Saturday, November 12, 2016
The Soul Searching Within The Side That Lost
The link below to the PBS NewsHour segment with Shields and Brooks on looking into what ought to be faced now by those who had the rug pulled out from under them with Trump's win is telling. Both long established participants of the now much maligned "media" went to great lengths to indicated that, however much you felt of the deep ugliness of the Trump campaign, there should be questions that have to be asked of why so many white working class voters went with him despite all of the foul things he seemed to represent. As well as to say that, whatever the reservations you had, the process resulted in Trump winning and that, above all else, the process has to be respected.
And in that vein both veteran writers took pains to acknowledge the fact that those very same white working voters had real issues they felt the elites weren't taking seriously any more; which of course fall back mostly to the bedrock economic issues that have been given lip service by both parties for decades now, but for which little remedy has actually come forth.
A lot of this then comes back to how, as David Brooks indicated, people who know words can engage with people not quite so gifted; doing so in a way that is not condescending, or as Mark Shields indicated, in a way that avoids resorting to the rhetoric of labels such as "racists," which drops "an atomic bomb," as it were, on any further dialogue being possible.
There is truth to this certainly, but there is also truth in the fact that severely misinformed people, especially as it relates to issues of power, as regards to who and how, are simply going to be ripe for being taken advantage of. And it doesn't have to be a Trump who will do this as virtually all of the winners for this high office, for the last three decades at least, have promised so much, and have actually delivered so little.
Another view of trying to engage misinformed folks comes from the work of sociologist Arlie Hochschild; especially with her book "Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger And Mourning on the American Right" (see here, and here) This was a work where she tried to take off the typical prejudices of a Liberal and engage some folks on a personal level. And in doing that one of this things she encountered was this "deep story" metaphorical view these folks had of what has been wrong with American life; a view seen as where good folks stand in a kind of line, working hard, waiting for their turn at the "American dream," but where minorities, and immigrants, seem to be getting preferential treatment and, in a sense, get to cut into the line ahead of them. She also encountered a very deep mistrust of government not only because of the seeming preferential treatment, but also because of their own experience of having state government let them down so often; particularly in handling the industrial pollution that was killing so many of them (in Louisiana), as well as not providing very well for education or other basic services.
What is interesting for me in this combined view of American life is how it expresses both an astonishing passivity towards accepting how things are around you (as if simply working hard at a job and keeping your mouth shut otherwise would give you what you wanted), but also an ignorance of how any group get's its grievances heard and addressed.
Minorities such as blacks were not given a cut into some imagined line for the injustice they suffered. They organized, protested, and generally shook the status quo up, often at great cost in life and limb in the process, to make their plight known and understood (as did the early efforts to organize labor did to eliminate sweatshops, child labor, and wages little better than slavery). Just as they also went to considerable lengths to educated themselves on just how things worked in practical terms, and how they could use that knowledge to better express their plight and make the system realize the rightness of it.
From my point of view it is hard to sympathise with people who don't understand that their state government doesn't work worth shit precisely because they have let the big petrochemical industries, the ones they think are doing them a favor in providing jobs, have their way in virtually owning that local government; so much so that they can pollute as they please; as well as to say that these same local governments have so little resource to accomplish anything because those same big companies get away with paying so little in taxes.
One then has to ask the question: What will follow when the truth of Mr. Trump's con becomes clear? You need only consider just how disillusioned liberals and Progressives were, given Obama's initial rhetoric and promises to make real change happen, and how little came of that, to see that these working class whites are in for a very rude awakening. Whereupon the follow up question must be asked. What will any of the groups involved here ask of themselves about what should be done; the whites, minorities, immigrants, the media, Liberals, Conservatives, or Progressives. Administration after administration and very little of what is at the bottom line of power is addressed. Very little of it can be talked about it at all precisely because message of any kind now gets drowned out within the mind numbing cacophony of hard sell for profit, or some advantage within the system that makes profit king.
The fact of the matter, in my view, is that the system we're all trying to talk in, as well as to change, has made all such efforts virtually impossible because (see here) of the structural realities now in place, as well as the ingrained power that comes from that structure. Unless we can begin to question all of the fundamental assumptions that keep that structure going we are doomed to keep on repeating this process of slickly packaged promise ending up with a great deal of buyer's remorse.
Shields and Brooks on a ‘political earthquake’ and how America can move forward