pop sociology…

                I love Bartels, so maybe I’m a bit biased here.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Just describing them in detail in this way rather than crypically as you always do helps me understand what they actually consist of, and thus makes them more real to me; helps e get a sense of who is saying what in what setting etc.  It’s not that I didn’t believe you or that I expected you to prove it was happening to me, it’s just that there really wasn’t anything for me to believe or not believe, to envision clearly or less clearly.  You weren’t offering anything up other than a vague reference to experiences with liberals that weren’t being specified any more than that.  It’s hard to lend that any validity as a reliable experience base on which to create an impression of liberal views, especially when you offered up so many stereotypes of what clueless liberals are often caricatured as saying.  Descriptions with more details are inherently more real-seeming, and this more believable than vague ones.  They can still be bull (which I don’t and never thought yours were, just saying practiced liars can offer up endless detail in order to make a story believable), but at least they offer some visualizable background of who was saying just what where that gave you the impression of liberals you are choosing to communicate.

                I’d just reiterate that this can all be circumvented by relying on views expressed accessibly in the public record to form a common understanding of what liberals, libertarians, conservatives, etc. think, or what those isms are ideologically.  That’s why we have a public record, in part.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                Michael,

                If all you wanted was more detail, you could have asked for in a way that was more of a request and less of a critique.  When you start getting into comments suggesting all my students are idiot or that I have a special dislike just for liberal students then it’s gone pretty damned far beyond just a request for more examples.

                this can all be circumvented by relying on views expressed accessibly in the public record

                What public record? Is there some big public database giving these examples that I’m not aware of? You know damn well I I give data and sources when I have them, but when I’m talking about my own experience, what fishing public record am I supposed to be showing you?  The only thing approaching a public record would be the complaints of other working class hicks; the same complaints that you liberals tend to just pooh pooh as having no substance.  So all I could possibly point to is something that’s already been pre-emptively dismissed as irrelevant.

                Hell, the best I could give for a public record I already did, but here it is again.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
                Ignored
                says:

                James, I wasn’t trying to restrict your experience to just your workplace, but I had not way of know what else I should be imagining you to be experiencing.  And you weren’t making a habit of explaining it.

                Perhaps I am just by nature not a trusting person (I didn’t think that was the case), but when you always seem to offer experiences with liberals that have been thoroughly offputting to you in ways that are reminiscent of very common complaints that I hear about stereotypes of liberals, my first instinct is not to ask you to tell me more about these experiences. For one, you could be doing that of your own choice. If you’re choosing not to, I feel it;s fair to critique you for giving constantly negative impressions of liberals without offering much in the way of specific experiences. you Beyond this,I honestly just don’t have much interest in soliciting from you stories about personal experiences with people that you have internalized as typical of liberals and over which you have bred and harbored resentment of them as a group rather than of these people for years and years. Granted, I didn’t know that’s what I’d be getting if I asked you for more about what has led you to the view of liberals that you have, but I kind of had a feeling, and I wasn’t wrong. I don’t think this adds much of anything to our understanding here at the League of what it liberals actually think – toward developing a working understanding of what good-faith people of the left tend to think and say to constitute their liberalism.

                And this is where a public record comes in.  I’m not talking about a public record of your private experiences.  I’m talking about the public record of publicly-expressed viewpoints.  that is what we should base our understanding of what liberals understand their views to be, what libertarians understand their views to be, conservatives theirs, and the like. It eliminates all this subjective, unshared experience of how you’ve felt culturally slighted by particular liberals’s attitudes about middle America, how people of color may have felt marginalized by a cowroker who they felt made insensitive comments etc.  That stuff can still be important as experiences we’ve had that we can tell and draw lessons from. But they could remain anecdotes, not meant to stand in for the beliefs of an entire ideological identity group. Conservative wouldn’t have to be come racists; liberals wouldn’t have to become elitists.  We could say wjat liberalism is based on what it says it is in public.  We can still listen for dog wistles, too.  We just do it by listening to ewhat people say on the public record, so we can all look at and listen to it and make assessments for ourselves.  Our private experiences we could keep and understand as people acting as people, not representatives.  Because when you act in a private setting, you don’t always understand that you are acting as more than yourself.  But when you choose to speak on the public record, if you publicly identify yourself with a given label, you know you are, from that point until your entry on the record is done at least, representing to the best of your ability all the labels you willingly attach to yourself.  i think it would be a better way to judge what liberals think qua liberals, what libertarians think qua libertarians, conservatives qua conservatives, to judge them by those kinds of statements, rather than by personal interactions when they may not have been intending to represent anything other than themselves.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                BTW, what is that video supposed to represent?Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
          Ignored
          says:

          You have, honestly done a bit of personal attacking on this thread, including jabs at new yorkers for being “tasteless” when they were confronted with the sight of people treating a disaster in their city a tourist attraction of some sort.

