Monday, October 17, 2016

When a professor supports Trump.

Many of my colleagues in academia find it hard to imagine why a reasonable person would support Trump. Most of the people who talk politics with me are those who agree with me or are on the fence, undecided about whether to vote for Trump, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. People who definitely oppose Trump don’t even want to debate the issues with me anymore.



  1. From the WaPo article: "Just last week, a professor from another institution shared a Facebook post hoping for all Trump supporters to be destroyed “immediately and forever.” Who wants to be subject to such expressions of hostility?"

    Within just the past year, a presidential candidate repeatedly shared their hopes that, effectively, all who look like they might have come from another country would be deported forcibly and forever. Who wants to be subject to such expressions of hostility?

    1. Appearance is not the way we distinguish between citizens and non-citizens.

    2. Quite agreed.

      I was trying to mimic the good professor Bonevac's phrasing to comment on how he is unlikely to be mistaken for a member of one of the groups targeted by one of the candidates, and therefore he hasn't been subject to the reported hostility towards citizens who resemble that group. I think he missed a "eureka" moment.

    3. Here's a better description of the hostility that Bonevac is not subject to.

      Colleagues who have been citizens for 40 years, students who are citizens from birth, have told me about recent encounters in rural parts of the state where they were made to fear for their lives. Their anecdotes add to the others in the article.

  2. I try my best to keep politics out of the classroom. Once, a student said to me, “You’re a conservative, aren’t you?” I responded that I was disappointed that he could tell, because I try to present views on all sides fairly, keeping my own views in the background. He answered: “I know. That’s how I could tell.” Periodically, conservative students seek me out, relieved to find someone on the faculty with whom they can talk openly.

    Ah, the humblebrag. All your colleagues wear their leanings on their sleeves, but you, you are so "fair and balanced" that nobody can tell yours. So well are they hidden that you are sought out as a "safe space" by those of the same. Makes perfect sense.

    1. And the name of that student? Albert Einstein!

  3. "Trump has been giving serious speeches detailing his vision ... He has been explaining policies..."

    Umm......... No.

    1. NPR tried to do a series of the usual "where the candidates stand on the issues" spots a week or two ago. It was sad: clip of several paragraphs outlining a coherent, well-thought-out policy (with which one could certainly disagree, but that's in part because both the plan and the reasoning behind it was intelligible), followed by clip of other candidate shouting something vaguely related to the subject at hand, mixed up with six other subjects in a single sentence fragment. Rinse and repeat, ad nauseum. Maybe I've been brainwashed by the lamestream media, but I'm convinced they really tried their best with the materials available. The one thing they didn't do is bring in the two major minor-party candidates, which is realistic in terms of who actually has a chance of winning, but was probably a lost opportunity to offer multiple actual, thought-out and explained viewpoints on the subjects at hand.

  4. My STEM colleagues and I use a variant of Godwin's Law -
    "The longer a conversation with a social scientist goes on, the closer to 1 becomes the probability they will reference a Russian novelist."

    A.K.A. - Bull poop.

  5. The two main candidates are so impeccably, deplorably awful that I cannot bring myself to vote for either. Governor Johnson WILL be receiving my vote in November simply because then I'll be able to look at myself in the mirror.

    Nobody, literally nobody, at my university knows this. I don't know that I'd be afraid of reprisal, but I'd definitely see some scorn. That's not beyond the pale. If I had the audacity to vote for Trump, I can imagine actual retribution for that. Obviously if I were in STEM or Business that would be less the case. But I'm in the Liberal Arts college and there are three flavors of acceptable choices here:

    -Vote for Hillary

    -Say you hate Hillary and loved Bernie and vote for Hillary

    -Talk about how awesome and radical Jill Stein is and vote for Hillary

    While I admire a lot of Hillary's fiscal policies and she certainly is pedigreed, I just can't overlook her foreign policy debacles, her VERY late arrival to the party on social issues (my main attraction to Johnson), and the sheer volume and severity of scandals, corruption, and general misdeeds surrounding her like the Veil of Methuselah.

    I wish that I felt comfortable defending my reasoning, but I don't. I've seen students (and they are many) and faculty who voiced support for Johnson being shouted down and told things like "Just cut out the middle man and vote for Trump."

    So while I think this professor is an idiot for voting for Trump, I can understand his rationale. Even if he's a bit sanctimonious with it.

    1. You've aptly described my vote this year. I live in a very blue state so it doesn't really matter anyway, but we do have some ballot questions this year which are interesting. I'm going to hold my nose and vote. Then, I'm going to take a shower. Then, I'm going to drink.

