An eagle-eyed focus on their own financial future
October 1, 2020 3:09 PM   Subscribe

the lifestyle blog voter. In a followup of sorts to her BuzzFeedNews 2016 essay, Meet The Ivanka Voter, Anne Helen Petersen takes a look at what white suburban women are thinking about the 2020 election. Kicked off by an informal poll on a well-know lifestyle blogger's Instagram, Petersen digs into why some of these women are Trump supporters, and how what may be a decisive demographic slice of the electorate often gets overlooked and misunderstood.
posted by soundguy99 (46 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
These ladies talk about not wanting to be called sexist, racist, or dumb. Trouble is, they are those things, each one of them, only differently so than the coal-rolling rednecks they don't want to be lumped in with.

If you have a political opinion you can't take out in public around decent people, you need to ask yourself why. Possibly there is a good reason! Possibly, however, there is not.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:19 PM on October 1 [34 favorites]


(I talk big, but I absolutely know women like this -- only less secretly so, because it's the South and they can just blend in as a Republican. And I don't have it in me to cut them off entirely. They may be salvageable.)
posted by Countess Elena at 3:20 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced this is a product of insulation, the end game of the suburbs. Zoning and (public) transportation policies unite to squeeze the real world out and what's left is a media-driven reality. These women may just be as Now as millenials are, though cultivated as a separate crop.

These ladies talk about not wanting to be called sexist, racist, or dumb. Trouble is, they are those things

Vanity. Someone I'll call "a person in my family" is in their 80s, uses a walker -- badly -- while hunched over like the most hunchback senior you've ever seen, taking steps by shuffling each foot six inches at a time. They don't want grab bars put up around the house "because it'll make them look old." I see this as directly related. There's something about the contemporary (US?) condition that feeds these unreal existences.

Also, this article pissed me off a bit because it sounds to me like they've finally given a name to the white middle-class women who put Trump over the top in 2016. I kind of skimmed, but I didn't see any reference to that.
posted by rhizome at 3:25 PM on October 1 [5 favorites]


This was the most frightening thing I've read about U.S. electoral demographics in a long, long time.
posted by cgc373 at 3:26 PM on October 1 [5 favorites]


Maybe "denial as a lifestyle choice."
posted by rhizome at 3:26 PM on October 1


>Also, this article pissed me off a bit because it sounds to me like they've finally given a name to the white middle-class women who put Trump over the top in 2016. I kind of skimmed, but I didn't see any reference to that.

From the article: Until we can be honest about the actual characteristics of Trump voters, we’re going to keep having these dead-end conversations about this election. Many of the POC pundits and thinkers in my feed have been issuing this corrective for years, repeatedly pulling out the stats on suburban white women who voted for Trump, especially when white #Resist twitter starts talking about how black voters in particular need to show up on election day. But you know who keeps propping up this image of the working class Trump voter? A bunch of white, educated, upper middle-class people who should know better.
posted by cgc373 at 3:29 PM on October 1 [15 favorites]


Can we stop reflexively calling Trump voters dumb? There are definitely racist and sexist and but people are making conscious decisions to be this way. More information isn’t going to change their minds - this is about identity, about deep-seated ideas about the self, not about not realizing the facts. I’m from the mountain West, and I see a lot of women like this amongst distant friends and acquaintances.
posted by heurtebise at 3:35 PM on October 1 [13 favorites]


Okay we can call them hateful bastards who knowingly enable a white supremacist regime.
posted by Ferreous at 3:38 PM on October 1 [31 favorites]


I don't know. I have been making political phone calls for about a month, and I have suddenly started hearing a lot of references to what Trump has done for people's 401Ks, so much so that I think that exact phrase ("what he's done for my 401K") may be a Fox News talking point. And I'm not convinced that those people are suddenly all focused on their 401Ks. I think that it gives them cover for voting for the guy whom they want to vote for, and the reason that they want to vote for him is that they're white supremacists. And I get why Anne Helen Petersen would not want to admit that all her childhood friends went Nazi, but that's what's going on. They're just too "nice" to want to admit it.

