Why Is the Election Close?

I’ve read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s book Strangers in Their Own Land. The noted sociologist spent five years talking with people in Louisiana, the reddest of deep red states, about why they continue to vote for Republican legislators who fail to protect their environment and deny climate change science. I can’t distill a thoughtful and complex book into a single sentence, but if I could, I’d say that the people whose stories Hochschild told use binary, either-or thinking. Either we can have jobs or a clean environment. Since we can’t have both, we choose jobs.

That, of course, is incorrect. Producing energy in a way that doesn’t damage the environment is simply a cost of doing business, a cost that Republicans refuse to assign to polluting companies. Instead, the cost is born by the people who live around the refineries and drilling platforms, who suffer higher than normal rates of cancer and whose precious bayous are now filled with toxic sludge.

Friend and regular reader Ellen sent me a link to another article:


The title is “How Half of America Lost Its Fu**cking Mind”. Here’s the gist of the article:

The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I’m telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It’s not their imagination.”

I think I understand, at least as well as someone who lives in progressive, prosperous Seattle can. Here’s what I don’t understand: thinking that a spoiled narcissistic rich guy cares one iota about working class Americans who are suffering, or thinking that he can do anything that will make a difference in their lives. He’s a master manipulator — but you don’t have to take a master manipulator seriously, do you?

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