Brookings Says the Say

Here’s Richard Reeves from Brookings, going to the heart of the recent election. He’s talking about the fact that white men in Middle America who want to earn a living like their fathers did and be respected as head of household are in fact going through a painful transition to a world they don’t much like:

“Policies to soften the transition are of course available: wage insurance, higher minimum wages, family leave, and so on. But note that none of these are high on Trump’s agenda. In the long run, the only cure is for whites, and especially white men, to change their expectation that high status, along with a decent-paying job, will be delivered to them merely by virtue of their race and gender.

Loss of relative status is painful, no doubt. But it is the inescapable price of equality. Trump has no cure. Nobody does. In the meantime, he has provided some temporary psychological relief. But it won’t last. Trump is a temporary painkiller; the political equivalent of the opiates sweeping small town America. As J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, warned back in July, the Trump hit will wear off. “So long as people rely on that quick high, so long as wolves point their fingers at everyone but themselves, the nation delays a necessary reckoning,” he wrote in The Atlantic. “There is no self-reflection in the midst of a false euphoria. Trump is cultural heroin. He makes some feel better for a bit. But he cannot fix what ails them, and one day they’ll realize it.”

When that day comes, what will happen? Perhaps those who voted for the past will realize that it cannot be conjured back up again, and embrace, or at least accept, the world as it is today. Perhaps some of those who voted for him will turn to a more progressive populism. Perhaps, and most worrying of all, when the pain returns they will turn to an even stronger drug than the one he offered.”

Brookings is a pointy-headed liberal rag, so from one pointy-headed liberal to another: I think Reeves is right on.

4 thoughts on “Brookings Says the Say

  1. If you have not yet done so, be sure to read Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. It’s a real eye-opener about white people making the transition from poverty to middle class, and then again having difficulty in this economy, and feeling left out. He is very honest about his and their struggles and realities.

  2. for Phyllis: I haven’t read it, although I’ve read a book with a similar theme by Arlie Russell Hochschild re why the people of Louisiana keep electing state officials and Congressmen who gut environmental protections at great cost to the people’s health. Right now I’m so disheartened by everything coming out of the Trump transition I can hardly tolerate explanations of why I should understand people who either don’t vote, or vote against their own self-interest. Not sure, at the moment, why I should care more about Trump voters getting health care than they do. i recognize that it’s an attitude on my part that isn’t healthy and can’t last, so I’ll put the Vance book on my list for when I think I can hear the message with some empathy.

  3. Understand your needing a break from all things election/Trump win. An addition to my comments on Hillbilly Elegy…….it’s a very personal book, about his own struggles to grow/survive in his growing-up environment. It was published during campaign time, so he got called on by media to comment on Trump’s groupies and “angry whites.” Although he is now a Yale law grad and “successful”, he still appreciates and maintains relationships with his hillbilly relatives and friends. He ends the book with how both they and the country need to change. When you are ready, it’s a good read. I’m still in a funk too, and last night’s Trump speech in Ohio didn’t help. Did NOT watch it but saw clips this morning. He has not and will not change.

  4. for Phyllis: Have actually heard JD Vance interviewed, and he’s a thoughtful and interesting guy. Will keep the book on my list. Re Trump’s latest speech: I make a point of not listening to him — not good for my blood pressure. But I read an account, and it’s his usual vile nonsense. He chooses not to read daily security briefings prepared for POTUS — I hope someone will read them post January 20th — but he has time to whip up a frenzy among his adoring crowds. What a rolling disaster this is.

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