A Mathematician's Perspective on the Divide
November 24, 2016 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Brilliant mathematical doodler Vihart on ways to heal our country's divide. (Just the video) Wherein the success of Trump is examined with a unique and relatively hopeful perspective.
posted by Glinn (30 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
i think the post is a transcript? i haven't watched the video.

i like this. it's not perfect - you can pick holes in various places - but if you want to choose just one "axis" as fundamental, then age seems to work well. and i think she nailed the tone. i hope this becomes popular.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:54 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some say age, others say education.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:23 PM on November 24, 2016


(I asked the mods to link to the video.) (They can delete this if they do.) :)
posted by Glinn at 4:24 PM on November 24, 2016


I'm glad for the transcript. I adore Vi's genuine enthusiasm for math and the way she gets on the mic as if she's running out of time. But I'm sick as shit of hearing people talk about the polls. If I have to hear Nate talk about chicken entrails and psychic octopi anymore I will lose my fucking mind.

And Vi's intensity is my happy place, I don't want her voice associated with all the other flapping mouths that got this all so wrong.

As for the content, well. Vi knows math. I haven't watched, but did she draw a graph with a sharpie showing when the average trump voter would die? The transcript doesn't mention just waiting them out.
posted by adept256 at 4:54 PM on November 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


As I understand the data, older voters who were not WHITE didn't go for Trump.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:26 PM on November 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Those of us who are not (Trump-voting) Boomers may be better-educated, but we are also mostly poorer. Real wages are down compared to those they had at our age; costs are higher; retirement options worse or even less existent.

It is asking a lot for us to humbly listen to people who will die having owned more than we ever did, who are so blinded by inchoate fear that they want to burn down our future and that of our kids.

I can appreciate being afraid of death and feeling alienated; it is very hard for me to comprehend not giving a shit whether my grandkids have a world they can survive in.

Am I missing something? I do not want to be wholly fueled by rage at all times; I would love for there to be a way to free people from their destructive fears. I am not sure this video (much as I love Vihart) will help with that.
posted by emjaybee at 5:38 PM on November 24, 2016 [37 favorites]


There's a news watching demographic that requires fuck for emphasis (and ratings), and another that considers the term rude and an indicator of ignorance.

My heart's with the former, Zappa was a god, and what's obscene about our world is often avoided by euphemism. But I recognized Brokaw's legacy of Cronkite and watched post 9-11 Stewart engage something greater than news summary. But O'Reilly was right there too. I've known baby-boomers who could not be more opposed in a wide range of opinions enjoy O'Reilly and dismiss alternatives.

Fuck, ya know?
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:41 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's a good point. Is there a megamix of journalists saying 'grab them by the uh um ... unspeakables'. I know I code switch talking to certain people because one fuck negates everything before and after. Not just invalid but discredited.

But how can you blush when a journo says pussy and then go right ahead and vote for the bigot they're quoting?
posted by adept256 at 5:58 PM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was wondering about this myself -- I mean, the number of pepe the frog alt right shitheads is higher than it should be (0), but not enough to sway an election.

Most of the explanations for the election don't account for the fact that rightward xenophobic surges are happening in the entire west. Terrorism and wars aren't new, so what else is going on? Demography seems likely -- there is usually a drift rightward as people age, and the boomers are a big demographic bulge. As the video notes, they are also whiter and have higher incomes than people 20 years younger.
posted by benzenedream at 6:03 PM on November 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


how can you blush when a journo says pussy and then go right ahead and vote for the bigot they're quoting?
taboo is contextual

Vulgarity, between men, used to describe those over whom they rightfully hold power, is sacrosanct.
posted by idiopath at 6:24 PM on November 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


I need to clarify that I don't agree, in fact like most of us here I see the power relationship as the offensive aspect here, but posit that we do agree with the conservatives that it is contextual, we just disagree about which aspects are offensive.
posted by idiopath at 6:31 PM on November 24, 2016


Why aren’t the Democrats, who are so obviously correct, winning by a huge margin? Why are there Red states at all?