And yes, many of them are middle-class-and-up white supremacists. But they're not just oblivious apolitical people who don't care about anything but their retirement accounts.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:42 PM on October 1 [46 favorites]


A lot of the Trump supporters in the article mention that he's good for the economy. Has he been good for the economy? Yes, but Obama was better and Democratic presidents have historically done much better than Republican presidents. If you were concerned about the economy as a voter in 2016 you'd vote Clinton as she would have been more of the same as the previous 8 years. There are wider discussions you could have about equating the economy with the performance of stock markets, or the amount of impact any president actually has on the economy but a vote for Trump wasn't, and isn't a vote for a stronger economy.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:46 PM on October 1 [9 favorites]


The sole feature of the trump admin has been punching down at anyone who isn't white, cishet and well to do. To look at this admin and claim anything else is motivating your vote is lying to save face.

I feel as though this article is just another way to filter white supremacy through the lens of "economic anxiety" to obfuscate it.
posted by Ferreous at 3:52 PM on October 1 [18 favorites]


but a vote for Trump wasn't, and isn't a vote for a stronger economy.

I wonder if "good for the economy" means "good for people in my position in the economy".
posted by clawsoon at 3:53 PM on October 1 [24 favorites]


That's the "K-shaped recovery": the top-half goes up and the bottom half goes down.
posted by rhizome at 3:56 PM on October 1 [7 favorites]


But that was happening under Obama as well - the economy rebounded after the financial crisis of 2008 but all of the gains were captured by the people at the top. Maybe if you're a coal miner things are looking better under a Trump presidency but otherwise I'm not seeing it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:05 PM on October 1


These middle class suburban voters know what they are. They only care about not looking like they're bad people.

Their entire acquisitive lifestyle is worthless without people of color and the poor staying in the places white America wants them in. It's this hierarchy thing. There are people who need to believe for whatever reason that there should be a hierarchy, and they should be at the top of it, even if it means voting in those who would destroy other people. As long as they don't have to think about it.
posted by droplet at 4:11 PM on October 1 [23 favorites]


I'm thinking about the women I know who are Trump supporters. A couple of them are personally very generous, worked in homeless shelters, interested in racial justice - they were the ones talking about orange shirt day on my Facebook feed - not at all who I'd expect to support a narcissistic sociopath. I've slowly figured out that it mostly has to do with networks of trust for them, the same way that networks of trust have influenced changing opinions on places like Metafilter for people like me. The Trump campaign's discovery that there were compromising photos of Falwell - and their willingness to leverage them - is looming larger in my mind, at least for this subset of women. Christian leaders started saying good things about Trump and filtering out all the bad things, and that trickled down networks of trust in the same way that American imperialism started to seem good and noble to many Mefites after 8 years of Obama.

The women in this article sound more like the ones who I immediately (and probably unfairly in many cases) assume are Trump supporters if they look like Fox News anchors.
posted by clawsoon at 4:15 PM on October 1 [11 favorites]


I wonder if "good for the economy" means "good for people in my position in the economy”

That's the "K-shaped recovery": the top-half goes up and the bottom half goes down.


Or in other words, “the economy is doing fine because it has given me more people to look down upon, thus giving me the illusion that I am doing well.”

I’d bet actual currency that most people arguing that also attend a church that pushes the gospel of prosperity, which reinforces their deep seated belief that poor people are poor because they’re inherently bad or morally wrong.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:16 PM on October 1 [7 favorites]


This article is missing an important point: these women tend to be married to men who only watch Fox News. Fox News is not only beloved by angry seniors, you should see the protests that erupt when a suburban gym employee "accidentally" turns a couple of TVs to CNN.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:32 PM on October 1 [13 favorites]


I too found that article disturbing.

I concur that these women aren't necessarily stupid, but the focus on their personal circumstances, and a fear of change (if you accept that they're not in it for the racism), belies the short-sightedness of their thinking. Who do they think will do their pedicures, clean their bathrooms, and watch their children, at the end of this? Who will pick their organic apples? What will they do when the 3%-ers show up armed at their OBGYN's office?

