Empathy for Trump Voters, a Rarity

Whomever wins the election, the racialization of politics (with the GOP becoming the Party of Whites) will only increase.

Through the policy actions and debate-stifling repression done by the Left, mass politics is itself becoming yet another cultural arena invoking implicit whiteness.

On his show today, Rush talked about this WaPo interview with UCAL-Berkeley sociology professor Arlie Russell Hochschild (“What is this election missing? Empathy for Trump voters.”) Basically, Hochschild decided to embed herself for a sustained period of time (upwards of 5 years) with that strange zoological specimen known as ‘flyover America whites’ in order to try to understand them:

As the tea party rose to political prominence at the end of the last decade, a liberal Berkeley sociology professor set out to understand why the white working class, once a strong voting bloc for Democrats, had embraced anti-establishment ideas that put them further to the right of even the mainstream Republican Party. Arlie Russell Hochschild spent time in rural Louisiana over five years getting to know people in a state where only 14 percent of white voters supported Barack Obama in 2008.

“What I wanted to do was take my own political and moral and social alarm system off and permit myself to curiosity and interest in people very different from myself,” she said in an interview. “The main thing I was trying to do was to really see if I could make friends with people, really get close. For certain people I asked, would you show me the school you went to, could we visit the church you went to, the cemetery where your parents were buried. They were wonderful people who I came to know in this way.”

What Hochschild discovered, and then wrote about in her book, “Strangers in Their Own Land” — a National Book Award finalist this year — is that neither side makes an effort to understand the other, but especially progressives, she said. Without understanding, there can’t be empathy. Without empathy, it’s nearly impossible to explore common ground.

Whoa! “Especially progressives”? But they are the so-called ‘tolerance’ crowd.

Q: What were your preconceived stereotypes or expectations before you first visited Louisiana for this book in 2011?

Hochschild: What I expected was a self-centered people, but I found people who were nothing like that, quite the opposite. They were openhearted, they were communal. They were very eager to be known. They’d say, ‘Thanks for coming. We’re the flyover state, people don’t care about us, they don’t know who we are. They think we’re racist and homophobic and sexist and fat.’ There was a gratitude toward me, and I would tell them exactly who I was: ‘I think I live in a political bubble, and I’m trying to get out of mine and into yours. Will you talk to me? In some of them you sensed loss and a sense of being invisible and unappreciated and insulted. That liberals just think they’re rednecks. Here were people, some who had worked very hard, half were college-educated, and they just felt put down, and they felt a drifting downward in their economic circumstance, but didn’t hear anyone listening to them about their distress. They felt like a minority group.

Notice how shocked Hochschild appears to have been, when she actually got to know these Tea Party types, that they are not foaming-at-the-mouth racists.

I also find it fascinating that a sociology professor, supposedly a stalwart of scientific objectivity when it comes to population demographics: A) had a stereotype of white Louisiana as a “self-centered people”, and B) would admit it.

Q: So you don’t think the two sides are as far apart as it feels right now? What exactly is Donald Trump tapping into then?

There are fundamental differences, but there are yet more fundamental commonalities. He speaks to their underlying feeling of invisibility and being disparaged. He’s a charismatic leader, he’s not just a maker of a narrative; he’s proposing himself as a personal messenger of their desires and their distress. They don’t feel either party has mentioned them, that they are people who feel that they are quintessentially American, that they’ve bought the line that if you work hard and obey the rules, you will have the opportunity to better yourself. They feel like they have worked hard and obeyed the rules, but they don’t feel like they’ve achieved the American Dream. So that puts them in a psychological state of vulnerability, which Trump has moved in on.

Hochschild rightly sees intolerance as more of a problem in the Left than the Right:

Q: So is lack of empathy what is driving us apart?

It’s absolutely one part. It would be far too simple to say it was the only part. But it is a basic part. I think a lot of people can do it. They do it with their spouses, their children, their loved ones. If you believe that getting to know people who are profoundly different from you is dangerous or ill-advised, then you’re not going to want to do it, then you won’t even try to do it. Progressives have to get out of their corner and reach out; we’re stuck in our enclaves, our geographic enclaves, our media enclaves. Extreme blame-pinning rhetoric tends to extinguish empathy toward the ‘other’ and create fellow-feeling among those with whom one already agrees.

Q: So the onus is on progressives? Is there a responsibility for conservatives to reach out too?

It goes both ways but I think liberals bear the bigger responsibility, and the bigger interest, if they want to understand why the democratic party has lost so many blue collar white voters.

Hochschild has a long form piece in Mother Jones which is a distillation of her book.

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