This piece is nice and not that different from 100 other blog posts and news analysis pieces on the subject of the age divide. The answer to these specific questions, though, doesn't lie in our hearts, but in the gerrymander.
posted by Miko at 7:18 PM on November 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


This makes a lot of sense, both statistically and anecdotally, from where I am (which is on the other side of the ocean with few but somehow very accurately representative friends in the US). Yes of course it's the gerrymander, but the gerrymander and the electoral votes are systems that emphasize the demographic divide. People are moving towards the big cities and as they do that, they change opinions. It's not only that urban voters are more Democratic voters, its that voters become Democratic when they become urban.
In good news, I suspect that the new trend where young people move back to the rural areas seems to mean that they take their urban voting patterns with them.
Friends who are just a bit older than me (I'm early fifties) have spent all their lives being angry at the boomers - but regarding Trump, they are on the same page and together they are a large demographic. To me, they all seem incredibly ignorant, but maybe it is more of a struggle on their side with understanding how information works these days. Today I had lunch with a boomer who is otherwise an intelligent and sensitive person, but he admitted to have subscribed to a right-wing fake-news site. I tried to gently question him but he closed up entirely. One thing he said that made sense was that people he once knew as leftists had changed sides and it had taken him some time to get their move to the racist right.
I'm as middling as one can be, so this is biased, but as I see it a lot of boomers lost their political "home" after the fall of the Berlin wall in -89. This has always seemed absurd to me, because who'd dream of associating with the Sovjet Union? I can be for a Social Democratic society without embracing Communism, but a lot of people couldn't and here we are. Even though Russia is not at all the old communist Sovjet Union, the strange embrace of Russia on the Trump side makes sense in the context of a boomer surge. Well, makes sense is not the right word, it makes no sense, but it fits into the mindset of a large subset of that generation. Several of my boomer and x-er friends are strongly pro-Russia.
The anti-semitism found a home in anti-zionism during the 70's, and now it has a new home again with the Trumpists. It's the same thing always, this idea of a vast conspiracy and right now, it makes them want a "Russian" solution in Syria.
Finally, the demographic changes are much more worrying to that generation than to younger people. It's hard to get into their heads for me, but they seem to be scared beyond reason by "other" people. My guess is that it is because they are hateful and vindictive themselves and imagine they are about to be got back at by the people they have despised and hurt. At work, I joke that they have too much time, because normal people don't have time to go about imagining and inventing other peoples' intent.
posted by mumimor at 7:49 PM on November 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


adept256: " I haven't watched, but did she draw a graph with a sharpie showing ..."

A majority of the video is her filling in a map with various shades of purple.
posted by RobotHero at 10:07 PM on November 24, 2016


I like the touching story about her grandmother at the end of the video.

"I feel mostly hopeful but there’s a certain bittersweetness to it and I can’t help think of my grandma. I lived with my her when my mathematical work started becoming popular, I respected her dictatorial authority in her home and I forgave her the occasional comments that one would call “old fashioned” when said by your own grandma. But I often think about the fact that when she was ill, she made a conscious decision to die rather than leave home. It’s not an uncommon choice. We are defined by the things we value more than ourselves. My grandmother made a home; and as frustrated as I was with her unwillingness to use the internet or accept a broader range of identity, she made me welcome in the home that was worth more to her than her own life.

And so, to the future generations who value the lives of all of us equally, I entreat you to remember that life is to be honored universally but spent individually. Be kind to those who truly define themselves as Americans first, those who would whole-heartedly welcome you into the country they would give their life for. That is a kind of nationalism to be respected, and I think we can find a way to come together in support of America’s new culture while still honoring those who got us here."

p.s. this text is not as good as watching her video of it.
posted by storybored at 10:08 PM on November 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like the touching story about her grandmother at the end of the video.

Yeah. From the transcript at least (I'm tethered to a crappy cellular data plan right now, so can't stream), I don't think this is the most coherent thing, or necessarily super novel as an analysis, but there are useful thoughts throughout.