It's very blinkered thinking: "My 401K is okay and I have health insurance, therefore I want everything to stay the way it is." Except the way it is is a slow grind into economic and political collapse, and all the cute pastel instastories in the world won't stop that.
posted by suelac at 4:49 PM on October 1 [10 favorites]


I think "good for the economy" means different things to different people who say it. Some just mean "Fox News says the economy is good". Others, probably including a lot of these people, mean "good for me, personally, monetarily" (probably primarily the TCJA).

Of course, that can often be shortsighted (ignoring the probable long-term negative effect of Trump's policies on the US economy that will eventually come back to haunt people). But its not like most people spend a lot of time thinking about broad economic policy, and people tend to give credit for good economic things to politicians they generally like (and vice-versa), even though in reality Presidents have relatively little power over the economy anyway. (I mean, Trump may have signed the TCJA but its the Republican Congress that got it passed).
posted by thefoxgod at 4:56 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I accept that they're in it for the racism; they just know better than to be blatant about it unless they're with their friends or family. They have a lot of contempt for the people who do all their service work, so it wouldn't bother them if their servants suffered, and if they don't have to see these people's work and suffering blatantly, all the better.
posted by toastyk at 5:01 PM on October 1 [10 favorites]


They're not stupid. They're bad.
posted by pracowity at 5:01 PM on October 1 [20 favorites]


I’d bet actual currency that most people arguing that also attend a church that pushes the gospel of prosperity, which reinforces their deep seated belief that poor people are poor because they’re inherently bad or morally wrong.

Just-world Hypothesis
Franklin Graham, and.
posted by rhizome at 5:03 PM on October 1 [4 favorites]


Call me cynical, but it doesn't surprise me that these women would be leaning towards Trump. Upper-middle-class white married suburban women are an extremely reliable pillar of the Republican voter base. Probably second-only to upper-middle-class white married suburban men. The more wealthy someone is, the more likely they are to vote Republican. Married women are more likely than single women to vote Republican. Suburban voters as well, and obviously white voters. When you put all those factors together, you get a Republican.

It's horrifying because he's Trump, but it's not new.
posted by lunasol at 5:07 PM on October 1 [13 favorites]


My parents are suburbanite, republican trumpies. And they aren't dumb, and are legit shocked and dismayed when they hear the N word. My insight into them (and I am not asserting this is universal) just recently became clear. They're white boomers who changed their social strata via education, hard work, good luck, and the unrivaled economic postwar expansion, and oppression of POC.

They believe in meritocracy, above all.

Like *really* believe it. And anything that interferes with that belief is bad, and equivalent to stealing from them and people like them. So, massive resistance to racial and gender equality issues, massive resistance to the social safety net, to affirmative action, to labor unions...they can easily ignore police violence because 'if you don't do anything wrong, nothing bad will happen' (discussed recently).

So some combination of meritocracy and just-world fallacy actually makes them...

Racists. Even though they would never use the N word.

It was a hard day for everyone on 11/10/16 when I was morally obligated to actually, literally tell them they're racists in person.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:24 PM on October 1 [48 favorites]


[Please take a moment to think twice about whether you are engaging with the article or taking a misogynistic chance to dunk on women as a group whenever it's presented, because it's not cute, and the same offenders, who claim to be feminist allies, do it in just about every thread about politics.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:25 PM on October 1 [31 favorites]


The more wealthy someone is, the more likely they are to vote Republican. Married women are more likely than single women to vote Republican. Suburban voters as well, and obviously white voters. When you put all those factors together, you get a Republican.

Ok, speaking as an upper middle class white suburban woman, can we not? Lots of people meeting that description are leaving Trump behind this election and lots of us would rather have died than vote for him in 2016. He is dog whistling like crazy about leftist invasions in the suburbs because his polls tell him he's losing us. It is simply inaccurate to say shit like this.

I've given my limit to Biden and so has my spouse. I'm text banking for him every weekend with my baby in my arms. I know many other comfortable white suburban moms and they're all just as fucking sick about the future of this country as anyone on metafilter. Um, we have kids who have to grow up on this planet the Republicans are actively poisoning, who haven't been back to school since March! Are you even reading what you're writing?

