Home | About | Donate

Talking with Strangers: A Journey to the Heart of the Right


#1

Talking with Strangers: A Journey to the Heart of the Right

Chuck Collins

There are many theories and explanations for the rise of Donald Trump and the current incarnation of white right-wing populism.

A deeper understanding—and an invitation to scale the “empathy wall”—comes from veteran sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in her new book, Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. The book is, as its second subtitle suggests, “A Journey to the Heart of Our Political Divide.”


#2

Several annoying aspects of this article.

Clinton stated that only 50% of Trump followers are deplorable (later retracting the "50%" and offered that it is a lower number). From the sort of nice rural or suburban homes with 3-car garages (and 3 cars/pickups, and a "quad" for every family member), that I see Trump signs in front of, I'd say that the 50% figure is about right.

And I recall that even the oil-drilling sinkhole-displaced family featured in Ms. Russel-Hothschild's book was pretty well-off - he was even building a kit airplane in his garage - a $30-40K endeavor at least.

And sorry to say, but there is no "trade policy" that is going to raise wages. If basic non-durable good manufacturing returned to the US - it will only be with enormous pressure to deeply cut wages. That is economics 101.

There is only one way to raise wages - organize a union!

And what the hell is this "American Dream" anyway? All that fills my mind when I hear that term is suburbia, cars, big-screen home theater-surround-sound TV's, wilderness-destroying "quads", and huge pickup trucks to take them to the wilderness with. Also 400 hp "bass boats" and more huge pickups towing them. Oh, and $30,000 gun collections, including assault rifles and plenty of ammo. In other words - the American Dream is just the endless accumulation of material crap obtained through absolutely 100% secure high-paying employment by a some mythical hyper-benevolent capitalist boss who even goes fishing and drinking beer with the guys (and they are all guys) back in the shop.

The American dream specifically does NOT include culture, art, community, solidarity, peace, a clean environment...


#4

Those new immigrants and people of color cutting in line also end up stuck in that same line going nowhere. And if that line is going nowhere, what difference does it make where you are in it? We need a new line as well as a new American Dream.


#5

Freedom of expression includes freedom for propaganda to flourish. One can understand many Trump supporters who listen to (some may be addicted to) the night and day barrage of professional commentators (many making millions) who know the ease with which human emotions react to incitement of anger and hatred. While empathy is important, empathy and understanding (walking in another's well-worn shoes) cuts both ways. The Internet's downside is its being filled with bitter resentment, hatred and false allegations stated as fact. In Donald J. Trump's presidential bid, the amount of and the need for fact checking has grown overnight like Topsy, and yet it seems correcting the statements of anyone has little effect for those who cheer the politician or commentator of choice. The Hochschild experience is also valuable in that it demonstrates the failure of and a need for an interest in self-awareness, self-education leading to knowledge. How many who support Donald J. Trump have adequate homes, jobs, cars, incomes -- and yet are convinced the nation is on the downward path to destruction? Some such folks are convinced that Mao and communism are lurking just around the corner. Why do Trump supporters cheer when their candidate implies his opponent could (or should) be shot? Why do his many false statements, exaggerations and absurdities not matter?
Professional political propagandists have learned from psychology and advertising how easy it is to push a human being's emotional buttons. Endless repetition of "The world is against you," "You are miserable," "Everything you believe about your culture is being destroyed" -- the drumbeat has religious undertones culminating in "Only one person can save you and everything you've worked for and you love! Follow me. Salvation awaits." The "other side," no matter who or what it my be, is the problem. Although some of our schools have courses in Critical Thinking and although many reporters and commentators make sincere efforts to clear a path through the political foggy dew, strong emotions that lead to the mob mentality (beautifully rendered years ago by my late dear friend Walter Van Tilburg Clark in "The Ox-Bow Incident") overwhem moderation, any "deeper understanding," and the pathological absence of empathy, a descent into cruelty.
Without knowledge, undertanding and empathy, we are all strangers in a strange, dysfunctional land.
Doug Giebel
Big Sandy, Montana


#6

TYPOS CORRECTED VERSION:

Freedom of expression includes freedom for propaganda to flourish. One
can understand many Trump supporters who listen to (some may be addicted
to) the night and day barrage of professional commentators (many making
millions) who know the ease with which human emotions react to
incitement of anger and hatred. While empathy is important, empathy and
understanding (walking in another's well-worn shoes) cuts both ways. The
Internet's downside is its being filled with bitter resentment, hatred
and false allegations stated as fact. In Donald J. Trump's presidential
bid, the amount of and the need for fact checking has grown overnight
like Topsy, and yet it seems correcting the statements of anyone has
little effect for those who cheer the politician or commentator of
choice. The Hochschild experience is also valuable in that it
demonstrates the failure of and a need for an interest in
self-awareness, self-education leading to knowledge. How many who
support Donald J. Trump have adequate homes, jobs, cars, incomes -- and
yet are convinced the nation is on the downward path to destruction?
Some such folks are convinced that Mao and communism are lurking just
around the corner. Why do Trump supporters cheer when their candidate
implies his opponent could (or should) be shot? Why do his many false
statements, exaggerations and absurdities not matter?
Professional
political propagandists have learned from psychology and advertising how
easy it is to push a human being's emotional buttons. Endless
repetition of "The world is against you," "You are miserable,"
"Everything you believe about your culture is being destroyed" -- the
drumbeat has religious undertones culminating in "Only one person can
save you and everything you've worked for and you love! Follow me.
Salvation awaits." The "other side," no matter who or what it my be, is
the problem. Although some of our schools have courses in Critical
Thinking and although many reporters and commentators make sincere
efforts to clear a path through the political foggy dew, strong emotions
that lead to the mob mentality (beautifully rendered years ago by my
late dear friend Walter Van Tilburg Clark in "The Ox-Bow Incident")
overwhlem moderation, any "deeper understanding," and the pathological
absence of empathy, a descent into cruelty.
Without knowledge, understanding and empathy, we are all strangers in a strange, dysfunctional land.
Doug Giebel
Big Sandy, Montana