I'm writing this from the night after a big family Thanksgiving get-together in rural Kansas. I was really afraid, coming into this trip, of what it would be like talking to my relatives in the aftermath of this election. The truth is we just didn't talk politics. I think maybe everybody knew it wasn't worth the potential cost to relationships, and by that I was reminded of all the things I have in common with a bunch of decent people who despite their deep decency just voted for a guy who is clearly an absolute monster, because there are a bunch of super fucked-up things about how they have modeled the world for their entire lives. I'm going to spend most of the next month in the country, and I guess I'm trying to learn something new about how I can relate to those facts.

Something about this does chime with that feeling.
posted by brennen at 11:09 PM on November 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


how can you blush when a journo says pussy and then go right ahead and vote for the bigot they're quoting?

One candidate just said the word. The other one actually has one as a part of her body.
posted by St. Sorryass at 12:47 AM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


The problem is that her so called solution is a conservativism: respect your elders, don't rock the boat too much, don't change things too much. i.e. no revolution please my grandma wouldn't like it.

For example:
"I don’t make excuses for bigotry... and
"...and I forgave her the occasional comments that one would call “old fashioned” when said by your own grandma. "

One can't help but think these "occasional comments" are perhaps the kind of thing that three paragraphs earlier were simply "inexcusable".
posted by mary8nne at 1:29 AM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


As per usual, Hart's video is charming and informative, but it seems clearly designed more as an appeal for finding ways to work together than as a tightly argued piece on the election. She brings up many worthwhile points, and touches on ideas that could easily be used to refute her central thesis if one chose, but doing so would make the plea for understanding less convincing. She certainly isn't wrong in what she's saying in a general sense, it's just choosing to frame the argument along those lines since they're more approachable perhaps, or maybe they just feel better than a more comprehensive or less generous reading of the results would. Her reading is intentionally circumscribed to make it more approachable I think, and if that helps people work to try and change things, that's perfectly fine, but I don't think it's the whole story or captures the more direct values involved in determining this election.

Most of the explanations for the election don't account for the fact that rightward xenophobic surges are happening in the entire west. Terrorism and wars aren't new, so what else is going on? Demography seems likely -- there is usually a drift rightward as people age, and the boomers are a big demographic bulge.

The internet and greater flow of information is changing the way people perceive the world, technology is changing the way people work and live in the world, and the west is becoming less racially homogeneous. A lot of people are confused and scared, which leads to anger and resentment usually directed at symptomatic issues since the larger picture is too daunting and at the same time too invisible to understood easily or to be addressed reasonably.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:05 AM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


The problem is that her so called solution is a conservativism: respect your elders, don't rock the boat too much, don't change things too much. i.e. no revolution please my grandma wouldn't like it.

I don't agree. I think her main goal is to try to find a way to talk to older people whose experiences are so different from ours. The extreme, violent right is more a lost cause imo. It has always existed and will always be the fringe. But for the other conservative voters, there has got to be a way in through understanding and kindness. It seems to be the only hope to reach them, if it is possible to reach them, and is a better solution than continuing to demonize them even though that is easy to do because they are responsible for this election. (Sort of? Since he didn't really win.)
posted by Glinn at 7:00 AM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


the gerrymander and the electoral votes are systems that emphasize the demographic divide.

Please don't breeze by it like this. Of course the gerrymander manipulates demographics. And it always will. That's what the system is there to do. So, when demographics change, red dominance won't change just because of that; in fact, I'd be surprised if some working groups within the GOP don't get right down to that advance planning when the new Congress convenes; we've got a 2020 census coming up, and within state legislatures, many states are also empowered to define districts at other times. So there is not a tremendous amount of security in saying "The bigots are going to die off." If we don't get control of districting back, mathematicians like this blogger will figure out where to draw the lines to keep liberals in the minority, no matter who the minority is composed of.
posted by Miko at 8:01 AM on November 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


REDMAP - the GOP Redistricting Majority Project
Drawing the Line: How Redistricting Turned America from Blue to Red
Ratf**cked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy
Gerrymandering on Steroids: How Republicans Stacked the Nation's Statehouses - interview with author of above

Let's not get sanguine about demographics just solving this for us. It's going to take digging into this kind of party machinery, too. It's going to take politics.
posted by Miko at 8:04 AM on November 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


The problem is that her so called solution is a conservativism: respect your elders, don't rock the boat too much, don't change things too much. i.e. no revolution please my grandma wouldn't like it.

