Why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Are Rock Stars Among the Working Class
Lost in the tumult of covering the 2016 presidential campaign trail is a striking reality that’s largely gone unacknowledged: the grassroots level brewing revolt of working- and middle-class Americans who feel left behind by the system.
Sanders and Trump are highlighting the failure of status-quo politics to address concerns that hit home with non-wealthy Americans. Photo credit: Fivethirtyeight.com
This discontent and its insecurities are fueling the surges of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who each offer different responses to it, and whose candidacies haven’t faded despite predictions from party insiders and many pundits. It’s also underscored by the fact that the GOP’s two leading candidates—Trump and Ben Carson—have never held elective office, unlike the senators and governors trailing them.
Sanders and Trump, in very different ways, are highlighting the failure of status-quo politics to address concerns that hit home with non-wealthy Americans. But while Sanders is running a campaign based on a positive vision of government doing more for these Americans, Trump is striking a chord with people who feel other slices of society need to be put down so they can rise up.
Despite the stark differences in these visions, both suggest that political business as usual cannot hold. That sentiment also accounts for the lackluster appeal of candidates who are pandering to wealthy elites, such as Jeb Bush.
But if we want to understand what’s driving much of the energy on the ground in the 2016 race so far—as opposed to the wealth-driven super PACs—it is the realization by many working- and middle-class people that the U.S. government does not have their back.
Sanders’ Optimistic Appeal
Sanders, as many people who have watched his rise know, speaks to a range of Americans who feel left behind or abandoned in an age of deepening economic inequality and predatory corporate greed. His agenda is built on reviving government’s ability to help people with basics and live with more dignity, whether it’s ending college debt, accessing health care, fortifying retirements or other necessities. The wealthy can afford to pay higher taxes for a fairer, more balanced, more secure society, Sanders says, while acknowledging that this won’t come to pass unless an unprecedented number of Americans vote and oust the right wingers in Congress who just want to serve the rich and ignore everyone else.
Sanders’ message is not just echoing in the country’s lefty epicenters and midwestern university towns. As the Washington Spectator’s Rick Perlstein has written, recently covering Sanders in Texas and Indiana, his message is also appealing to red staters who are used to voting for conservatives—if they vote at all. He begins his latest report by talking about a construction sales executive he sat next to on the plane to Texas to cover a Sanders rally who praised Sanders’ “middle of the road” messages, adding, “I like what I’ve heard.”
In some respects, that is the same response depicted by the Dallas Morning News when it interviewed attendees of Sanders’ first big Texas rally this summer, such as a 36-year-old man who has never before voted for president. “The biggest reason why I support Bernie is that he knows the economy is rigged in favor of the 1 percent," he said. "No one else is really saying that, and it’s a huge problem.”
Moving on with the Sanders campaign to Indiana’s rust belt, Perlstein noticed that many supporters—white and black—also were motivated for the first time in many years to get involved. At a house party on a night when the campaign was hoping for 30,000 participants nationwide and 100,000 came out, Perlstein reported how many people introduced themselves by saying they played by the rules but couldn’t get a decent job and were drowning in education-related debt. That prompted standing ovations and the recognition that they weren’t alone. The next day in another northwestern Indiana town, he met an African-American retiree who just opened a storefront campaign office for Sanders and praised him for following up with Black Lives Matter activists—after floundering at the NetRoots Nation conference. “I’m okay with that,” she said. “He’s learning.”
It's rare that presidential campaigns spark such grassroots excitement, and when they do, they're often dismissed by the cynics in the media. “Something is happening here,” Perlstein wrote, "something that reminds us that our existing models for predicting winners and losers in politics need always be subject to revision.”
That something is people whose voices and concerns have been downplayed by the governing class finding candidates who are speaking for them—but not all of these candidates' rhetorics and remedies are as positive as Sanders’.
Trump’s Dark Triumph
On the GOP side of the aisle, the biggest mystery is not why the establishment’s presumed frontrunner, Jeb Bush, is failing to excite. Nor it is why other high-ranking elected officials, like governors and senators, have failed to rise to the top, despite presenting themselves as reincarnations of Ronald Reagan, defenders of the right to get rich and keep it all or ideological purists. The biggest mystery is why Trump has maintained his lead for months with positions no establishment candidate would take in public.
