Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bevis Frond – "I've Got Eyes in the Back of My Head" (1987)

I’ve got eyes
In the back of my head

Were you surprised that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election?

2 or 3 lines saw it coming – after the votes had been counted, that is.  (With the aid of 20/20 hindsight, the outcome was pretty obvious.)

The New York Times didn't see it coming
But why did Trump win?  What explains what may be the biggest election upset in American history?

There are a lot of bogus explanations out there.  For example, some pundits have said he won because his supporters were racists.  

But the data simply don’t support such statements.  A lot of Trump supporters – especially those in key swing states like Wisconsin and Iowa – not only voted for Obama in 2012, but said in exit polls that they thought Obama was doing a pretty good job.  It’s hard for me to believe that someone who voted for Obama four years ago and generally approves of his job performance can fairly be called a racist.

Here's a map showing the counties in the upper Midwest that voted for Obama and flipped to Trump.  The darker-colored counties voted twice for Obama, but flipped to Trump.

A good starting point for those who seek to understand Trump’s victory is a study showing that the mortality rate for non-college-educated whites between the ages of 45 and 54 increased dramatically between 1999 and 2013.  

By contrast, death rates generally – including those for African-Americans and Hispanics – have been declining over that time period.

Back in March, the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” analyzed voting data from the Iowa caucuses and nine of the “Super Tuesday” primary states.  It turns out that Trump did best in the counties where the death rate for whites between the ages of 40 and 64 was the highest.

Click here if you'd like to read that Post story.

What explains the higher mortality rate for these white middle-aged Americans?  Deaths from drug and alcohol overdoses (as well as liver diseases associated with too much drinking) and suicides.

What causes people to drink too much, abuse opioids and other legal and illegal drugs, and commit suicide?  They’re obviously depressed and anxious.

Economic factors are responsible in part for that depression and anxiety – less-educated Americans in middle America have suffered as manufacturing companies have shifted production overseas.  President-elect Trump promised to turn things around by renegotiating international trade agreements that he believes give an unfair advantage to foreign-manufactured goods, which costs Americans manufacturing jobs.   

Surprisingly, it turns out that Trump voters as a whole aren’t suffering more than others.  An analysis of 87,000 interviews of likely voters conducted over the summer found that Trump’s supporters do not have lower incomes and are no more likely to be unemployed than other Americans.  

Click here if you'd like to read a summary of that study's findings.

But those people are more worried than others about the future of the American economy.  In other words, while they may not be suffering from unemployment or lower incomes, they fear for the futures of their neighbors . . . and fear especially for the futures of their children.  

From the Washington Post:  

Trump has found success playing up economic grievances, stoking anxieties about immigrants, and complaining about Chinese competition.  How is it then, that so many of his supporters seem to be economically secure?  It could be that Trump supporters aren't worried for themselves, but for their children. . . .

Trump voters tend to be older, blue-collar workers, and recent generations have had more difficulty getting well-paying jobs that didn’t require much education.  Those opportunities have largely dried up.  And now, Trump supporters tend to live in places where the world has gotten visibly tougher for the kids on the block.  It's easier to agree with Trump's narrative about American decline when you have seen your own child fall down the economic ladder.

There’s another reason that I believe explains why a number of voters who believed Trump didn’t have the judgment or temperament required to be an effective President held their nose and voted for him anyway.  You can read all about it in the next 2 or 3 lines.

*     *     *     *     *

The Bevis Frond is essentially Nick Saloman, a British tour de force who has released more than two dozen albums since 1987.  Salmon’s albums are usually categorized as psychedelic, and he is often compared to Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist – but you really need to listen to his music to have any idea what it is like.

“I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head” is from the second Bevis Frond album, Inner Marshland.  

Here’s “I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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