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Stubs of ideas, some of which may turn into future posts:

(1a) A punk votes for a punk (Johnny Rotten says nice things about Trump). Okay, he's not necessarily saying that he did vote for Trump, though from what he said it's a good assumption he did; but anyway, my armchair psychosocial analysis of the Trump win already had been "Punks voted for a punk," my using the word punks in a sorta pre-punk-rock sense, meaning people who compensate for subconsciously feeling weak by scapegoating and bullying and hurting the vulnerable; but such "punks" can include normally nice people too, people who let the punk aspect of themselves do their electoral thinking.



(1b) Only "sorta pre-punk-rock" given that original garage-rock punks such as ? And The Mysterians and the Syndicate Of Sound and the Seeds were indeed punks in the old sense, weak bully-type punks (and sexists as well),† but most of the great punk rockers — I'd start "punk rock" w/ Stones and Dylan, actually, with the caveat that the true punks, the garage rockers, weren't Stones and Dylan but the garage kids who'd dumbed Stones, Dylan, and Yardbirds down into punk, which'd be a fine explanation except that no one limits "punk rock" this way; most critics etc. would also include the Velvet Underground and MC5 and Stooges and Patti Smith and Richard Hell and Rocket From The Tombs and even more would include Ramones and Sex Pistols and the Clash and the Heartbreakers and X-Ray Spex and Black Flag and Nirvana and Hole, generally self-aware nonbully types, and if you're going to do this you've got to go back and count Dylan and the Stones — ...anyway, most of the great punk rockers (as generally defined) were about punk way more than they were punk; nonetheless, being self-aware, they drew the connection between actual inner true punk impulses and the punk rock they were playing, understanding their own weakness and that bullying and scapegoating were in there lurking, sitting dangerously inside. But anyway, of all the great punk rockers, the Sex Pistols, who were maybe the greatest ("They make everyone else sound sick by comparison," said my friend Bill Routt), were the ones who were true nasty punks as much as they were about punk. They were the band that made punk safe for fag-bashers (fortunately only somewhat safe).* None of which explains why Johnny Rotten would shit his brains down the toilet and support Trump (apparently, Johnny can't tell a racist from a hole in the ground). If you want to turn to social affinity and group identification as an explanation, Johnny's loyalty is to real punks, not to punk rock. (Yes, there's no way to come up with a unitary reading of the word "punk" in this paragraph. It'd be a stupider paragraph if you could.) I doubt that many self-identified "punks" — those who embrace the music as part of their social identity — voted for Trump. These people veer left instead. If you go by social category, Trump got many of the rocks and hoods and greasers and grits and burnouts — at least, more than he should have — but few of the punks. (Among whites he got a significant amount of the jocks and middle managers, too, and their psyches are probably as much punk as the hoods' are, but that's not relevant to Johnny Rotten's social identification.) I doubt that many Trump voters had ever bothered to listen to punk rock (not counting the garage hits they heard way back); if they had, the aboutness would've stung them, and they'd have been repelled. Nonetheless, I think I can understand that what makes the Sex Pistols sound true and real to me, the screaming squalling blind attempt to stand against anything acceptable and settled that can get you by, is what makes a lying hollow pathological bully like Trump sound transgressive and therefore real and true and honest and substantial to a lot of his fans.

(1c) Of course Trump doesn't win if he gets only the punks. And my armchair analysis isn't based on any actual research of mine into "the Trump voter." As I said two sentences ago, there's more than one type of Trump voter, and individual voters are multi-faceted in their urges and ideas anyway (so a particular Trump voter can be more than one type). I'm actually doing two questionable things: (i) reading the characteristics of the voter off of the characteristics of what they voted for, rather than actually asking the voters who they are and why they like what they like; (ii) using a psychological model that can apply to an individual person to explain the behavior of a group of people (the punk types who voted for that punk Trump), as if the group were an individual writ large. Obviously I think the analysis kinda sorta works, or I wouldn't have made it. It's a strong hypothesis, punks voted for a punk, strong in my mind anyway, though maybe someone more knowledgeable could beat it down with an alternative. ("Strong" analysis? Seriously? How so? It tells you what most of you already know: (1) that I don't like Trump, (2) that I think many of his voters voted for a lot of what I don't like about him, even if they don't understand the policy implications, and (3) that he's a punk. You already knew that. He's a punk. It's maybe a correct analysis, but not strong, since it doesn't tell you anything you don't already know. Maybe it makes you think harder about punk rock, and what I write below maybe'll help you think harder about social class.)

(1di) It isn't so much that Trump won the general election by winning the white working class (though apparently he won a majority of them). His strongest margins were among rural and small-town whites of all classes. But he won his narrow victory getting more working-class whites than he was expected to, which is why he narrowly won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, states he was expected to lose and that would have cost him the election if he had lost. (See Nate Cohn, in the NY Times.) So it's not that he won the hoods/greasers/grits/burnouts overwhelmingly — he didn't — it's that he won more of them than Romney had, and Clinton lost more of them than Obama had. And Clinton failed to swing as many suburban middle-class Romney voters as she was expected to. —Notice that I've switched things up by — very problematically — taking out the term "working class" and substituting in its place the old high-school words "hoods" and "greasers" and "grits" and "burnouts."

(1dii) I'm using those terms as a partial stand-in for how such people — what people? — view their social identity now. "White working class" doesn't altogether capture it: some of the loose set I'm thinking of probably don't think of themselves as "working class," and when they do, "working class" isn't among the self-defining terms they feel most emotionally attached to (as opposed to "veteran" or "Christian" or whatever). But also some of them probably don't meet anyone's (incl. a sociologist's) def'n of "working class": some are business owners, some middle managers, some salespeople, etc. Interestingly, in this election when the pollsters wanted to get a sense of which social class voted for whom the main demographic categories they used were "didn't finish higher than high school," "some college," "graduated college," "some grad school" etc., since I guess this information was easier to find than was income or type of job, much less self-identity.

(1diii) [I need to someday publish a long essay on how the social classes and social class systems in people's immediate experience aren't an exact match for the upper-middle-working class grid; this mismatch doesn't make the grid wrong so much as it makes social class complicated and shifty. We need to expand our idea of "identity politics" to include class and our ideas of "class" to include identity politics. And once again if you're hoping for unitary readings of key terms here, tough luck.]

(1div) But also I think a lot of voters are voting immaturely — and not just the Trump voters, though their votes were horrendously childish — in the sense that they are still in high school in their social minds. If I'm analyzing the vote socially, at least the vote of those in the white supposed working class who crossed over to Trump, what I'm saying is that the hoods/greasers/grits/burnouts (those in that category who voted for Trump, that is) didn't just vote for Trump, they voted against Clinton, and my analysis goes that even though Clinton had thoughtful ideas about how to act on their behalf, they voted their hairstyle and voted against her because she was a student-council type and they don't like student-council types. I think this analysis will work, though again obviously I haven't done the research to back it up.

(1dv) And this analysis isn't just a metaphor. I think that kids who struggled in the classroom or bombed-out or felt mistreated there, and felt mistreated overall by the educational system, are in some ways still hurt by it and still voting against it, even those who went on to prosper financially.

(1e) In Penny Eckert's classic 1980s anthropological study Jocks And Burnouts, she treats the "brains" and the student-council types as being a subset of the jocks, which is generally how the students saw it. But I wonder if she missed something, the germs of an ongoing split between two types: on the one hand, we've got the jocks and the preps proper, the basic supposed mainstream, who will eventually go Republican; on the other hand, we've got the brains and the student council types, who will eventually go Democrat. And I wonder if she missed similar incipient splits among the in-betweens and among the burnouts. (Incidentally, the book is set in the Detroit suburbs. The kids in that book would have been in their late 40s and early 50s on November 8, 2016, when Trump's narrow win in Michigan helped win him the electoral college.)

(1f) I hope it's clear that I'm not assuming that all greasers are punk in their psyche. The kind of psychological punk I'm positing here, the scapegoating, bullying kind, cuts across all classes, though maybe not equally. I could insert another paragraph talking out my ass about evangelicals who are concerned about abortion not being as likely as some other Trump voters to be going on punk impulses, ditto the habitual suburban Repub who thinks she believes in balanced budgets. People who didn't support him in the Republican primary. But I'm not so sure they're not punks anyway. And the swing voters, the Trump voters who'd voted Obama in 2012, they may be somewhat less racist than the average Trump voter, but I'll bet a lot of 'em are punks nonetheless. Not only are all the aforementioned types of people culpable for making a bad choice, they're also culpable for voting in a punk, and I'm thinking that, for most of 'em, at least some of their reasons are punk reasons. There are two nodes of punk here, (A) the punks who want to bully and scapegoat the vulnerable, and (B) the ones who want to transgress by sticking it to the elites. Both nodes have in common the desire to hurt people and to feel good about hurting them. And in the Trump voter the nodes tend to converge anyway: sticking it to the liberal pc elite comes down to being "daring" enough to call blacks lazy, stupid, and violent and thinking of Muslims as terrorists and as just plain icky and calling Mexican immigrants rapists and job stealers. I'll briefly and probably not too intelligibly say here that my critique of the punk rockers (who mostly lean left) is that they let self-destruction stand in for a social critique and for integrity, whereas the punk creeps who vote for Trump let racism stand in for thinking and let bullying and scapegoating stand in for strength.

(2) A would-be post about the election might be "The Failure Of Education." The education system doesn't succeed with everyone. Some kids are simultaneously neglected and put-upon. Some kids for good social reasons would rather be elsewhere than in the classroom anyway, would rather be free outside with their friends. Also, other than Bible classes and such, I don't think there are any institutions in America that try to compensate for the middle-class lean of the schools by creating a kind of continuing education that helps people where the schools failed. (I don't have in mind ongoing vocational and continuing ed for adults, which do exist. I'm thinking of a more general ed, that I imagine — I don't know this — might have existed in the early 20th century, and kept going longer than that in Europe, maybe provided by labor unions and socialist political parties. I'm probably just making stuff up.) Anyway, there's a basic failure of education and intelligence even among the highly educated, a lack of critical thinking, but it's catastrophically bad among Republicans; I put it like this: there’s more knowledge than we can possibly understand and work out for ourselves, but some of that knowledge is directly relevant to stuff we do want to work out, and one aspect of being intelligent, when you know you don't have time or the intellectual chops to go deep, is the making of good decisions about when to take ideas and facts on faith, and conversely, when to get suspicious. It's a social skill, almost, like knowing when you're reading a spam email or have found yourself on a phishing site. Is a person trying to get you to follow her thought processes, is she wrestling with counter-arguments and disconfirming facts, on the one hand; or is she just telling you what you want or expect to hear? (This Duncan Watts piece might be a good start to the conversation, though I disagree with hunks of it and find the phrase "post-truth" ridiculous: "Rebuilding legitimacy in a post-truth age.")

(3a) Speaking of Duncan Watts, he's the public intellectual I would most like to pull into our music conversation. I'm rereading Everything Is Obvious (Once You Know The Answer), which actually doesn't deliver his ideas as well as his earlier Six Degrees. (In reaching out to the general reader he's ending up more vague and incomplete and philosophically wavering than he needs to be. Public intellectuals don't realize they should send me their rough drafts before publishing.) But my assessment in 1c of one of my own problematic moves — "using a psychological model that can apply to an individual person to explain the behavior of a group of people (the punk types who voted for that punk Trump), as if the group were an individual writ large" — draws on his criticism of the idea of a "representative agent." (Dave quotes some of the criticism here, and I respond underneath that, saying among other things that Watt leaves more ambiguity than he'd intended in his explanation of the term.) I'll add that in Everything Is Obvious he not only doesn't make as strong a case as he could have against "representative agent," he also doesn't really come up with an alternative. He correctly says that other stuff is going on too that our standard deep psychosocial narratives don't capture, but this doesn't necessarily knock down those "representative agent" and psychosocial explanations. ("Punks voted for a punk" isn't a standard explanation itself, but it is a standard type, in that it draws on readily available "psychological" explanations of group behavior.) (I'm being pretty vague here, myself, not giving examples of "other stuff going on." Hey! As I said, this is just a stub.)

(3b) Anyway, "punks voted for a punk" isn't as useful as it might appear to be, in that it doesn't give us any idea of why Trump did so well, or didn't do better, for that matter. It would be true no matter what the result, actually. (And remember that Hillary got more votes, and probably would've won the electoral college, gotten more of those Michigan etc. college-grad white suburban voters, without the Comey letter.) "But Frank, 'punks voted for a punk' does give us a sense of how strongly 'transgression' is rooted in the American psyche." Well, that works only if we're not using it as an explanation of Trump's electoral success but rather using the electoral success to measure the American psyche. But then we'd have to know how much of Trump's support was owing to punks voting for a punk. I wouldn't know how to measure that. Where would we have access to evidence, and what would serve as evidence? Nonetheless, I think punks voted for a punk.

(4) If you're ever puzzled by the question — or, more likely, have run into someone who thinks you should be puzzled by the question — "How can we, finite creatures, describe the infinite?" the answer is, "By describing a bunch of stuff and then adding the term 'etc.'" —Actually, this is directed at Mark Sinker, who's probably never in his life puzzled himself over how to describe the infinite, but does concern himself with trying to ensure that our ideas not be too contained or too constrained. I think I've now provided us yet another tool we can use to uncontain, let loose, and open up any idea. I call this tool "THE PRINCIPLE OF ET CETERA." Even if an author doesn't add the term "etc.," we can add it in our heads: THE PRINCIPLE OF THE INFERRED ET CETERA. [More to come.]

(5) A month and a half ago I stamped my foot and announced, "I will no longer add anything more to or subtract anything more from my 2016 singles list." But I've yet to post the list, owing to my feeling that I ought to say something about at least some of the music. So, to come: are Tacocat too smug about their neighborhood? Also, Joe Strummer as a model for Korean rap. Here's the YouTube playlist, if you want a peek and a whiff. (100 songs, HyunA still on top, no surprise.)

(6) Got a Top Ten list due for First Quarter 2017. Pretty happy with it. On top is a deliberately (I think) unpleasant brat. I wonder whom she voted for president. YouTube playlist for this as well. Also, the question "What if the Rolling Stones had written and produced hits for the Shadows Of Knight?" (Well, what if HyunA wrote and produced CLC?)

(7) Etc.



[UPDATE: On second thought I really wasn't being fair to Question Mark in calling "96 Tears" weak bully-type punk. See me in the comments below [and same comments on lj]. "Little Girl" and "Pushin' Too Hard" on the other hand are as bullying and sexist as I say.] [UPDATING THE UPDATE: And even there it's ridiculously reductive of me to make "bully-type punk" the defining way of thinking about such punk. And, although "Little Girl" and "Pushin' Too Hard" are indeed as bullying and sexist as I say, that's hardly the whole of it. So see me replying to myself in the comments below.]

*Remembering that "punk" in its ancestry was a homophobic slur, early 20th century; an early "punk" in popular culture is Wilma in the Maltese Falcon. (I haven't read the book in decades, but I remember or misremember Wilma as being made sexually ambiguous, at the least. Don't remember if Hammett used the word "punk.")
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