          You’ve gone so thoroughly to the mat for your neighbors, that I think you had a bit of a blindspot on how your defense of them was turning into rhetorical attacks on others, particularly MD.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Nob Akimoto
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            says:

            I don’t feel that James has rhetorically or otherwise attacked me outside the parameters of good, strenuous argument here at all, Nob.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto
            Ignored
            says:

            Nob,

            9/11 did of course happen in New York, but it was an event that struck the whole country.  Our government has spent years telling us that it was an attack, not on New York, but on America.  It’s a sort of sacred site to Americans from every corner of this country.  And suddenly we’re supposed to have disdain for an American who takes that seriously and takes a long trip to see this national shrine? And because they express themselves badly they get called a fucking idiot by a local?  And another local tells us that’s evidence of New Yorker’s superiority to the hicks?

            And, yes, I’ve gone to the mat for my neighbors, without any qualms. I’ve also agreed that they can be small-minded, ignorant about others, and have their own sense of unjustified superiority.  The only claim I’ve actually made in their defense is this: Non-working class liberals who think they can speak for what white working class Americans want have no idea what they’re talking about, and are simply being very condescending.  That’s it.  That’s all.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              And suddenly we’re supposed to have disdain for an American who takes that seriously and takes a long trip to see this national shrine? And because they express themselves badly they get called a fucking idiot by a local? And another local tells us that’s evidence of New Yorker’s superiority to the hicks?

              If someone from back home had told me this story, I’d probably have said something about “how rude” (in reference to the New Yorkers), but (depending on who was telling the story) would have wondered if they were embellishing to make New Yorkers look bad.

              That it would be used by a New Yorker to demonstrate how awful Heartlanders are is truly baffling to me.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              Uh, no. That was not all. You needn’t have had a single good word to say about this ridiculous survey to make that perfectly defensible observation, for example. But much more.  That was not all, at all.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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                says:

                Jesus, Michael, I’ve critiqued that survey at probably greater length than anyone else here, and all you can do is talk about how I had good things to say about it?

                I’m glad you don’t feel like I’ve been attacking you, but I sure as hell can’t say I feel the same.  You’ve been all over the map in your critiques, and I really don’t have any idea just what your point is.  I’ve been wondering for the last couple of hours whether you do.

                 Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Hey, even where you had bad things to say about it, that is more than what you described being “it” and “all.”  You’ve said all sorts of things today more than just expressing a view that “Non-working class liberals who think they can speak for what white working class Americans want have no idea what they’re talking about, and are simply being very condescending.”

                That’s all I was saying there.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James Hanley
              Ignored
              says:

              For the record, the anecdote was for something that happened FIVE MONTHS after 9/11. This would be akin to someone in 2004 waltzing up to New Orleans and asking where the levy break was. And it wasn’t that he was called a “fucking idiot” he was asked “what the fuck is wrong with you”. There’s a very distinct difference here, and the way you framed the defense of this went beyond defending the concept of a national shrine.

              From what I can tell the problem the New Yorkers had was something more specific than just “oh look a hick wants to see Ground Zero.” Maybe I read a different context into this than you did, but I probably would’ve told him to go to hell, too.

              Look, I live in Texas. I know native Texans are good folk. But if one came to me with that sort of “I’m a tourist and I wanna gape at the big disaster that happened” say for example in Tokyo asking me where the Tsunami happened, list me on the “go fuck yourself” school.

              See the other thing is…I can see the reverse scenario, of someone from the northeast going to somewhere in flyover country, let’s say Oklahoma City and asking where “The McVeigh Bombing happened. while hauling around a map and with his family and kids in the back of their minivan. I’d imagine there’d be a lot of tututting about how out of touch these people are and  how they’re disrespecting the good folks of Oklahoma.Report

  46. Avatar LauraNo
    Ignored
    says:

    “But it’s not clear to me that knowledge of TV shows, foods, preferred sports, etc., of truck drivers is all that useful to understanding those priorities”.

    But of course that is not the reason for the question. Having no knowledge of these things shows that you are not acquainted with the people who have a life style that brings knowledge of these things. Understanding the people and their lifestyle certainly WOULD lead to understanding their priorities. I think this was a flippant thing to say. Are feelings a little brittle, maybe?

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