    2. After voting for a major party candidate to keep the other lizard[1] out as a young adult and feeling nauseated at something he did I swore that I would never again vote to support the evil of two lessers.

      To get my vote a candidate has to convince me that they are reasonably sane, reasonably responsible, and reasonably honest. Each of the major party candidate this time round fails (spectacularly!) at least one of those tests and on closer examination might fail on one or both of the others.

      The world won't actually end if one of those two weasels gets elected but it will never get turned back in the direction of sanity as long as the two major parties think that doing more of the same—only harder—is a good plan.

      I also had the opportunity(?) to live in New Mexico under Johnson's administrations and I would characterize the state government during that era as "trying hard to screw-up less", which is about the best you can hope for.


      [1] Douglas Adams is under appreciated as a political commentator.

    3. Social issues? Seriously? He's anti-choice on abortion, wants to privatize prisons, is anti"government" schools, anti-Social Security, anti-Medicare and Medicare, anti-ACA, etc. Tehy want marriage equality to be decided by the states. And they're anti-voting rights act. Not to mention he wants only private(i.e. EXPENSIVE) student loans. Let me guess, you're white and middle class.... Because a vote for Johnson or Stein is basically saying "I got mine, f you" to our own students, or any person that is not white, Christian and at least middle class..


      "Q: On your website, you state that a woman's right to choose is the law of the land. However, states like Texas continuously put laws in place that restrict abortion services. What would you do about Texas?

      JOHNSON: Well, what people don't understand right now, it is the law of the land. The law of the land currently is not Roe v. Wade. It's Casey v. Planned Parenthood. And the law of the land is, is that a woman has the right to have an abortion up to the point of viability of the fetus..."

      "Q: Does the government have a role in protecting the right to choose that you say you hold inviolate?
      A: We're not looking to change the law of the land. And [with regards to] Planned Parenthood, I think Republicans alienated a lot of people when they talk about de-funding Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does a lot of good, and that starts with women's health..."

      You're demonstrably wrong about his thoughts on abortion. He's long supported a woman's choice. He did so, again, before Hillary Clinton.

      Back in 2007 when Hillary Clinton still thought Gays shouldn't be able to get married, guess what. Johnson did. What's more, for the party that claims to be all about social progress, the Libertarian Party (socially speaking) puts the Democrats to shame.

      The Libertarian Party advocated for LGBTQ equality back in 1972 when they were founded. They argued for the right for a woman to choose back in 1972 when they were founded. They supported these policies forty years before the Democrats got around to them. I think there's something to be said for voting for a candidate and a party who supported my views BEFORE they were popular. That makes me more confident that if the winds ever blow against me, they'll still have my back because they did before. I would also mention that Bill Weld literally sacrificed his career for his pro LGBT beliefs.

      Source on marriage equality decided by states. Source on anti-voting rights act.

      You're proving my point. I'm voting for the least deplorable candidate. To be quite honest, how dare you try to guilt me into voting for your candidate?

    5. There's also something to be said for incentivizing the two main parties to give us better candidates to choose from.

      If you like to buy burgers from a burger stand and they raise the price fifty cents every month, but you NEVER stop buying burgers, why would they ever decrease the price?

      I shouldn't reward them for putting forward atrocious candidates. That logic strikes me as... well... missing a few lines between the dots.

      "If the two major parties are bad enough, you GOTTA vote for them!"

      Hm... Right, then. Take that one to the bank, kids.

    6. I think there's a lot to be said for that argument *if* you're in a state (or, in some states, a congressional district) where the outcome is already clear. If there's the slightest doubt (and given the screwiness of this election, and the possible effect of rapid changes in telecommunications technology on who answers polls, I'd argue that it's hard to completely eliminate doubt almost anywhere), then there's a lot to be said for the "hold your nose and vote for the candidate who won't blow up the world" approach on Nov. 8, followed by intense organizing starting on Nov. 9, or, for that matter, right now.

      The Brexit vote may be illustrative: trying to "send a message" by voting (or not voting) may have played a role in a decision that seems to have shocked a good many Britons.

    7. Cassandra,

      Democracy only works if we vote for who we want to vote for. If each vote is a game theory analysis then it's all pointless.

      Besides, the entire election is a forgone conclusion. The warmonger on the right is going to lose. The warmonger on the left is going to win. A cursory glance at polls demonstrates that. And while I guess that's slightly comforting (I don't see much difference between Clinton and Trump, even without considering the fact that they're longtime friends and have a donor-recipient relationship) to be completely fair Hillary has just as much right to claim the blow up the world crown as trump. She's the only candidate running who has successfully initiated multiple failed wars. Not even counting her proxy wars, of which examples abound.

    8. She may be more connected and experienced than trump in foreign affairs, but she's no Metternich. She wanted to make Syria a no fly zone and entertained the possibility of shooting down Russian planes to enforce it. Hello, World War 3.

    9. "Democracy only works if we vote for who we want to vote for. If each vote is a game theory analysis then it's all pointless."

      While I realize that this seems pretty unassailable, I'd like to offer a thought experiment to question it. Imagine that you are on board a famously large ocean liner on a famously dark night, and an iceberg is spotted ahead. Four possible courses of action are proposed and a vote is taken among the passengers.
      24% vote for a turn to starboard
      24% vote for a turn to port
      24% vote for slowing down
      28% vote to stay the course.

      Now, in this scenario, everyone votes for their genuinely preferred option, but the outcome is... undesirable. I would submit that this is because democracy is about more than simply everyone voting for their preferred option, but about people developing a consensus and choosing a course of action that everyone can live with.

      I won't get into the weeds about alternative voting systems, nor tell anyone how they should vote. But we did have this experience recently here in Canuckistan. A large majority of Canuckistanis wanted to change government, but there were three opposition parties to choose from, two of which had a credible shot at winning. For a couple of months, everything seemed up in the air, then somehow, a consensus seemed to coalesce. Many of us (myself included) had to hold our noses a little while we voted, but the majority of Canuckistanis see the result as an improvement.

    10. I would actually say that that's non sequitur.

      This is an accurate analogy, in my opinion:

      -Do you want me to hit you over the head with a metal bat?
      -Do you want me to hit you over the head with a metal crow bar whose weight approximates that of a bat, but there's a little bit less because it has the sharp tip thing.
      -Nah, I'll just leave you alone and we'll be chill.

      Then the analogy would encompass how I feel about this election and my options. If the two main options were that different, maybe you'd have a point (I would still vote third party because they'd both be atrocious still) but... they're not. Trump and Clinton agree on the vast majority of issues. They both support foreign intervention (despite Trump nominally saying that he doesn't, he turned around and said we have to bomb the crap out of them), they're both against free trade, they both want to expand the same social programs in the same way, they both want the government to be able to spy on me, they both believe that they can curtail my speech.

      I simply will not brook any of these things so I'm voting for the actual one candidate who does not agree with them.

      I'm curious at what point you would agree that we need to turn to the third parties. If Hitler were running against Pol Pot, would you vote for Pol Pot to stop Hitler?

      Clinton has:

      -Gotten us embroiled in multiple failing, interventionist wars.
      -Destroyed the lives of MILLIONS of people in the Middle east with her foreign policy. You think Gary's Aleppo gaffe was bad? At least his Aleppo gaffe didn't result in thousands of innocent casualties like Clinton's.
      -Lied pathologically ("I landed under sniper fire")
      -Engaged in so much scandal, corruption, pay to play, and been on the receiving end of so much dubious help from the DNC in her race against Bernie that she LAPPED Nixon in the corruption race.

      The "lesser of two evils" argument, as tenuous as it already is, completely falls apart when the difference in evil quantities is as fucking negligible as it is now. It's not even a choice of eating shit or vomit, it's a choice of eating shit or shit with bits of corn in it.

    11. If the Democrats had nominated a candidate who was:

      -Supportive of freedom of speech.
      -Not corrupt.

      They'd probably get my vote despite all that. But they didn't. They nominated Satan.

    12. We all need to vote for whom we want to vote for, or the system falls apart: the major parties will just keep handing us shittier candidates and assuming we'll still vote for them.

      However, because of the electoral college, my vote for president can indeed require some attention to game theory. I am in a purple state where in past elections the split has been close enough that a 3rd-party candidate could conceivably pull enough votes from one of the major-party candidates to give the whole state to the other.

      So what to do? When I was young, I learned in some cases to "want" things that I could plausibly attain and/or live with. This may be one of those cases.

    13. But this gets back to "If we keep voting for them why would they change?"

      If you say "You can vote for who you want unless it matters, then you have to vote second party." we wind up with the lesser of two evils argument, which can be MATHEMATICALLY debunked, and our candidates keep getting worse and worse every election.

      I think game theory would have me vote 3rd party because then there's a better chance of having an actual choice/array of decent candidates next election.

      Voting lesser of two evils is why we have Clinton and Trump instead of Biden and Kasich.

    14. I really must make it more a habit to refresh the page before commenting.

    15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    16. But this gets back to "If we keep voting for them why would they change?"

      Aye, there's the rub. I have but one vote, so I cannot simultaneously signal "none of the above" to the major parties whilst actually assuring, at worst, we'll get the least worst of "the above". (I am not so confident that 3rd parties split the major party votes evenly.) Perhaps a system that allowed each voter to rank the candidates would better serve both necessary purposes.

      Here's how I feel: I'm in a restaurant with four items on the menu, two of which are out-of-stock. So, regardless of which item I order, I can only receive one of the two in-stock items. If I specify one of those two, there's a reasonable chance that I'll get it. If I order one of the out-of-stock ones, the manager may consider stocking it again in the future, or just as likely won't give a shit about what I think. Either way I definitely won't get it NOW. Instead, I may be force-fed something toxic... for the next four years. So I think I'll fare better---EVERYONE will fare better---if I order the thing that I can actually stomach and won't kill us all.

      But I can't fault people who actually keep ordering the best item on the menu. We need them.

    17. I would think that was spot on if Clinton and Trump were at all dissimilar. In reality, while the very small and very few differences they have are bloviated upon with great frequency and great volume, the policies they agree upon are either swept under the rug. There are also a large number of policies that one or the other of the candidates has not addressed. Intentionally in order to hide FURTHER similarities? We can only guess.

      But the smart money would be on them being more similar than dissimilar based exclusively upon what we DO know about their policies.

      I don't think this should be shocking. Trump wouldn't donate to every single one of Hillary's campaigns if he didn't fundamentally agree with her. Unless, *gasp*, there were political favors being exchanged between him and our honorable civil servant, Hillary Clinton. It has to be one or the other and it doesn't particularly matter which it is, in my opinion.

      It's a coinflip between the two of them, in my opinion. Donald Trump's stated preferences are anti-war, but his revealed preferences are pro-war, which are also the preferences that Clinton hamfistedly circumlocutes her way around. If anything, Hillary's more bellicose. She may be the most hawkish president since LBJ/Nixon. Definitely more hawkish than Obama. Probably more hawkish than Bush, horrifyingly enough.

      When did my fellow progressives become so okay with war? At least if we elected Donald Trump I could count upon them to revert to the anti-war chant instead of bringing war into their home and warming it by their hearth, fanned by a Hillary yard sign.

    18. Pace, Annie.

      I tried to offer a respectful argument in a non-partisan way. I don't think it warranted *quite* that level of apocalyptic vitriol in response. The point I was trying to make is that I feel democracy can be as much about consensus as it is about each individual's preference. So called 'strategic voting' can sometimes act as a mechanism for reaching that consensus, and avoiding the 'worst of all three evils', if you'll pardon the phrase.

      If I understand your point correctly, it is that you feel both likely outcomes are equally bad, and therefore you have no particular preference which outcome occurs (you'll hate them both). In this case, I do see that it is reasonable to let other voters decide which (awful) outcome occurs while you register your preference for something you think would be better.

      But reasonable people can, and often do have a preference for an outcome they feel would be bad over one that they would feel would be even worse (ie they don't feel the two undesired outcomes are equally bad). This doesn't make them naive or polyannas. People frequently choose the lesser of two evils simply because the alternative is often the greater of two evils.

      And I wonder if I might ask a follow up. I was interested in your comment that the lesser of two evils argument has been mathematically debunked. I'd very much like to see that proof. I don't promise to agree with it, but I ask in good faith willingness to be convinced by a good argument.

      * While I was composing this, OPH posted his comment above. Ranked ballots are one of hte alternative voting systems that have been considered (and sometimes implemented) in various countries. There are other options, each with their pros and cons, but that (to quote Hammy Hamster) is another story.

    19. I'm on the spectrum depending on which of my former psychologists you talk to, and I'm socially incompetent as multiple stories I've submitted to this site can attest to. I honestly was not mad, did not mean anything to be vitriolic. Very sorry if it came across that way, absolutely not my attention. What, in particular, came off as vitriol? Because I absolutely did not mean it that way.

      Working on getting the proof, please stand by.

    20. Johnson didn't know what Aleppo was and couldn't name one world leader; my students don't know what Watergate was, or how it affected present politics. I fear for the future.

    21. Both those statements are inaccurate, though. I'm sure you think they're true but that doesn't make them true.

      Johnson was caught off guard by a reporter asking him questions about very specific domestic social issues then, with no warning, doubling back and saying "How do you FEEL about Aleppo?" Intentionally vague with no indicator that he was switching tracks at all. So Johnson thought "Oh, we must still be on social issues and this is an acronym." He's also outlined the only reasonable policy in Syria which is what our State Department wound up doing.

