Cambridge Analytica Stirred the (Supposedly Non-Existent) Bigotries of White America

It is March 2018 and the political class continues to be outraged that Hillary Clinton is not, in their esteemed opinions, being kind enough to the people who support Donald Trump.

Indeed, the media's fixation on this topic seems to be our post-2016-election dystopian version of "her emails," as even the slightest real or perceived critique Clinton renders of Trump voters is amplified as a human rights violations of the first order inflicted upon this vulnerable, protected class of citizen.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post, for instance, wrote an entire "analysis" of Clinton's recent commentary about how Trump's message looked backwards and stirred old bigotries, observations which, by the way, are demonstrably accurate given that this messaging was a literal part of Trump's campaign slogan which, by way of reminder, was Make America Great Again. Nonetheless, Blake calls Clinton's comments "incendiary," and if you're wondering how charitable the analysis as a whole is, it includes an embedded video titled, "Bitter Hillary Clinton Trashes America's Heartland," which should clue you in.

Christian Snyder, in an op-ed piece, snarked, "Since the 2016 campaign ended, Hillary Clinton has demonstrated herself to be a singularly extraordinary former presidential candidate — 'extraordinary' only in the sense that no ex-candidate has ever been worse." The gist of it is that Clinton doesn't coddle Trump voters, which is very mean and snobbish.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin even joined in, stating, "My friend Hillary Clinton is wrong. Thirty percent of the people that voted for Donald Trump had voted for President Obama." (Which, in addition to being a strange, voting version of the "I have a black friend so I can't be a bigot" defense, echoes Bernie Sanders' ongoing claim that Trump supporters are not bigots.)

So, what I find utterly amazing is how if we were to believe folks like these, bigots in America are few and far between, and yet we now know that Cambridge Analytica was able to precisely micro-target the bigotries of white Americans with the aim of swaying US elections.

Via The Washington Post, from an article published two days ago (emphasis added):
The data and analyses that Cambridge Analytica generated in [2014] provided discoveries that would later form the emotionally charged core of Trump's presidential platform, said [data scientist Chris] Wylie, whose disclosures in news reports over the past several days have rocked both his onetime employer and Facebook.

"Trump wasn't in our consciousness at that moment; this was well before he became a thing," Wylie said. "He wasn't a client or anything."

The year before Trump announced his presidential bid, the data firm already had found a high level of alienation among young, white Americans with a conservative bent.

In focus groups arranged to test messages for the 2014 midterms, these voters responded to calls for building a new wall to block the entry of illegal immigrants, to reforms intended to 'drain the swamp' of Washington's entrenched political community, and to thinly veiled forms of racism toward African Americans called "race realism," he recounted.
I recognize it as a political reality that any defense of Hillary Clinton will, no matter how rational, be rejected on its face by a segment of the population. So, let's put that aside for a bigger picture.

What is critical to understand is that the notion that Trump supporters are largely not bigots is a political fiction that is primarily perpetuated by influential white men in the media and political establishment as a perverse form of political correctness.

It is a political fiction because the data suggests that, actually, "racial attitudes towards blacks and immigration are the key factors associated with support for Trump." And, via The Washington Post:
[W]hite millennial Trump voters were likely to believe in something we call "white vulnerability" — the perception that whites, through no fault of their own, are losing ground to other groups. Second, racial resentment was the primary driver of white vulnerability — even when accounting for income, education level, or employment.
This political fiction of non-existent bigotry of white America fits squarely within the mainstream narrative of American Exceptionalism that has barely even begun to reckon with its historical treatment of non-white, non-male people both within and outside of its borders.

This political fiction is, like misogyny, a national vulnerability. It is one that certain data scientists, foreign agents, and a handful of writers seem to understand far better than some of the most prominent members of the political class, including multiple Democratic politicians who, in typical fashion, internalize and overreact to the views of other prominent white men (and their attendant biases) as they rush to to their respective fainting couches about the prospect of bigotry existing in white people.

Unfortunately, though, a political class that is more outraged by a private citizen accurately naming bigotry than the fact that significantly large numbers of Americans hold bigoted views, and can have these views stoked and stirred and played by an unqualified authoritarian predator, is a political class that does not adequately grasp a very important issue at hand.

And that issue is this: While Donald Trump ran a campaign against the "political correctness" that was purportedly making our nation unsafe from external threats, it very well could be the political class's unwillingness to acknowledge white America's bigotry that plays a key role in the subversion of our political system.

After all, how do we defend against a vulnerability if we can't even admit that it's real?

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