White Populist Resentment

I don’t count any Trump supporters among my close friends, although I have family members who are devoted to him. I used to spend time reading the articles about how deeply polarized Americans need to build bridges and understand each other. Now I read those less. I think our politics has become so tribal that democracy ceases to work in any inclusive sense. No more Teddy Kennedy and Orin Hatch reaching across the aisle to legislate bills to improve children’s health. Now, it’s all in or all out. I think that when white populists are ascendant, like now, we get policies that favor Americans who are rich, white, Christian, and fearful. When progressives are ascendant, we get policies that favor the best talent no matter where it comes from, evidence-based decision making, high ethical standards, and optimism about the future.

There are really no bridges between those two positions, so I think policy will lurch back and forth depending on who is in power. Over time, I think that will hurt the country badly, as many things — like climate change legislation and control of nuclear proliferation — require long term commitments and honoring commitments agreed to under previous administrations. Clearly we don’t have that now. I’m just as polarized as anyone else.  I hope that when progressives are in power again, policies put in place by Trump get thrown aside without a second glance. Lurch, lurch.

I did read this article by Gerard Alexander, a professor at the University of Virginia – – core Trump country. His position is one I’ve heard before: “Liberals, you made us vote for Trump because you disrespected us, and we’re going to do it again in 2020 just to spite you.”

That’s what I mean about there being no bridges. Trump is proud of his race-baiting, xenophobic, anti-Muslim remarks; they are among this best applause lines at rallies. I don’t get why his devotees aren’t proud too, instead of trotting out the “you made me do it” line.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/opinion/sunday/liberals-youre-not-as-smart-as-you-think-you-are.html

8 thoughts on “White Populist Resentment

  1. I just read a powerful book that touches on this theme: Educated, by Tara Westover. Her parents were survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, whose children never went to school, saw a doctor or hospital, or participated in anything that smacked of “government.” The father was far off the deep end in beliefs and polarization, and cruelly indoctrinated his family and others. Finally some of the children broke lose and went to school. Tara ended up with a PhD from Cambridge. This is her story about breaking free from her family beliefs and getting to know her true self. Sometimes hard to read, but well written.

  2. for Phyllis: Always looking for a good read, and I will track this one down. Thank you. I had a friend in Rochester who grew up in a fundamentalist home, with a patriarchal father and grimly rule enforcing mother. Although my friend extricated herself and became a sort of normal Presbyterian by the time I knew her, she was still struggling with the after effects of her upbringing.

  3. We saw her interviewed on one of the book/author shows on C-SPAN and found the book at Barnes & Noble in the “new author” section. She writes a lot about how the father’s tyrancy and the mother’s ambivalence effected the seven children. The last few chapters about the final polarization of the family are fascinating and scary. I can’t imagine living through a hell like this and coming out an unscarred person – she deserves a lot of credit for getting through it and writing her story.

  4. for Ada: I’m very discouraged at Trump’s poll numbers going up. Really, what is the matter with people? I’ll take all the encouraging news I can get.

  5. It is only encouraging in the sense that he was able to identify three groups now within those who voted for Trump. One basket is the ones who are still totally with him; basket number two are those who will NEVER vote for him again; third basket are those who are kind of on the fence – still with him, but not happy. I was encouraged because they were not all basket number one! At this point, I will take anything I can get.

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