Friday, February 12, 2016

Charles Murray on Trump's rational appeal

Charles Murray has been a sympathetic target of some vicious ad hominem attacks over the years, so when he began unloading a series of ad hominem attacks on Trump last Fall, several people on the AltRight were understandably nonplussed. Attempting to get to the root of the seemingly visceral animus, I finally got this out of the scholar:

Collecting data? I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, as he does allude to it in the article referred to below. It's not like Establishment disdain, especially when so utterly devoid of substance, is detrimental to Trump's chances anyhow. With said disdain, Murray is in good company.

The Republican party forfeited time rebutting Obama in its state of the union response--an opportunity for the party to reach a wider audience than just about any other time over the course of the previous year--to attack its own frontrunner (and by extension, a plurality of its electorate). The next day, Nikki Haley, feeling the electorate's heat, was walking her insults as Trump had a field day owning them.

National Review blew its load attacking him. Crickets chirped.

A couple of days ago, Rush Limbaugh endorsed Cruz over Trump. The day Limbaugh said this, Trump's national support among Republicans was at 36%. Today, it's registering at 40%.

Nobody gives a shit what these self-important gatekeepers think anymore. To the extent they do pay the sentries any mind, it's largely for the purposes of refutation and ridicule. The walls are crumbling all around them, and people are pouring in over the rubble as those newly exposed gatekeepers hug up against those now irrelevant gates. When one of them foolishly steps out to skirmish with someone rushing past, he often gets torn limb-from-limb in the ensuing bloodbath (read through the responses and enjoy some schadenfreude).

Getting back to Murray, he has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the Trump phenomenon. The gist is that Trump is a predictable, rational Fishtown response to the effects globalization and mass immigration are having on working-class Americans. That's fine as far as it goes, but he's deluding his readership by implying that Trump is just being carried along by the uneducated, resentful poor. To the contrary, as Z explains:
One of the things I have been looking at in the polling data is the fact Trump seems to have a steady vote share across demographics, excluding race. Despite all the blather from the Conservative Industrial Complex about Trump relying on low-skill angry losers, he polls well with the college educated and he does well with higher income earners. In the GOP field, Trump is the most broad based candidate running.
We've looked at this before, but to see what is directly in front of our noses requires constant vigilance, so let's take a look at support among Republicans in Reuters-Ipsos most recent five-day national tracking poll, first by educational attainment and then by income. Among those without a college degree:

Indeed, Trump dominates among the less educated. And among those with at least a four-year college degree:

Oh, he still has more than twice as much support among college-educated Republicans as the next guy does. In Charles Murray's defense, I'm sure Andy Reid would be livid if the Chiefs only won against the Broncos 34-16 in their second meeting of the season after beating them 42-19 in their first match up!

Maybe it's the well-educated but monetarily unsuccessful who are powering the Trump train. Support among Republicans earning less than $50,000 a year:

He has nearly half of them to himself. Too bad his support among Republicans earning at least six-figures is so underwhelming!:

Trump's base of support is broad. Cruz's support base is actually a better example of what Murray describes Trump's support base as than, uh, Trump's actual support base is.

Okay, but that's just polling. What really matters is how people vote. Let's look at how Trump did among college-educated granite staters:

He won handily. And among wealthy New Hampshire voters:

Oh dear!

Well, Murray's still right about the genetic influence on cognitive abilities, so there's that.


The Crumudgeon said...

We are the Trumpenproletariat

Anonymous said...

Not that you need confirmation, but I had the chance to meet and talk with Murray shortly after he went public denouncing Trump. It was. Not a troll what he said privately was the same thing and was sincere.

Then again, he's from Iowa. And Trump lost there.

WI said...

The willful ignorance of someone like Murray is astounding. Is it really that difficult for these people to understand the appeal of populism? The root explains it well enough. There is so much virtue signalling going on here that it is only worth reading these guys for that, not for any underlying insights they discover.

The Z Blog said...

My read here is that Murray and a lot of guys who enjoy noticing are looking for cost free ways to inoculate themselves against what they see shaping up over the next decade. I think most good thinkers have been assuming Murray is a bad thinker and ready to go full-on Steve Sailer/John Derbyshire. They were ready to Watson him. Denouncing Trump buys him some breathing room.

Also keep in mind that Murray is on the payroll of AEI. The financial backers of AEI are not happy about their party being over run by Dirt People. Murray has to eat like the rest of us so maybe he figured this was an easy way to get some piety points around the office. The world is not populated by brave men willing to bet their careers for ideological points.

There's also the possibility he just made the same error everyone else made with regards to Trump. He figured the safe play was to be anti-Trump. Now he is looking like an idiot and that's bad for business. Thus we get the bravo sierra about collecting data.

Only mediocre men are at their best all the time. Murray is entitled to a boner or two, given his contributions. Let's see how he responds down the line.

Audacious Epigone said...


Own it!


Did he indicate why? He seems to viscerally detest Trump's character, but that seems extraordinarily petty to me. I wonder if there was a personal episode in Murray's life where Trump was an antagonist. I mean, does he think these other candidates are paragons of moral virtue? (IIRC, commenter Dan mentioned that Murray had a real estate friend who felt burned by Trump, so maybe that's it)


virtue signalling

Nailed it. Why Murray feels compelled to engage in it is beyond me, though.