I get that this article was an upsetting read, it upset me too, but holy crap, there are plenty of suburban white ladies who are mad as hell just like you. Look at the polling. We aren't all ice-cold reactionaries. Not even close.
posted by potrzebie at 5:27 PM on October 1 [15 favorites]


We aren't all ice-cold reactionaries. Not even close.

I wonder if the old putting-women-on-a-pedestal thing is part of what's going on here. Women are supposed to be pure and kind, therefore any woman who supports Trump has departed from the ideal of womanhood, therefore she's a special kind of monster, much worse than the men whose nature naturally makes them more likely supporters of Trump.

And I regretted my "heels" comment almost as soon as I made it. Apologies.
posted by clawsoon at 5:35 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


I get that this article was an upsetting read, it upset me too, but holy crap, there are plenty of suburban white ladies who are mad as hell just like you. Look at the polling. We aren't all ice-cold reactionaries. Not even close.

This reads like a gender-flipped version of "not all men". Yes, plenty of upper-middle-class white women did not vote for Trump, but crucially, a hell of a lot of them did because, as this article points out, there were very material and real benefits in doing so (and doing so again in 2020).

This piece is excellent and I wish there were more like it:
That sort of conditioning to instability leads to all sorts of decisions. Some people look outward, for a way to change the society that has fostered that precarity. And some respond by looking inward, frantically trying to maintain what they’ve carved out for themselves. That turn inward is often facilitated by overtly and covertly racist ideas about poverty, addiction, crime, prison, education, and so much more. But the animating principle: self-preservation. Of class position, of course, but also placement in the racial hierarchy, dominance of religious beliefs, and general worldview. They want to maintain the status quo because, at least in this moment, it continues to favor them.
Of course, this is what leftist people of color have been saying for decades. The suburbs have always been a rotten, corrosive place. But maybe a white woman like Anne Helen Petersen has more credibility with the white mainstream audience that so desperately needs to understand this.
posted by Ouverture at 5:58 PM on October 1 [29 favorites]


My comment is drawn from demographic data in polling. It is actually not a moral judgement on a group of people. These are verifiable facts. It doesn’t mean ALL white upper-middle-class suburban women are Republicans, it means they are more likely to be than non-married women, or poorer women, or women who are not white.

But as I said, they are less likely to be Republicans than men of the same group. I too find the focus on women over men in these conversations is often a bit skewed and can verge on prurient.
posted by lunasol at 6:11 PM on October 1 [13 favorites]


Are these the same women the Clintons called "soccer Moms"?
posted by CCBC at 11:22 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


My sister is very closely this person. College educated, in her 50's - strongly pro gay rights, doesn't think too much about civil rights - almost always votes Republican because of taxes and wallet. Hates the Clintons with the passion of a thousand burning suns. But the thing that really pushed her to vote for Trump rather than abstaining was the Pulse shooting. It activated in her a "fear of immigrants" that I'd never heard expressed before. She even asked me one night if I wasn't scared of the immigrant problem and I laughed because I live in probably the most immigrant centered metro in America.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:55 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


The racism, it makes people dumb like this.
posted by eustatic at 1:43 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Literally laughed out loud at the quote in one of the images about a woman who works in "constitutional litigation" (ok, sure you do) who worries about Biden not respecting the constitution.

Has he been good for the economy? Yes, but Obama was better and Democratic presidents have historically done much better than Republican presidents.

The reality is that presidents are not the CEO of the economy. Presidential action just doesn't have that much impact and government action (except during a crisis) has a very slow effect.

Another point is that most people know nothing about economics, really. Not classical, not neo-classical, not Marxist, neither micro nor macro. That's neither surprising nor bad - it's a nerdy subject, in many ways of questionable value unless you're actually a policy maker. So what do people mean when they talk about "the economy" anyway? They're not digging deep into productivity statistics, are they? They just mean their personal finances. For people in the upper middle class (n.b. most of the gauche proles in this article - imagine thinking Ivanka Trump is classy? - are not upper middle) the agenda of the Republican party, at least in the short term, is in their favour. They will pay fewer taxes (especially if they live in states with no/low state income tax).

