If you're not sick of reading about Donald Trump yet – Can you believe it's only February and we have to do this for almost nine more months? – Matt Taibbi has a typically strong take on his appeal and why the Republican Party is getting everything it deserves this year. He isn't saying anything that readers here don't understand already, most likely, but he lays out the argument effectively: the image of the GOP as the party of the bankers and of the country club (clurb) set is inaccurate. Sure, those folks are Republicans.

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But they would be a tiny minority in American politics if not for armies of angry, resentful, not terribly bright, and aging white people. That's the GOP. That's the bread and butter right there.

For every suburban Republican who loves tax cuts and the National Review there are a half-dozen of the people you see at a Trump rally. No matter how many times Republican elected officials and opinion leaders have tried to convince themselves otherwise, these people do not give one shit about Conservative Values or the principle of small government. They're angry and they've been convinced that government is to blame. That is about the extent to which they have opinions that could be called "political." The rest is simply nativism, the politics of blood. They just hate everyone different. It sounds like I'm oversimplifying that to insult them, but unfortunately that's all there is to it. They hate the gays, the liberals, the environmentalists and their "science", the Pope, the Jews, the blacks, the Mexicans, the Mormons, the young, the poor, and anything remotely "foreign" or unfamiliar (including, from the looks of his crowds, fruit and occasional exercise):

Yes, millions of people responded to (conservative) rhetoric for years. But that wasn't because of the principle itself, but because it was always coupled with the more effective politics of resentment: Big-government liberals are to blame for your problems.

Elections, like criminal trials, are ultimately always about assigning blame.
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For a generation, conservative intellectuals have successfully pointed the finger at big-government-loving, whale-hugging liberals as the culprits behind American decline.
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Stupid people are short-sighted and for years nobody in the GOP appeared smart enough, or perhaps confident enough, to wonder aloud if leading the literal Mob around by throwing chunks of red meat toward it at regular intervals was going to become problematic. Ignorant rabble are not known for their logic, after all. It was inevitable that someone who has truly mastered the art of pandering to the lowest common denominator – America wooooo!

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Fuck the Mexicans! Let's bomb the hell out of everything! – would come along and upstage them. No matter how expensive their suits look or how many Cato Institute quasi-intellectuals appear on Sunday talk shows spouting the tired right-wing talking points we can all recite by heart, what Trump is doing right now is exactly what the GOP has been doing for thirty years now. He's just much better at it than they are, and now they don't know what to do.

54 thoughts on “SIMPLE FORMULA”

  • I believe America is stupid enough to elect Trump. Everyone in the media has said 'oh he'll run out of gas before the primaries', but not only did he keep going, he's thriving.

    There is no stopping the angry orange wind machine.

  • Democrats give our money to the poors; no one want to be in that category. Republicans give our money to the rich; everyone wants to be rich and thinks that if they will be some day, if the fucking Democrats would just quit giving our money to the poors!

  • Trump could have been stopped had the party found a candidate to rally around, but the Republican "deep bench" turned out to be a mirage. Bush, Rubio, and Cruz are all terrible campaigners and revolting in person, not too mention each one of them was either foreign or a foreigner-lover.

    So much for Republican outreach to Latino voters.

    The GOP is screwed at this point. Either Trump wins the nomination, and goes on to be trounced by Hillary, or the GOP denies Trump the nomination somehow, and infuriates its base.

  • I will continue to enjoy a healthy sense of schadenfreude provided voters turn out in large enough numbers to elect the Democrat–be it Hillary or Bernie–come November. Because one other thing is true this year. Of the three leaders in the GOP race, Trump is the least dangerous and that scares the shit out of me.

  • I don't think Trump is actually running an elaborate trolling operation designed to destroy the Republican Party and get Hillary elected, but it's very telling that it's still plausible.

    I think Steve M. said it best when he wrote that Trump needs to be the nominee because "the Republican Party needs to wake up in a pool of its own vomit," though I don't know whether a Trump or a Cruz nomination would be the best means to achieve this.

  • I would have thought that our corporate owned media would have been less enthusiastic enablers, but Trump is after all one of their own.