      He named the former leader of Mexico, Vicente Fox. He simply does not know of any current leaders he admires. Saying he "can't name a single foreign leader" is, I'm sorry, complete abject nonsense. I can link you to videos of him discussing foreign policy, Putin, Kim Jong Un, Trudeaux, and Holande.

      Both of these incidents were complete malarkey. Demonstrably so.

  6. For me, the only aspects of political preference I feel comfortable expressing at the workplace is based on a candidate's views on good education policy for K-12 and uni/college, and commitment to evidence-based policy (i.e. policy backed up by data and research). With these things in mind, as a university professor I wouldn't in a million years vote for Trump (if I was in the US), and it's got nothing to do with being liberal vs conservative.
    I always have a good laugh at these articles that talk about universities being dominated by liberals. These authors have obviously never been in science departments.

    1. That's an interesting observation about science departments. I've always thought that since chemistry has such strong ties to industry (there's no "astronomy industry") that it is more conservative than others. By experience with biology and physics departments are less balanced politically, though not to the extreme of departments outside of the sciences. However, I only have data from grad school and my current university.

  7. I totally agree that professors shouldn't touch political topics unless tackling a question clearly delineated in their discipline.

    As a physicist, I teach the mechanisms and evidence related to global warming, which is far and away the biggest threat to both my country and civilization as a whole right now. (At least, working with the the assumption that some orange orangutan doesn't launch ICBMs.)

    So I tell students: as long as their policy on this matter agrees with the party line, I can never vote for a Republican.

    (I have lots of other reasons, too, but this is one where there is nothing but factual, concrete evidence on one side, and just blind denial and uncaring dismissal on the other.)

  8. This is why we can't have nice things.

    FWIW, I'm voting for my wallet.

  9. @Fred, I'm going to do it slightly differently. I'm going to take a shower. Then, I'm going to drink. Then, I'm going to hold my nose and vote. Then, I'm going to take a shower. Then, I'm going to drink.

    @Pumpkin and Sigma, I have litmus tests, too. To get my vote, a candidate must show no signs of anti-intelectualism, which is not the same as the candidate being in favor of college for everybody, but rather, through their deeds they should demonstrate that they value an informed populace and should be an example of that ideal themselves. Their confidence in their own knowledge should be earned through actually demonstrating knowledge; simply declaring that they have knowledge, or worse yet, that they have more than true experts, is right out. Aligning themselves against scientific consensus under cover such as "science has been wrong before" or "teach the controversy" where none really exists is also a deal breaker. I could go on.

    My problem is that I can rule out a candidate too quickly, and then in an effort to support some candidate, ANY candidate, I do not adequately scrutinize the other(s). For this reason, I don't think it wise to discuss who I am supporting at work, because when a colleague would bring up a shortcoming of "my" candidate, I have no reasonable defense. But, if I am unavoidably drawn into conversation, at least I can articulate my misgivings with the one I CAN'T support, and at least it's relevant enough to education that I can justify articulating it and then leaving it at that.

  10. OPH, have one for me. Or several.

  11. I've heard very little discussion among either colleagues or students on my campus, but I'd guess that the majority of my colleagues fall into one of the categories Annie describes (as, for that matter, do I -- I'll vote for Hillary, with concerns about transparency and Wall Street ties and cronyism, but also hope based on the fact that she is genuinely skillful and qualified, and, I believe, genuinely well-intention while also being pragmatic. That's not a bad thing in a president, and it may be that a slightly cynical/sullied but also determined and focused 70-something is precisely what we need to break the gridlock and get things moving again.)

    There was a certain amount of Johnson chalking early in the semester, which isn't a surprise; we've got an active libertarian contingent on campus. I'm not sure how large they are, though.

    We've also got a very diverse student body, so I suspect most had ruled out voting for Trump back when he was talking mostly about walls and the dangers of letting muslims into the country. I doubt his recent remarks about women have changed any minds. Based on that fact (and on a genuine belief in civic engagement, even if it works against my preferences), I will probably urge the students I see on 11/7 to vote, and remind them that it's important (but will say no more than that, even if they ask).

  12. I'm an American who's been living in a Muslim-majority country for the past eight years. I *never* talk politics here with anyone, because I'm so desperately ashamed of how my country looks from the outside right now. Xenophobia in general, Islamophobia in particular—in a country that, as we all keep saying, was built on immigration and freedom of religion. Plenty of people here would still give anything to be able to emigrate to the U.S., but sometimes I just have to wonder why.


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