Why shouldn't they vote for the party that represents their class interests? Personally, I doubt that it is really in the long term interests of most of these people for Donny and the Nasty Bunch to be in charge, but in terms of next year's bank statements it totally is and more importantly they believe that.

See also the obsession with "what he's done for my 401K". Listen chumps, if you have little enough wealth that it can go in a 401K - IOW you're setting aside a modest portion of your earned income in a vehicle that can only be accessed once your knees hurt in the morning - then what happens in the real economy is much important to your economic future than what the DJI is doing this week.

Nonetheless, I do actually think that there's something a little hopeful about looking at these people. That's because for all the self-interest, these are not people who will show up to vote for someone who won't condemn white supremacists. Don't get me wrong, many of them actually are white supremacists, but they certainly don't think of themselves that way and they don't care for people who do. It is precisely in this demographic where Trump has been haemorrhaging voters.
posted by atrazine at 1:43 AM on October 2 [4 favorites]


The reality is that presidents are not the CEO of the economy. Presidential action just doesn't have that much impact and government action (except during a crisis) has a very slow effect.

I am kind of fascinated by this, because the idea that the performance of the economy is directly controlled by the President seems to be a core political belief in this country. Where does it come from? Perhaps from Hoover and the Great Depression, followed by FDR? But it was WW2 that really got the economy going again, wasn't;t it, more so than New Deal policies.
posted by thelonius at 1:59 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Nonetheless, I do actually think that there's something a little hopeful about looking at these people.

And talking, I suppose. One good thing about their ideas about "the economy" or "law and order" being empty deflections from their whiteness, rather than genuine, deep concerns, is that you may be able to talk about how republicans are bad for "the economy" for most of us, and about how setting murderer cops free without prosecution might be bad.

But the bad thing is that the white supremacy gives them all these opportunities to deflect from reality again. At some point, they've got to want to come out of their denial, and it s exhausting to continue to reach out, hope that this time, maybe it will stick for more than five days
posted by eustatic at 5:34 AM on October 2


Literally laughed out loud at the quote in one of the images about a woman who works in "constitutional litigation" (ok, sure you do) who worries about Biden not respecting the constitution.

This is something I noticed. This piece is based on how people are presenting themselves online, in their own blogs or in comments. I am pretty sure a lot of them are trying to make themselves look richer or in some other way higher status. (You're right; I'll eat my hat if that person is a lawyer.) That whole blog culture is very aspirational and very often it seems like the authors are monetizing their blogs aggressively and/or involved in some form of MLM. An upscale version like Arbonne, but still MLM. It doesn't surprise me at all when people like that turn out to be Trumpists because it's all about getting more and pretending to be more.
posted by BibiRose at 7:36 AM on October 2 [5 favorites]


I wonder how much of the later Trump skew was from the poll becoming popular enough to hit the bot farms?
posted by scruss at 7:53 AM on October 2


BibiRose: I am pretty sure a lot of them are trying to make themselves look richer or in some other way higher status. (You're right; I'll eat my hat if that person is a lawyer.) That whole blog culture is very aspirational and very often it seems like the authors are monetizing their blogs aggressively and/or involved in some form of MLM.

You're thinking they're the kind of people who would rent a set to take fake private jet photos in?
posted by clawsoon at 10:02 AM on October 2 [4 favorites]


That fake private jet ("jet set?") newsblip may have been the funniest mass-market story in September.

I am kind of fascinated by this, because the idea that the performance of the economy is directly controlled by the President seems to be a core political belief in this country.

I think "belief" is the wrong word to use, and I think it's more complicated than that. On the politician's side, they know how little effect any moment in politics has on The Economy, but, being politicians, they want to take credit for any positive change, as well as assigning blame to opponents for negative changes. This has become normalized, though (outside of Trump) you don't hear people try to connect a change with a particular decision. Therein lies the gap: they can't, because individual decisions don't have that much effect.