    So if Jeb! billionaires and bundlers spent how many ever scores of millions to put his face in front of the public – what price could we put on the media exposure that Trump gets every time he opens his pie hole and channels the national id. A $2-300 million dollar subsidy? Granted, the media coverage is often breathless fretting about his latest fatal gaffe, but you can tell they can't help themselves. And in any case, men in suits hyperventilating about his offensive destructiveness is better than the best campaign ad he could buy. As they say, that's a feature, not a bug. The conservatives broke the "public good" model of news media, but instead of giving us Pravda they gave us politics as entertainment. Well, he's entertaining. That's one thing everyone has to admit.

  • As Taibbi says: "He's like every other corporate tyrant in that his solution to most things follows the logic of Stalin: no person, no problem. You're fired!"

    This is also part of his appeal. In the lower echelons of the job markets, this is exactly a reflection of reality. Screw up, you're out, and someone (possibly of a dusky hue!) replaces you. So if you're one of these workers, the idea that your economic betters might get similarly shat upon is very appealing.

    Never mind that people should fight for better conditions for themselves instead of worse conditions for others. That requires that one not feel powerless.

  • You have described my in-laws to a T except that they're wealthy and not stupid, but they are scared of everything and anything that looks, talks, and behaves differently than they do. And they're in their mid-70's. My parents, in their mid-60's, are equally xenophobic but they hate Trump solely because 20 years ago he supported a Clinton (despite that my family actually did well under Clinton and suffered under every Republican president ever, they hate Democrats). They have no idea who they support, but they know that they will vote Republican no matter what because of the 2nd Amendment. That's all they care about.

  • I told my students the other day that a Trump victory at best will lead to Idiocracy and at worst will be the rise of a fascist regime. I told my parents that Trump is a fascist and that they could very well lose their guns under his police state. They agreed but feel that with a Republican they have a better chance of keeping their guns.

  • This is like the part in the old sci-fi movies where the mad scientist's creation turns on him.

    They created this monster and now they have no idea how to control it.

  • This is the sort of situation that FDR had in mind with the new deal, to take the oxygen out of the room for a populist candidate who wouldn't stop at tweaking the system. And what makes Democrats in 2016 a conservative choice. Even Bernie.

  • I'm looking forward to Jon Voight becoming Trump's VP running mate. Only a pig-faced, oleaginous, increasingly delusional scumbag could melt the cameras faster than the bumptious, gesticulating narcissist.

  • H.M.S. Blankenship says:

    Thanks for providing the link. Taibbi is not as unhinged as the late Hunter Thompson, but he is usually entertaining. He seems to feel that Trump will mop the floor with Hillary in the general; hope he's wrong about that.

  • Celebration of dumb is our hobby. It's easy and we can always change our minds. Sad to say, this change of mind today, looks for someone even dumber.

  • @jeneria said the magic word — "fear."

    Talk to a "conservative" long enough and underneath all their bluster and tough talk, you'll find that they are basically peeing in their pants.

    This is not an accident. It's fairly well known that fear and uncertainty are processed in the brain by the amygdala. When the amygdala is overloaded, it overtakes the neocortex, which is responsible for rational thought.

    The conservative message, from Fox Noise on down, is fear, fear, and more fear. People who watch Fox non-stop, no matter what they tell you, are quaking in their boots and unable to think rationally.

    This has nothing to do with economic status, race, education, or anything else. Once you can hijack the amygdala, you own the person.

    So, the current conservative message is to fear foreigners, fear ISIS, fear Al Qaeda (although they seem to have fallen out of favor as a fear factor), fear "thugs," fear Mexicans, fear liberals, fear the gays, fear the government (Jade Helm anyone?), fear your neighbor (see something, say something), fear for your guns, fear for your religion.

    When people are subjected to this message non-stop, they lose all capacity to think rationally. This explains Trump or any other demagogue who says he will eliminate your fear.

  • OK, I'll go full tinfoil here…

    If Trump somehow wins in November, I wouldn't like his chances of surviving until January…

  • "Once you can hijack the amygdala, you own the person."

    Skipper, you nailed it.

    But what these wetbrained dullards still do not understand is that they are NOT the majority in this country, The majority are not misogynists, willfully ignorant, phobes of all ilk, uber religious zealots, and STUPID.

    They will lose again, as they have the past two generals. So get ready for more shitting of pants.

  • @carrstone: they love Trump because he's saying everything they want to say and do: bomb all the muslims, build a wall around America, kick out all the brown illegals, etc. He is the bully they all want to be.

  • "Your hypothesis fails 'cause if "they just hate just everyone strange", why do they love Trump so?"

    Because, by their definition, rich white men are never strange (unless they give some of their wealth to "librul" charity).

  • The part that got me was this one:

    I mention that Trump's plan is virtually identical to Dick Gephardt's idea from way back in the 1988 Democratic presidential race, to fight the Korean Hyundai import wave with retaliatory tariffs. Donlon says she didn't like that idea then. Why not? "I didn't like him," she says.

    It's not "I love conservative principles," but "I'm gonna follow this cult of personality that just happens to be interested in those things." And when a different personality comes and takes over the cult…. they follow the cult, not the principles of the former leader.

  • I'm with RosiesDad–the fact that Trump is the most acceptable of all the potential GOP nominees is terrifying–and it is even more terrifying to contemplate that he could win over Hillary (although Ed has explained why that is an extremely unlikely possibility).

  • Spacegeek touched on something which has struck (stricken?) me for many years: that depriving others is as important to the conservative movement as anything. Small government, except the most expensive part (military), charter schools at the expense of poor districts, corporatization of public universities, privatizing prisons, utilities, roads, parking meters…
    Once they got a lock on new wealth from economic growth it seems they're focused on ensuring institutions benefit the populace less.
    Wealth envy and fear-filled amygdalae have made fascism the line of least resistance.

  • @ s m mcbean
    Boy, are you wrong on the conservatives being in favor of depriving others! Who, after all, wants to increase taxes?

    Small government, at a minimum, would cost less leaving more money in the hands of the tax payer, charter schools improving knowledge, skills and ultimately graduating more potential entrepreneurs, putting the cost of education in the responsibility of the users, private prisons, in seeking to make a profit, will add to the IRS revenue stream, etc., etc.

  • Earlier, I would have said that Trump will win the primary but would not win the general.

    Now, I'm pretty sure we're looking at President Trump. Sanders, despite doing far far better than anyone would have guessed, probably won't win. So we get sad-sack Hillary Clinton, fighting for the establishment. All of the enthusiastic Sanders supporters won't turn out for her and her explicit promises of no change. Her one useful attribute – being a woman – is a progressive change, but that's literally the only good thing that can be said about her, and that's not enough.

    Trump is the one promising actual progressive change (in a few areas). Trump! Not Clinton!

    Most importantly, the shitty governance of the past few decades is starting to sink in. There's an increasingly large contingent of the public (in every country) that are sick of the oligarchy and plutocracy. That manifests itself as increasing willingness to vote for both "left-wing" AND "right-wing" candidates, anyone who promises they'll fuck with that plutocracy.

    It's just a race: will the first one to take advantage of that be from the left or from the right? Sanders, very unfortunately, seems like he isn't quite going to make that hurdle. So I guess the U.S. will lurch right, and if Trump does something to mitigate that anger, then great, otherwise the country will probably lurch left. See: Greece.

    Someone mentioned the New Deal as a way to pacify the anger of people who had been out of work for years. Yes, exactly. Until something is done to rectify the sense that people are getting screwed by the elite, anyone who promises such a change is going to be electable. Anyone.

  • No matter how odious, repulsive, etc. Trump is I have to thank him for one thing. I can now check off one of the top items on my bucket list. I always said I wanted to live long enough to see Bush 41 called out in a national forum covered by mass media for what was truly the worst thing any American president has done – namely leading us into the quagmire of all quagmires – the war in Iraq, the residual and growing horrors of which we are living with throughout the world. Trump is the first person of any stature (dubious at best) to actually call that war out for what it was and call out the major responsible party George Bush not only for the war but also the mendatious way it was pulled off. I am still waiting for someone with an open mic to acknowledge the foresight of Saddam Hussein who told the world that we "were opening the gates of Hell".

  • @ SM McBean: I had a great discussion at work today about the conservative pants-soiling terror, that SOMEone, SOMEwhere, is getting something the conservative isn't. This was sparked by the guy who fills the soda machines giving a banged-up can of soda to the elderly lady who cleans the bathrooms, and the all-day poutrage of one of our rightwing whiners, who was just beside himself that "those people" (what, elderly women who clean toilets for minimum wage?) might GET FREE STUFF (in this case, a dented can of soda that vends for 80 cents). It's pathological with these folks.