Something I think I am starting to get is that without a conservatism, we are permanently fucked. The left can fight tooth and nail forever (or at least until industrial civilization collapses) but without sane and functional channels for the understanding and energy of people whose basic impulses and deeply conditioned responses differ from ours, we will continue to lose.
posted by brennen at 10:59 AM on November 25, 2016


If we don't get control of districting back, mathematicians like this blogger will figure out where to draw the lines to keep liberals in the minority, no matter who the minority is composed of.

Oh but I agree a thousand times, please don't get that wrong. Every single American who is going to get run over by the Trump administration needs to fight back at every level of government. Starting at the school district and the sheriff. This is the lesson from the past 8 years and from this election. And the privileged who are not directly affected need to help. Us who are not American and are fearful of what a Trump presidency might lead to need to help as much as we can, because it will affect our lives.

My optimism is more about that if everyone fights back, there is a natural force pushing in the same direction. This is not the 1950's.
posted by mumimor at 12:35 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


without sane and functional channels for the understanding and energy of people whose basic impulses and deeply conditioned responses differ from ours, we will continue to lose.

I...don't really think that's true.
posted by Miko at 5:41 PM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


This might well have been posted in one of the other election threads, but it is very relevant here:

The dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America: a view from the inside

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete bullshit. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to throw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t east coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is rural America doesn’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of choices they’ve made and horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

posted by mumimor at 1:22 AM on November 26, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, I have this awesome op-ed all planned about how the rural working class spent 30 years kicking Dem efforts to preserve unions, raise the minumum wage, create jobs programs and so much else to the curb while sending one GOP blowhard after another to Washington to cash in and ignore their needs. Right now is a lousy time to research and craft that op-ed, but the facts are there. I have basically zero sympathy for this "no one listened to us" POV. The Democrats offered solutions year after year and got sent away. The rural, Rust-Belt, white working class totally made this bed. Rest easy.
posted by Miko at 8:43 PM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


One can't help but think these "occasional comments" are perhaps the kind of thing that three paragraphs earlier were simply "inexcusable".

Excusing and forgiving are very different things in my mind; one is about the behavior, the other is about the person. Bigotry is inexcusable, but if you are going to live with someone who sometimes does or says bigoted things, you are going to have to be prepared to forgive that person for their inexcusable acts.
posted by biogeo at 9:13 AM on November 28, 2016


I think most “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America” cases do boil down to neo-liberals attempting to divert blame from the deep problems with their past economic platforms, Miko and mumimor.

In fact, such articles make good candidates for the catch a neo-liberal journalist game I described elsewhere.

Vi Heart is saying something completely different here though. She is saying that Trump support correlates very well with age. And we can possibly influence the older people in our own lives.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:54 PM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree wth that, I just got onto another topic. Thing is, I just don't think it's worth it to focus on changing the hearts of folks 65 and up. This is the last Presidential election that that sector will be bigger than Milennials; by 2020, every eligible Milennial will be of voting age (not the case yet). If we can get the youth voting rate up, problem solved, mostly. At the same time, the white population is projected to decline by several percentage points on the way to majority-minority. Also favorable. There's a lot of reporting on this from Pew, Center for American Progress, etc. 2020 is one to really watch for ground shifts in the basic demographics.

Though the other demographic shift is that we'll be more urban, and the more that shift continues, the more the electoral college is going to matter and is going to differ proportionally from the popular vote.
posted by Miko at 5:21 PM on November 28, 2016


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