Why Is the World Obsessed With Donald Trump? http://t.co/PTHDduaCfn @Greenpeace @HuffPostGreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1440727295.0
The best explanation is there’s a major slice of America’s working- and middle-class who look at the political system and don’t just feel left out, but are angry that others—people both poorer and richer than they are—seem to be beneficiaries of a government that’s forgotten them. Hence, Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry, his smears of the politically correct, his male-defending misogyny and vision of being a strongman president—ie, taking down competitors at home and abroad—appeals to those who feel overlooked and aggrieved.
That’s the conclusion of an insightful article by John B. Judis, a senior writer for the National Journal, who makes a convincing case that Trump supporters are not very different than the alienated middle Americans who backed George Wallace for president in 1968, and backed Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan in 1992 (and 1996 and 2000). In 1992, Perot got 19 percent of the November vote, effectively electing Bill Clinton.
Judis’ analysis is thorough, compelling and altogether troubling. It shows that there is a very dark streak running through the electorate, as indeed has been the case through much of American history. He starts by citing an overlooked 1976 book by Donald Warren, a sociologist from Michigan’s Oakland University, The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation, which identifies this slice of the electorate that, according to Warren, contains one-quarter of the nation’s voters.
These working- and middle-class people, Warren said, see “government favoring the rich and the poor simultaneously,” are suspicious of big business, are not college educated but favor government programs that give them stability—such as Medicare, Social Security and possibly national health insurance—and hold “very conservative positions on poverty and race.”
“If these voters are beginning to sound familiar, they should: Warren’s MARs [Middle American Radicals] of the 1970s are the Donald Trump supporters of today," Judis writes. "Since at least the late 1960s, these voters have periodically coalesced to become a force in presidential politics, just as they did this past summer... Over the years, some of their issues have changed—illegal immigration has replaced explicitly racist appeals—and many of them now have junior college degrees and are as likely to hold white-collar jobs. But the basic MARS worldview that Warren has outlined has remained surprisingly intact.”
What makes Judis’ explanation noteworthy is that it goes beyond the mainstream media line, summarized in this piece on the New York Times’ “Upshot” page, that Trump’s appeal is only based on his strong personality or because he’s a political outsider.
“What has truly sustained Trump thus far is he does, in fact, articulate a coherent set of ideological positions, even if those positions are not exactly conservative or liberal,” Judis writes. “The key to figuring out the Trump phenomenon—why it arose now and where it might be headed next—lies in understanding this worldview.”
Americans are correct to compare Trump’s demagoguery on behalf of “a silent majority” to the worst of the George Wallace-Pat Buchanan tradition of grievance politics, from attacking immigrants for taking away jobs, to smearing Obamacare because the insurance industry keeps getting rich, to encouraging government to excise the purported cancer in our midst.
“The essential worldview of these Middle American Radicals was captured in a 1993 post-election survey by [Democratic pollster] Stanley Greenberg, which found that Perot supporters were more likely than Clinton’s or Bush’s to believe that ‘it’s the middle class, not the poor who really get a raw deal today’ and that ‘people who work for a living and don’t make a lot of noise never seem to get a break,’” Judis wrote, saying there “has been no similar polling of Trump’s supporters.”
Where the 2016 Race Goes From Here
Judis' last observation is that beating the nationalist drum,which Trump is also doing, is the final hallmark of this dark campaign legacy. His most recent attack on Jeb Bush—blasting his brother George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks in New York City—are a perfect example of that thread. Just how Trump's bullying nationalism will play out in a race where Sanders has said Americans ought to look to Scandinavia for the level of governmental supports that could be possible in America is anyone’s guess. But that particular thread of nationalism can get very ugly, and surely there’s more of it to come.
If Judis is correct that Trump has revived some of the nastiest reflexes in the American electorate, from the same slice of overlooked America that Sanders is engaging with his more hopeful appeals, then it is time to take a hard look at what status quo-defending candidates, their political parties and mainstream media pundits are saying.
It sure looks like the Americans who are paying attention to the political system and are getting involved with 2016’s candidates are deeply concerned, frustrated and, on the political right, angry and vengeful. That’s a dicey mix. At least Sanders is offering specifics about what he would do and how he'd get results, not just taunts, boasts and attitude. But Trump’s backers may not care much for specifics, as long as someone else is fingered, blamed and attacked on their behalf.
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By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton
Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.
Blackpoll warbler. PJTurgeon / Wikipedia<p>We used this information to determine how the number of migratory bird species varies based on each city's level of <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/light-pollution" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">light pollution</a> – brightening of the night sky caused by artificial light sources, such as buildings and streetlights. We also explored how species numbers vary based on the quantity of tree canopy cover and impervious surface, such as concrete and asphalt, within each city. Our findings show that cities can help migrating birds by planting more trees and reducing light pollution, especially during spring and autumn migration.</p>
Declining Bird Populations<p>Urban areas contain numerous dangers for migratory birds. The biggest threat is the risk of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-13-090.1" target="_blank">colliding with buildings or communication towers</a>. Many migratory bird populations have <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw1313" target="_blank">declined over the past 50 years</a>, and it is possible that light pollution from cities is contributing to these losses.</p><p>Scientists widely agree that light pollution can <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708574114" target="_blank">severely disorient migratory birds</a> and make it hard for them to navigate. Studies have shown that birds will cluster around brightly lit structures, much like insects flying around a porch light at night. Cities are the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2029" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">primary source of light pollution for migratory birds</a>, and these species tend to be more abundant within cities <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.13792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during migration</a>, especially in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.103892" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">city parks</a>.</p>
Composite image of the continental U.S. at night from satellite photos. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
The Power of Citizen Science<p>It's not easy to observe and document bird migration, especially for species that migrate at night. The main challenge is that many of these species are very small, which limits scientists' ability to use electronic tracking devices.</p><p>With the growth of the internet and other information technologies, new data resources are becoming available that are making it possible to overcome some of these challenges. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07106-5" target="_blank">Citizen science initiatives</a> in which volunteers use online portals to enter their observations of the natural world have become an important resource for researchers.</p><p>One such initiative, <a href="https://ebird.org/home" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird</a>, allows bird-watchers around the globe to share their observations from any location and time. This has produced one of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.04632" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largest ecological citizen-science databases in the world</a>. To date, eBird contains over 922 million bird observations compiled by over 617,000 participants.</p>
Light Pollution Both Attracts and Repels Migratory Birds<p>Migratory bird species have evolved to use certain migration routes and types of habitat, such as forests, grasslands or marshes. While humans may enjoy seeing migratory birds appear in urban areas, it's generally not good for bird populations. In addition to the many hazards that exist in urban areas, cities typically lack the food resources and cover that birds need during migration or when raising their young. As scientists, we're concerned when we see evidence that migratory birds are being drawn away from their traditional migration routes and natural habitats.</p><p>Through our analysis of eBird data, we found that cities contained the greatest numbers of migratory bird species during spring and autumn migration. Higher levels of light pollution were associated with more species during migration – evidence that light pollution attracts migratory birds to cities across the U.S. This is cause for concern, as it shows that the influence of light pollution on migratory behavior is strong enough to increase the number of species that would normally be found in urban areas.</p><p>In contrast, we found that higher levels of light pollution were associated with fewer migratory bird species during the summer and winter. This is likely due to the scarcity of suitable habitat in cities, such as large forest patches, in combination with the adverse affects of light pollution on bird behavior and health. In addition, during these seasons, migratory birds are active only during the day and their populations are largely stationary, creating few opportunities for light pollution to attract them to urban areas.</p>
Trees and Pavement<p>We found that tree canopy cover was associated with more migratory bird species during spring migration and the summer. Trees provide important habitat for migratory birds during migration and the breeding season, so the presence of trees can have a strong effect on the number of migratory bird species that occur in cities.</p><p>Finally, we found that higher levels of impervious surface were associated with more migratory bird species during the winter. This result is somewhat surprising. It could be a product of the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/heatislands" target="_blank">urban heat island effect</a> – the fact that structures and paved surfaces in cities absorb and reemit more of the sun's heat than natural surfaces. Replacing vegetation with buildings, roads and parking lots can therefore make cities significantly warmer than surrounding lands. This effect could reduce cold stress on birds and increase food resources, such as insect populations, during the winter.</p><p>Our research adds to our understanding of how conditions in cities can both help and hurt migratory bird populations. We hope that our findings will inform urban planning initiatives and strategies to reduce the harmful effects of cities on migratory birds through such measures as <a href="https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa/index.cfm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">planting more trees</a> and initiating <a href="https://aeroecolab.com/uslights" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lights-out programs</a>. Efforts to make it easier for migratory birds to complete their incredible journeys will help maintain their populations into the future.</p><p><em><span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/frank-la-sorte-1191494" target="_blank">Frank La Sorte</a> is a r</span>esearch associate at the </em><em>Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University. <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kyle-horton-1191498" target="_blank">Kyle Horton</a> is an assistant professor of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the Colorado State University.</em></p><p><em></em><em>Disclosure statement: Frank La Sorte receives funding from The Wolf Creek Charitable Foundation and the National Science Foundation (DBI-1939187). K</em><em>yle Horton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/cities-can-help-migrating-birds-on-their-way-by-planting-more-trees-and-turning-lights-off-at-night-152573" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Lynne Peeples
Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.
In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.
Unintended Consequences<p>Chemists first discovered disinfection by-products in treated drinking water in the 1970s. The trihalomethanes they found, they determined, had resulted from the reaction of chlorine with natural organic matter. Since then, scientists have identified more than 700 additional disinfection by-products. "And those only represent a portion. We still don't know half of them," says Richardson, whose lab has identified hundreds of disinfection by-products. </p>
What’s Regulated and What’s Not?<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently regulates 11 disinfection by-products — including a handful of trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAA). While these represent only a small fraction of all disinfection by-products, EPA aims to use their presence to indicate the presence of other disinfection by-products. "The general idea is if you control THMs and HAAs, you implicitly or by default control everything else as well," says Korshin.</p><p>EPA also requires drinking water facilities to use techniques to reduce the concentration of organic materials before applying disinfectants, and regulates the quantity of disinfectants that systems use. These rules ultimately can help control levels of disinfection by-products in drinking water.</p>
Click the image for an interactive version of this chart on the Environmental Working Group website.<p>Still, some scientists and advocates argue that current regulations do not go far enough to protect the public. Many question whether the government is regulating the right disinfection by-products, and if water systems are doing enough to reduce disinfection by-products. EPA is now seeking public input as it considers potential revisions to regulations, including the possibility of regulating additional by-products. The agency held a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/dwsixyearreview/potential-revisions-microbial-and-disinfection-byproducts-rules" target="_blank">two-day public meeting</a> in October 2020 and plans to hold additional public meetings throughout 2021.</p><p>When EPA set regulations on disinfection by-products between the 1970s and early 2000s, the agency, as well as the scientific community, was primarily focused on by-products of reactions between organics and chlorine — historically the most common drinking water disinfectant. But the science has become increasingly clear that these chlorinated chemicals represent a fraction of the by-product problem.</p><p>For example, bromide or iodide can get caught up in the reaction, too. This is common where seawater penetrates a drinking water source. By itself, bromide is innocuous, says Korshin. "But it is extremely [reactive] with organics," he says. "As bromide levels increase with normal treatment, then concentrations of brominated disinfection by-products will increase quite rapidly."</p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15487777/" target="_blank">Emerging</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05440" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">data</a> indicate that brominated and iodinated by-products are potentially more harmful than the regulated by-products.</p><p>Almost half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts, where saltwater intrusion can be a problem for drinking water supplies. "In the U.S., the rule of thumb is the closer to the sea, the more bromide you have," says Korshin, noting there are also places where bromide naturally leaches out from the soil. Still, some coastal areas tend to be spared. For example, the city of Seattle's water comes from the mountains, never making contact with seawater and tending to pick up minimal organic matter.</p><p>Hazardous disinfection by-products can also be an issue with desalination for drinking water. "As <a href="https://ensia.com/features/can-saltwater-quench-our-growing-thirst/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">desalination</a> practices become more economical, then the issue of controlling bromide becomes quite important," adds Korshin.</p>
Other Hot Spots<p>Coastal areas represent just one type of hot spot for disinfection by-products. Agricultural regions tend to send organic matter — such as fertilizer and animal waste — into waterways. Areas with warmer climates generally have higher levels of natural organic matter. And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on <a href="https://ensia.com/ensia-collections/troubled-waters/" target="_blank">this reporting project</a>).</p><p>The only drinking water sources that might be altogether free of disinfection by-products, suggests Richardson, are private wells that are not treated with disinfectants. She used to drink water from her own well. "It was always cold, coming from great depth through clay and granite," she says. "It was fabulous."</p><p>Today, Richardson gets her water from a city system that uses chloramine.</p>
Toxic Treadmill<p>Most community water systems in the U.S. use chlorine for disinfection in their treatment plant. Because disinfectants are needed to prevent bacteria growth as the water travels to the homes at the ends of the distribution lines, sometimes a second round of disinfection is also added in the pipes.</p><p>Here, systems usually opt for either chlorine or chloramine. "Chloramination is more long-lasting and does not form as many disinfection by-products through the system," says Steve Via, director of federal relations at the American Water Works Association. "Some studies show that chloramination may be more protective against organisms that inhabit biofilms such as Legionella."</p>
Alternative Approaches<p>When he moved to the U.S. from Germany, Prasse says he immediately noticed the bad taste of the water. "You can taste the chlorine here. That's not the case in Germany," he says.</p><p>In his home country, water systems use chlorine — if at all — at lower concentrations and at the very end of treatment. In the Netherlands, <a href="https://dwes.copernicus.org/articles/2/1/2009/dwes-2-1-2009.pdf" target="_blank">chlorine isn't used at all</a> as the risks are considered to outweigh the benefits, says Prasse. He notes the challenge in making a convincing connection between exposure to low concentrations of disinfection by-products and health effects, such as cancer, that can occur decades later. In contrast, exposure to a pathogen can make someone sick very quickly.</p><p>But many countries in Europe have not waited for proof and have taken a precautionary approach to reduce potential risk. The emphasis there is on alternative approaches for primary disinfection such as ozone or <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/eco-friendly-way-disinfect-water-using-light/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultraviolet light</a>. Reverse osmosis is among the "high-end" options, used to remove organic and inorganics from the water. While expensive, says Prasse, the method of forcing water through a semipermeable membrane is growing in popularity for systems that want to reuse wastewater for drinking water purposes.</p><p>Remucal notes that some treatment technologies may be good at removing a particular type of contaminant while being ineffective at removing another. "We need to think about the whole soup when we think about treatment," she says. What's more, Remucal explains, the mixture of contaminants may impact the body differently than any one chemical on its own. </p><p>Richardson's preferred treatment method is filtering the water with granulated activated carbon, followed by a low dose of chlorine.</p><p>Granulated activated carbon is essentially the same stuff that's in a household filter. (EWG recommends that consumers use a <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-disinfection-byproducts.php#:~:text=EWG%20recommends%20using%20a%20home,as%20trihalomethanes%20and%20haloacetic%20acids." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countertop carbon filter</a> to reduce levels of disinfection by-products.) While such a filter "would remove disinfection by-products after they're formed, in the plant they remove precursors before they form by-products," explains Richardson. She coauthored a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b00023" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 paper</a> that concluded the treatment method is effective in reducing a wide range of regulated and unregulated disinfection by-products.</p><br>
Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992, and is still one of relatively few full-scale plants that uses the technology. Courtesy of Greater Cincinnati Water Works.<p>Despite the technology and its benefits being known for decades, relatively few full-scale plants use granulated active carbon. They often cite its high cost, Richardson says. "They say that, but the city of Cincinnati [Ohio] has not gone bankrupt using it," she says. "So, I'm not buying that argument anymore."</p><p>Greater Cincinnati Water Works installed a granulated activated carbon system in 1992. On a video call in December, Jeff Swertfeger, the superintendent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works, poured grains of what looks like black sand out of a glass tube and into his hand. It was actually crushed coal that has been baked in a furnace. Under a microscope, each grain looks like a sponge, said Swertfeger. When water passes over the carbon grains, he explained, open tunnels and pores provide extensive surface area to absorb contaminants.</p><p>While the granulated activated carbon initially was installed to address chemical spills and other industrial contamination concerns in the Ohio River, Cincinnati's main drinking water source, Swertfeger notes that the substance has turned out to "remove a lot of other stuff, too," including <a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-contamination-pfas-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">PFAS</a> and disinfection by-product precursors.</p><p>"We use about one-third the amount of chlorine as we did before. It smells and tastes a lot better," he says. "The use of granulated activated carbon has resulted in lower disinfection by-products across the board."</p><p>Richardson is optimistic about being able to reduce risks from disinfection by-products in the future. "If we're smart, we can still kill those pathogens and lower our chemical disinfection by-product exposure at the same time," she says.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://ensia.com/features/drinking-water-disinfection-byproducts-pathogens/" target="_blank">Ensia</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649953730#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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