    This led to a discussion of fear-biting dogs, and how the conservative mindset comes from the same place; terror and insecurity.

  • @Major Kong, yes, Dr. Frankenstein's creation has broken free and is trashing the lab; the good Doctor in this case being people like Kevin Phillips, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.

    @Timurid, as far as tinfoil hats go, the "deep state" (not to mention Wall Street) would obviously prefer Mrs. Clinton– she's never met a war she didn't like and is buddies with the Rubin/ Summers/ Goldman/ Citi crowd. There's no need to kill a nobody like Trump. In the unlikely event he looked to be winning the general, just flip a couple hundred thousand votes in Ohio or wherever. Easy Peasy.

  • I think you're short-changing them, Ed. They rightly surmise that they've been fucked by the establishment: neoliberal economics and neocon foreign policy have been a disaster for the middle and lower classes. Those policies, the accepted wisdom of lefty and righty establishment figures, have led to 35 years of stagnant wages for them while urban technocrats disappear into the stratosphere. The "sharing economy" is merely an acknowledgement of how bad things have gotten for everyone else.

    During that time the establishment right (i.e. National Review) has offered privatization and tax cuts, blaming "those people" when this did not deliver the shining city. Being human beings they have clung ever harder to tribal morality (don't laugh, you're no different) to survive existential insecurity. Now along comes The Donald, confirming what they always thought and saying what they always feared to say. His trashing of The Shrub was catharsis for all involved; you could hear the muscles relax in that room when he did.

    They are not ignorant, and they are far from stupid. They have been fighting to survive on a sinking ship for two generations – if you think they're stupid you need to get out more. They are the victims of a multi-generational con game, one that preyed on their morality and hijacked their amygdalae. But they've figured out at least part of the scam, and they are righteously pissed.

    Our job on the left is to show them the better alternative. Dismissing them as stupid and ignorant is exactly the kind of elitist bullshit they are sick of, both unhelpful and unworthy of anyone claiming the title of Progressive.

  • "private prisons, in seeking to make a profit, will add to the IRS revenue stream, etc., etc."

    Or, in conjunction with our increasingly bought-and-paid-for electoral process, they'll follow their natural market incentives and ensure that petty misdemeanors, minor nuisances, and even outright non-issues are criminalized and enforced with an increasing degree of aggression.

    Same goes for education: Can we really ensure there won't be perverse incentives to churn out Good Little Workers, as opposed to imparting knowledge and critical-thinking skills?

    Anytime one considers privatizing / profit-izing something, it's crucial to examine where the growth incentives will line up. We don't have for-profit firefighting, because we don't want more fires. Nor should we have for-profit prisons, because incarceration is not a good we necessarily want more of for its own sake. Even if you're inclined to agree with the efficacy of the method (whether from a retributive, punitive, protective, or rehabilitative standpoint), it's at best a sometimes-necessary response to the unfortunate commission of certain evils.

  • @mojrim: "They are not ignorant, and they are far from stupid. They have been fighting to survive on a sinking ship for two generations – if you think they're stupid you need to get out more."

    Yes, they are stupid. Not because they're angry and fighting to survive. But because they think Donald Trump's policies will actually help them in that fight. They've been drinking the Kool-Aid of GOP talking points (not to mention religious social conservatism) for so long that they no longer have any idea how anything works in reality. They don't understand cause-and-effect, or facts, or really anything – except blind anger.

    You can call them victims (like you did), but that doesn't mean they're not stupid at the same time. The terms aren't mutually exclusive.

  • @Heisenberg: Are West Virginia miners stupid for going back underground after a collapse? Are Corpsman stupid for shielding wounded Marines with their bodies? Are firemen stupid for running into burning buildings to save complete strangers? The common denominator here is belief, which you either have or lack regardless of IQ. No one does those things out of considered arguments about the greater good.

    You are correct that the terms are not mutually exclusive, but neither is synonymous with doing things you don't understand. This is the same population that fought the police, pinkerton, and the national guard for a 40 hour work week. I've been to most of ungoverned shitholes on this planet and the people there are smarter then either of us. When they fall prey to ideological stupidity it's not their intellect that betrays them, but their horizons. How them a wider world and you are a hero, write them off and you are just another elitist asshaberdasher.

  • Reilly: carrstone and his ilk love the thought of private prisons punishing their inferiors. I imagine his ideal is Turkish drug prison where the only way you eat is if your relatives bring food.

    charter schools are a grifting scam by connected ghouls.

  • I agree with much of what mojrim has to say. Both parties have let them down, along with the rest of us. It's easy to focus on the many horrendous things Trump says, and to call his supporters nativist and racist. Yes, many of them are. There's no question he appeals to our ugliest nature. But many Trump supporters are also angry, and for good reason.

    He's happy to point out how both parties have harmed them.

  • The moment Fox News became the receiver of the hate and vitriol, I knew that the Republican tactics to anger the mob had come home to roost in their own hen house. They were fools to think they could manipulate the masses and control them forever. Unfortunately, it's not just them who will pay for this mess. All of America will suffer from their arrogance and deceit.

  • @mel

    Fox (and her little sister MSNBC) manipulate no one (or very few) They exist because wise marketing heads realized there was/is a revenue stream to tap into that called to them.

    Fox pulls about 2 – 3 million per hour prime time max and MSNBC pulls a half of that out of a 245 million adult population.

    My granny used to call stuff like that "The fly$hit in the pepper"

    However, business decisions lead to tapping into untapped or underserved market segments.

    Profits, mo' money…


  • ah. the sound and the fury. who is leading whom? bread and circuses. popcorn time while the Grifters Grift. Divide and Conquer works. Rich vs Poor, and the Rich are winning Big Time! Even they say this. lol. Angry? lol. Pitchforks are too kind. i'm sure they just want us to eat brioche.

  • I disagree with Mojrim on this issue. I live and work in a red area of a blue state, and I'm surrounded by people who embody what he so clearly explained: "Yes, they are stupid. Not because they're angry and fighting to survive. But because they think Donald Trump's policies will actually help them in that fight. They've been drinking the Kool-Aid of GOP talking points (not to mention religious social conservatism) for so long that they no longer have any idea how anything works in reality. They don't understand cause-and-effect, or facts, or really anything – except blind anger."

    Know what? I'm fed up of the purposely-know-nothings screaming with spittle flying that the very notion that a woman get paid the same as a man for doing the exact same job is "communism", that objecting to corporate-run charter schools is "soshulizm", and not wanting the government to be run as a Christian theocracy is "fascist". These people have no idea what they're talking about and the ideas they've been led to believe are wrong and stupid, but they're ready to fight to the death to have them implemented.

  • H.M.S. Blankenship says:

    Apparently, the Trumpster didn't do very well in the debate last night. Still waiting to see if that will have an effect on his poll numbers. This whole process is like a ponderous experiment which will reveal the true nature of the American electorate. Is it really >50% hate-filled, xenophobic bigots?

  • They are not ignorant, and they are far from stupid. They have been fighting to survive on a sinking ship for two generations – if you think they're stupid you need to get out more. They are the victims of a multi-generational con game, one that preyed on their morality and hijacked their amygdalae. But they've figured out at least part of the scam, and they are righteously pissed.

    Our job on the left is to show them the better alternative.

    Yeow, such a patronizing last line. Am hoping it doesn't merely mean "We must set a good example," but was trying to convey something like, "An economic opportunity must be presented that will seem to these victims to be a better alternative to being grifted and exploited."

    Kinda like trying to explain to Angolans that vaccination isn't a plot by white people to spread disease.

    Ideas as to what might accomplish that, mojrim?

  • @Mo: I mean the latter. Modeling only works until age 16 when the PFC shuts down for final design implementation.

    What would I offer? Mostly the Sanders plan, though I think free college is largely a waste of time and money. Strong social safety nets, decent employment and whatever degree of protectionism is necessary to make that happen. I'd add strongly nationalist rhetoric that emphasizes being american rather than being in a sub-group. That thing plays far better when the pie is growing; racism has always been a tool to divide labor and has force when the pie is shrinking.

    Beyond that, STFU on the gun issue. You're not going to make any headway and all it does is alienate them. In better times they will be more receptive, perhaps, but right now it's a cultural signifier and the only thing many have left.

    @Katydid: Nothing you described is stupidity, only fear and am anger they can't place. The american left abandoned these people in the 1970's; it's no surprise they fell victim to the grifters that started speaking their language. Humans are social animals by nature and cling harder to tribal morality in times of existential insecurity. You are no different, you just picked a different tribe.

  • @mojrim; the American left most certainly did not abandon the willfully and stubbornly stupid in the 1970s. They left the mainstream culture. Do you remember the 1970s? I do. There was huge outrage in the mid-1970s about the cost of gasoline, fanned into fury when Carter was elected and made "Un-murkkkun" statements such as driving a more-efficient car and turning down the thermostat might help conserve what oil we had left.

  • @mojrim: "Nothing you described is stupidity, only fear and am anger they can't place."

    Then perhaps this is just a definitional issue. You bristle at the word "stupid," presumably because it sounds mean. And I applaud your desire to take the high road.

    But your substitution of "fear and anger they can't place" doesn't really define what I'm describing. I'm describing stupidity.

  • We'll trick those race car-loving wide loads into loving your lefty homoerotic propaganda hour yet!

    Jack Donaghy

  • @Katydid: Oh yes, it most certainly did abandon them. That's the era when the democratic party largely ditched it's traditional blue collar base in favor of identity politics. I'm glad you folks saw fit to bring my kind to the table, but you did so at their expense, and that was a huge mistake. Not only has it resulted in their economic collapse, but it also allowed the republicans to blame their losses on me and mine.

    @Heisenberg: I know that what you are describing is stupidity and that's what I object to. It's an easy out, a way to consign people to the dumpster without examining what actually happened. These folks didn't just wake up one morning, drink the stupid juice, and decide to vote against their own interests. They were found adrift and carefully led to this by the likes of Bill Buckley & Co. It is in the nature of mass movements to take otherwise sensible people, prey on their fears, blind them with dogma, and lead them to hell. Ignorance and fear can be addressed, stupidity can only be shot.

  • @mojrim: are you feelings hurt because you're not being sufficiently pandered to? Wow, just wow. Also, pleaes provide your definition of "identity politics", because I don't believe you're using the term the way most people do.

    As a second-generation American, very much blue-collar background, I'm rather astounded at your level of perceived entitlement. Starting with Nixon (the first president I remember paying attention to) it's been very obvious to me that the Republican party is out to destroy working-class people, and the Democrats–with their wacky ideas such as health care and food being a basic human right, not an option for the richest (remember "Hillary Care in the mid 1990s? I sure do), are the only electable party in the USA that's not going to gut us completely.

    So, you're very unhappy–what are you doing to change things? Run for office, have you? Spoken with your Congresscritter? Or just stomped your feet and whined about how you're not appreciated enough?

  • @Katydid: Pandering, an alternative for substantive policies, is exactly what I object to What I've been seeing is a great deal of talk since the late 70's but very little action. What I remember from the Clinton administration is the entire neoliberal smorgasbord: NAFTA, welfare reform, 3-strikes, and super predators.

  • @mojrim. Ah, okay, I will grant you that. However, as a resident in a nominally-blue-but-actually-quite-red-locally state, I've seen some horrific stuff from the Republicans.

    Also, not my state, but in Illinois, the latest R atrocity is to deny birth certificates to newborns whose fathers aren't documented on their birth certificates. Yes, they're trying to deny citizenship to natural-born citizens to punish them for something completely out of their control. Without birth certificates, these kids can't get Social Security numbers and therefore can't grow up to get education, healthcare, then get work, get driver's licenses, or vote. This is all "for the children" of course, under the insane story that without knowing the fathers, the state can't pursue them for child support for the child (a sick joke, as any parent with a deadbeat ex-spouse can tell you—even when they have the other parent's name, address, phone number, and place of work, they often can't be bothered to enforce child support orders). Additionally, there are children who shouldn't be tied to their fathers (in cases of incest, child abuse, domestic violence), others whose fathers are completely unknown (rapes, sperm banks), and countless women who can and do support their children without a biological male in the household (single mothers, lesbian families).

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