Downstream, as ably described above, we know basically nothing about economics, the complicated system that requires a large team of PhD's to even formulate a suggested change in policy. So, being rabble in search of a leader, we take the Economic Control idea as received wisdom, then listen as time produces events that politicians fit into that model. Heck, writing it out like this is pretty textbook narcissistic (as I understand it): provide a story, then fit events into that story and ignore or destroy every other interpretation.

Spitballing further, I figure this is why people are being called "Communists" these days, because HUAC taught us that political affiliations can be used to harm people, except nobody's figured out a way to destroy lives by calling them socialists. Well, non-racist affiliations anyway, white supremacy is still safe.
posted by rhizome at 11:56 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


These people are self-absorbed, shallow, petty, shortsighted, heedless...but I can't think of anything more defeatist than the continued insistence on calling them "dumb" or "stupid." Ableist insults are not progressive. And they're a negative influence on the closet Trump voters in our lives who might be willing to consider voting for Biden The Centrist McCenterperson.
posted by desuetude at 12:17 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


This article reminded me of something I just put my finger on: a Bret Stephens article claiming to be the secret testimony of a closet Trump voter who is an NYC lesbian bookstore manager. I don't have a good word for Stephens, but you know, maybe she exists. If there are other employees there who have noticed that their manager hates the homeless and won't turn loose of a dollar, then I expect they know who it is.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:08 PM on October 2


The problem with these voters is that they do not think for themselves and likely never will. All of their "reasons" for supporting trump are directly plagiarized from conservative media talking points. They consume media and regurgitate it back. It's the same media their partners and friends consume. Unless they somehow get the desire to seek out more varied media (like some life shake-up event) that might change their mind they will remain the same. They are comfortable with their ignorance so they willfully remain ignorant, which makes them gross and bad.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:00 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


I have suddenly started hearing a lot of references to what Trump has done for people's 401Ks

So as someone who had a decent-paying job for the first time over the past several months, like, not substantial wealth but enough to buy a nice vacuum cleaner without overthinking it, I thought to myself, hey, I've got no retirement, I should buy some stocks. It's all online now, I'll get some like green energy & some tech stuff & let it sit for a while in case we don't defeat capitalism before I am dead.

During the few months I've been paying attention to stocks, Donald fucking Trump has significantly crashed the market twice. The second time was just lately when he contracted COVID-19, so I can only blame him for that as far as, you know, a competent president would have significantly decreased spread and/or idk taken precautions & not gotten COVID-19.

The first time was when he tweeted about the stock market being very, very good under his watch & everyone panicked & sold off because dear God what is he covering up for & the Dow crashed. Seriously. He crashed the stock market by tweeting that it was doing well.

So I don't know if 401Ks work substantially differently from individual stocks such that he's caused them to go up, but I do know this, viscerally: stocks do not like him. Stocks are afraid of him. The best thing you can do for your stocks is keep them far, far away from this man before he murders them completely.
posted by taquito sunrise at 3:21 AM on October 4 [2 favorites]


Huge just world-ism rooted in racism. None of the things that the safety net would apply to me could possibly happen! Bad things happen to Those People.

If only they realized that ....1% more taxes, for 50% more security from disaster for the middle classes re: unemployment benefits, better job protections, better enviro. protections aaandd.....

...... -their health insurance...... a huge part of their economic self-interest - was contingent on having a job (chances are the long covid recession will destroy) or having something like...... single payer or the public option (i.e "socialism").
posted by lalochezia at 1:33 PM on October 6


During the few months I've been paying attention to stocks, Donald fucking Trump has significantly crashed the market twice.

The thing about the market is that it's mostly just a petulant child that has appetites and gets scared and bases a lot of actions on a very rudimentary understanding of the world. "President sick" is bad, "President not sick any more" was close enough and it bounced back. "Stock market strong" and it notices maybe it's time to take some winnings out. And when the market drifts down there's no memory of why so they hop back in and things go up. It mostly wants to go up so it does, logic to the devil. The president can make a wave that rocks the boat for a day or three, but mostly the market is going to do its thing.
posted by Cris E at 9:15 PM on October 7 [2 favorites]


« Older The Culmination of an Arms Race in Maximizing...   |   A Fuller Picture of Artemisia Gentileschi Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments