Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Chris Arnade, a photographer and writer, has a post up at Medium (which began as a tweetstorm) about Hillary Clinton's struggle to close the sale this year. He thinks she's in trouble, even though he supports her. His conclusion?

Arnade continues:
11. Bill Clinton was a back row kid at heart. That is what he came from. (Go visit his hometown. Really.)

12. Trump is what the back row (and middle rows) often love best. Someone from the front row who joins them.

13. Not only is Trump joining them, he is shooting spitballs at the kids in the front. Making them all mad!

14. And what does team Hillary do? Goes full front row on everyone, throwing scorn. “How dare you behave so awfully! Grow up! Bad kids!”

15. That is why “basket of deplorable” was so damaging. It is exactly how everyone who isn’t in the front row thinks the front row thinks about everyone else.
I grew up a brainy truck driver's son in a white ethnic neighborhood in Boston, and I made it to the Ivy League. So I'm one of the front row kids Arnade is talking about, right? Except that I never felt like an elitist. In my childhood, it was embarrassing to be a brainy kid. I don't think Hillary Clinton grew up quite that way, but even when magazines were writing about her Wellesley commencement speech, she wasn't some sort of charismatic flaming youth who appeared to be getting all the sex and drugs while the working class died in Vietnam. She was a grind. She still is a grind. The back row kids may be screwed by life eventually, but they often look down on the front row kids for their awkwardness as much as for their prospects.

Yes, Bill got along with the kids in the back row. After three straight presidential losses in the 1980s, I was glad the Democrats found somebody in '92 who had that rapport.

But here we see the inconsistency in what Arnade writes. First he tells us that "this election is about everyone else throwing [the front row kids] out," then he tells us that being a back row kid helped propel Bill Clinton to the presidency. So we're not talking just about the unique circumstances of this moment. It's how we always are. We always want someone who, as Molly Ivins said, has some Elvis.

We want that even when we're not in despair. In '92, when Bill Clinton won, there was an economic downturn, along with a crime wave -- but things were pretty good in 2000 when George W. Bush, who came off as a back row kid, got close enough in the vote to steal the election from Al Gore, a grind.

If Trump wins this year, then the last two "back row" Republicans to ascend to the presidency will have been rich sons of elitists. That's how we do class war in America -- we don't resent the Bushes and Trumps, or at least the ones who have self-important swagger. We hate Hillary Clinton for rising from the middle class through hard work, and who can't look cool while doing it.


AllieG said...

A society where accomplishment is resented won't accomplish much.

Knight of Nothing said...

Arnade's scrawl seems like nonsense to me. Maybe instead of this "front row/back row" tripe, the election is about...

-the huge race problem that still festers in this country
-ongoing economic/wage stagnation in the middle and lower classes
-anxiety about globalization

All of these seem far more likely than his armchair pop psychology BS.

Victor said...

Americans love the people born on third base, more than the ones who hit a single, double, or a triple.

And if the ones born on third base act like they were entitled to be born about to step on home plate for a home run, they often are even more respected and beloved.

In other words, Americans secretely love aristocracy. It comes from our British roots - yes, even after almost 250 years.
And that's what we have now - an aristocracy in all but name.

Kathy said...

There's an element of hating the smart girl too. Donald Trump brags about his brain all the time, but it doesn't seem to hurt him. Hillary Clinton actually IS smart, and she's not an egotistical asshole about it. I was one of the smart girls in school, and I remember what it was like to be picked at and bullied - except when it was time for everyone to write a report on a book only I had read. I hope to God voters on election day realize the country needs help with the book report.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Overtly, at least, American politics in general and this election in particular are less about class than about race.

Like Trump insisting we are at war with Islam and Muslims, Democrats, liberals, and nonwhites play the game of their enemies when they insist the Republicans are the white people’s party (sometimes the white men’s party), leaving the Democrats by implication the party of everybody else.

Hillary and her supporters are smarter than Trump and smarter than the race-obsessed enemies not only of The Duce but of what the Republicans have made of themselves in their long slide into the gutter since the earliest days of the Southern Strategy.

She insists that we are war with terrorists, extremists, criminals, and evil people who distort religion into a celebration of savagery and firmly rejects that we are at war with Islam or the Muslims of the world.

In like manner, she is more than forthright in denouncing the Republicans for becoming the party not of white people but of white identity, of white racism, and even (with a moderate abuse of terms) of white supremacism.

But she campaigns not on the slogan, “Democrats, the colored peoples’ party,” “Democrats, the women’s party,” or “Democrats, the party for everybody else,” but “stronger together.”

And in pointed contrast to the party of racial exclusion and racial competition the Republicans have become, she and the Democrats supporting her stand not for everybody else but for everybody, for inclusion rather than exclusion.

And a trucker’s son will be back row all his life no matter what he achieves.

Unknown said...

This guy is a dick....
Hillary is not a front row kid...she is the kid, over on the side, sitting alone because no one wants to be friends with her. She is that hard working, too big glasses wearing, quiet kid who everyone secretly resents because of her good grades and tries hard to negates her hard work by calling her a teacher's pet.
No one wanted to hang out with her, especially the cool, rich jocks and sycophants...until, of course, it is time to take the final...then everyone wanted to sit next to her but calls
her a bitch when she doesn't let them cheat off her.

Danp said...

Sorry to disagree, but I think Arnade's analogy is pretty good.

It's anti-intellectualism, but it is also anti-smug, anti-authority, and who-sould-you-rather-have-a-beer-with mindset. Trump is the class clown who you don't take seriously, but if he sticks a fork in the teacher's ass, that's good.

In this case, it is largely the result of a Republcan anti-government (read: teacher or school administration) type of populism. "We don't need no education. Leave us kids alone." I recently spoke to someone who will vote Trump (though she sort of denies it), who said it doesn't really matter. "They all seem to muddle through, no matter how bad they are." I said, "You think Bush muddled through?" "We're still here, aren't we?" I wanted to put her in the corner until the bell rings so she could think about that.

Danp said...

Beth Foote: Hillary is not the quiet kid on the side. She always has her hand up, yelling "I know. I know." And when Miss Picklepuss asks who took all the chalk, she quickly asserts, "I would never do that, Miss Picklepuss," while staring disapprovingly at Donnie in the corner.

Anonymous said...

Donald Trump is a flashy, vulgar millionaire whose father was a vulgar millionaire. He has a big mouth and no scruples and thinks he's tough. In any movie about misfits, made anytime between 1977 and 1997, the climax would be when Donald Trump gets pantsed, then kicked full force in the gonads.

Anonymous said...

The more I think about this drivel the more it pisses me off. Who the fuck is Chris Arnade? He's a putz with stupid ideas. He's just doing the lame, over-determined ANTIESTABLISHMENT MOOD shtick that will be entirely vitiated when Hillary Clinton wins.

Unknown said...

I have lots of thoughts on Clinton's personality. The upshot is that she may be a high functioning autistic. She has a very difficult time with transparency because she can't conceive of how other people will perceive her actions or what they'll be interested in. She can't understand why everyone else isn't as fascinated by the nuts and bolts of policy as she is. She can't conceive of the minds of others. I write about it in Clinton's Health Debacle and Mindblindness ( there are links to other article analyzing the evidence for her autism. You should read it if you're interested.