That would explain why he didn't just stay silent not only on the Trump phenomenon but on the election cycle more generally. Murray isn't a regular commentator on political horse racing, so remaining mum on it would've gone unnoticed.

When someone of his intellectual stature gives little more than supercilious snipes that could just as easily been put out by some college kid who doesn't like Trump, it decreases the value of his brand.

I wouldn't, on the other hand, find it implausible that this is a double bank shot on his part. He's earning piety points but doing so in a way that is totally unserious in the minds of his committed audience, irrespective of how they feel about Trump, and so it's won't hurt his reputation for empirical analyses.

It is a little disheartening to think that a guy in his mid-seventies, who has written several books, and for whom even if he were ostracized by the Smart Set would still have the wherewithal to earn what a freelancer like the Derb does, feels compelled to kowtow so shamefully just to put bread on the plate.

Anonymous said...

His problem is he still thinks of himself as "polite company".

He alienated polite company by noticing race. Now he's alienated his allies by opposing those who believe the words he's written.

Who do you have left, Charles Murray?

Did he not realize from his experience that anyone who rose to power to put his words into action would be a man who polite company hates? Where is the gentle, royal, philosopher-King who will erect a wall and stand toe-to-toe with the mountains of establishmentmen who hurl vicious hate at any reasonable opinion on immigration?

Charles Murray wants RealTalk on race, but he wants someone like Prince William to do the talking. Never. Gonna. Fucking. Happen.

And wishful dreams like that are why we always lose.

We want to win, Murray. And we're going to win. Get out of the fucking way.

Anonymous said...


He didn't give a detailed explanation of his animosity to Trump. My memory's a bit fuzzy, but I think he made a comment disapproving of Trump's open suspicion of Saracens and La Raza Cosmica. The thrust was basically, "Trump sounds like a racist and that's just un-American." I know it's weird coming from Murray, but that was the impression I got.

My read on it was that Murray is insulated and old. This was before the media/elite/responsible people started to take Trump and his supporters seriously, but the campaign had been going on long enough for them to feel uneasy. Murray, for all his talk about elite bubbles, lives a pretty sheltered and comfortable life on his estate in Maryland. It's not Georgetown (though it is within the orbit of the Imperial City), but it's not suburban Everytown, USA either. He just couldn't see why anyone would be fooled by a crass reality TV-star turned demagogue.

He's also getting older, and it shows in his work and in his presentation. The talk he gave was on his newest book and to a medium sized audience of mostly conservative/Republican graduate students and professionals. The presentation was very casual, and frankly Murray seemed unprepared and unreflective about his book. He sounded like an old man who's mostly cut himself off from the world and, for old times' sake, takes a halfhearted stab at an issue his younger self would be attacked vigorously. I imagine he has so far approached Trump with the same lackadaisical attitude. So it's no surprise he would completely misread him.

The Z Blog said...

It's the rare man who is willing to live outside society. A big part of what Murray's life worth living is being Charles Murray, which means a scandalous free thinker within the good thinker universe. He can't be Charles Murray if gets exiled.

It's why the goal is to move the Overton window in the correct direction.

bleach said...

The guy is a midwestern libertarian, I don't know why any of you believe he is being cynical or expected any different opinion from him.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon 4:33,

Yes, and those sentiments are applicable to much of the Conservative, Inc Old Guard, even the ones who've been relatively courageously keeping one foot in each camp.


That's disappointing on multiple levels--the intellectual laziness, the reflexive PC dismissiveness (related to the first), the apparent total lack of any feeling of sympathy for someone so reviled by the powers that be (like we probably have at some level for a guy like Bernie Sanders, for example), reduction of Trump's career to being little more than a reality TV star (the guy played a big role in pulling Manhattan out of its steady decline during the seventies and eighties and turning it into one of the most desirable locations in the country), etc.


Indeed, though we can hardly be faulted for wanting as much help from the top as we can get while we remodel from the bottom up. At least get out of Trump's way, Murray. No one has expanded the Overton Window as widely and rapidly as Trump has. At the debate last night he essentially made his candidacy a referendum on the W Bush/McCain/Graham/neocon Republicanism of the last two decades, and he did it in South Carolina, where W is popular and Graham has been a senator for way too long.


Because at the same time he's predicting that in three years the evidence for strong genetic influences on the brain will be overwhelming and undeniable. Such a prediction is passe on the Alt Right, as it's taken for granted that it's just a matter of when rather than if, but it's still a quite controversial bit of augury in the major media.

Toddy Cat said...

Murray is still starry-eyed about immigration. He recognizes that uncontrolled immigration is destroying the American working class, but, even in his WSJ editorial, he still has to pay homage to those "cheerful, optimistic, hardworking" immigrants, who "seem the most American of all". Obviously, Murray doesn't get out much these days, and his contact with immigrants is probably limited to his lawn service, and the staffs of the Georgetown ethnic restaurants he frequents.

Murray is a libertarian pro-immigration race-realist, which, it turns out, is like being a Zionist Nazi or a free-market Communist. There's a basic contradiction there, and Murray just won't face it...

Anonymous said...

Murray has always been chummy with the neocons and they've paid him back by letting him have a nice career in conservative wonkery despite his thought crimes. I don't see him breaking ranks with them to support Trump.