#7

The left needs to drop the idea that working class white people don't vote in their own interests. It's patronising and it's wrong. When neither party is actually going to do very much for you, it's not entirely opposed to your interests to vote for the one that says it will take less of your money through taxes.

Yes, every four years the Democrats talk a good game about everything they will do to help. But, once in office providing that help does go to the back of the line. People are told there is only so much time and not everything can be done and that Republican obstructionism blocks all of their great plans. Amazing, how time is made and Republican obstructionism is overcome for their neoliberal policies though.Just simply amazing how President Obama could find the time and energy to make sure every American is required to subsidize the health insurance industry, but raising the minimum wage is just too hard and only worth dropping into a speech every few months.

I wonder what people in the 1930s would have done if FDR told them it was just too hard to fix their problems and he didn't have the time to fight for them. I'd bet it wouldn't have included voting for him four times.

Working class people don't need the coastal liberal elite to reach out to them. They need them to fight for them.


#8

Chuck, thanks for this post. I've thought over and over that there must be common ground. Human beings have common interest. Though I admit that I personally don't have the patience for such a task. However, I will recommend your article and the book to others.

Sorry the other comments on this article are so negative. Seems symptomatic of the articles intent to me.


#9

Progressives Are Targets


#10

Why don't you just edit your original post?


#11

But to fight for them we need to accept that maybe, just maybe, some, at least, of their concerns are legit ....


#12

Wrong place .... (smile)


#13

"A missing piece of the work is empathy, of listening and building relationships, and affirming that everyone is valued in this country, including those who are white working class and Christian."

Thank you so much for this! When i try to suggest that maybe we should be marching under an "All Lives Matter" banner, i get all sorts of brickbats thrown at me ...

( from another place)


#14

I don't know whether to fault the book reviewer or the book from this article, as there is nothing in the article which even remotely defines a 'bridge to empathy' with the racist xenophobes described. The line over the hill 'deep story' is absurd, shallow, flimsy and ultimately ridiculous in the context of such bridge building. The line-cutter is a mirage, at best, more likely a convenient and popular delusion that in no way encourages empathy with those who cling to it, impervious to reality.

If the book's author has found a way to build a bridge to empathy, you'd never guess from this article. Is it a noble undertaking, failed by an inept reviewer, or one failed by the author? Since I won't be reading the book, least of all based on this review, I guess I'll never know. I'd really like to read a compelling book on this subject, as I do 'see' these people, and know them as well.


#15

Baloney:

a) Meaningful tariffs (preferably with that tariff revenue divided up equally and paid out annually to all adult citizens) would cause both U.S. and foreign chartered multinationals to produce here what they sell here.

b) Unions would have much more clout without the ability of management to move production offshore and import that production back here at low-to-no tariffs.


#16

You probably get brick bats thrown at you because by saying "all lives matter", it shows that you must, necessarily, think that "black lives matter" means "only black lives matter" and not "black lives matter, too".


#17

The "left" would agree with you. The elected Democrats, however, are not the "left".


#18

We should understand that the deep anger and frustration of many working people who have been abandoned by this failed, crooked economic system. Most of us share that anger but are not pulled in by right-wing scapegoating and the misleading hacks of FOX and clearchannel radio. We share that anger and pain. It is up to us to build bridges and seek common ground where possible and to, as Lenin said, patiently explain the reality on issues and the history of our common class struggle. We must confront the brain rot of what I call, "Ailes' syndrome" with a positive solidarity around common ground against what the right calls "crony capitalism." We must work to overcome the imposed tribalism and division that weakens our class and our struggle.


#19

Except that there are no people of color cutting in line. That is racist bullshit. And there is no "American Dream" either.

This article should have made that clear.


#20

We are not going back to isolationism or protectionism - there are too many things that other countries do a better job with quality or they are the only ones building the product at all.- Such as Quebecois Bombardier public-transit rail vehicles to Brazilian Embraer regional airliners to my German/French Smart car - and these things are built with well-pail union labor too.

I had no idea that know-nothing isolationism has become something the US left supports.


#21

That is novel interpretation of the "deplorables" comment - one more "fact" pulled out of thin air...