I’m listening…

Regular readers won’t be surprised that the results of yesterday’s election has me reeling a bit. There is a list a mile long of things that now frighten me. But I am kind of exhausted by being angry and sad. A fair number of post-mortems are claiming that both major parties have ignored working class and poor whites for the past 20 to 30 years. There are many, many ways one could argue about the validity of that supposition. But for a while I want to take it on face value and accept that it is true. I have a very hard time understanding how Trump and the GOP will improve the plight of the working class and the poor. (In that respect I am glad the Democrats lost both houses. This way for at least two years Trump and the GOP can make some serious headway in improving the plight of the working class.)

In the meantime, I am really curious to find out what poor and working class whites want out of this presidency and Congress. During the campaign I only heard vague notions about security and jobs and those were often so laced with animus towards others it was hard to tell which came first. I grew up in a small town on the suburban/rural fringe northwest of Minneapolis. My home county voted 65% for Donald Trump. We always had food on the table, but money was always a concern growing up, or at least until I got to junior high. I was the first person in my family, even my extended family, to go to college. These are the people I grew up with. What is it that I no longer understand? Not a rhetorical question, I really want to know.

My own conventional wisdom has me thinking this is more about social issues (abortion, gays, race, etc.). The types of bills the Tea Party has introduced in Congress would support this idea, but what if it really isn’t that at all? What are the issues that have this demographic so pissed off? (One could ask why they are often so hostile to poor minorities in the city, but remember, I am trying to take the question at face value.

If I was an entrepreneurial person I would be looking for ways to start an organization/website/app that would hook up urban educated type (supposedly the clueless ones) with rural working class types. Not to discuss political issues or even policy ideas, but merely to get to know each other. It might also be helpful to hook up the urban poor with the rural poor to find common ground. There are myriad other combos too that might be beneficial to a better understanding of why we all seem to hate each other right now. What if all these pairs of people–either in person, or on the phone, or online, shared their personal stories, hopes, and fears with each other. Couldn’t there be some good in finding out where our common ground is?

Most of me wants to be angry and rail against all that I think is wrong. But we are stuck with what we are stuck with and something is clearly broken.

As for comments on this post, a few rules: No railing against the election results or against people. Let’s just try and be constructive and introspective.

9 thoughts on “I’m listening…

  1. Claire (The Captive Reader) November 9, 2016 / 8:28 pm

    My brother and sister-in-law, both Canadians, are living in the LA suburbs while attending school right now. For them, this election has been quite the education. Their neighbourhood is solidly working class and split about 50-50 between whites and Latinos and completely runs the gamut from rabid Trump fans to devoted Hillary supporters. It has been impossible for them to live side by side with both extremes the last few months and not at least see some of the attraction for Trump supporters.

    I think that kind of mixing is sadly lacking elsewhere and, as you point out, common ground and empathy are what is needed going forward. Also needed is a thorough berating of the media whose delight in pushing everything to the extreme has destroyed any room for thoughtful and productive debate and compromise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. travellinpenguin November 9, 2016 / 8:44 pm

    I grew up in Michigan, home of car manufacturing. My brother still lives there and worked for GM 30 yrs. Obama saved his job. He was union 30 yrs. I called him today and asked why he flipped to Trump. A lot of people out of jobs. No secure 30 yr jobs anymore and good salaries. Now to get a job in Michigan it seems only service industry hires. Grocery stores, hospitality, low paid, temporary. I asked him why his church was preaching Trump. Abortion, wars, society going too far left. He doesnt know if Trump will help but he knows 4 yrs under Hillary won’t change anything from last 4 yrs. Trump has a knack for connecting to blue collar workers. Right or wrong, true or false he felt Trump was at least listening to him. He knows I am as left as can be and we disagree but we listened to each other and now sit back to wait and see. Nobody knows what might happen. My gay, left wing sister in San Fran. also sadly disappointed said at least the American people are now talking about all the issues. They have all been thrown into the air and arent buried anymore. I thought she had a point. Me? I am still shell shocked but hoping for the best. Aftr all we are worried about free trade, war with China, losing US as an ally or getting hit by North Korea here in the Asia Pacific. I guess there are a variety of fears as well as stories and our own truths.


  3. louise trolle November 10, 2016 / 3:24 am

    I’m far away in Denmark – and well – most Europeans are worried about Trump letting Putin get away with more wars that will bring ex-soviet (and Eastern European) republics under Russian domain – and the future of Nato.
    I agree that all countries in Nato should share the expenses, but I really hope that an institution that has sustained peace in Europe and North America for 71 years, will not be dissolved by money issues. We need to stick together and talk about various issues rather than fight over them.

    I think this whole “them vs us” is the major issue here – fear is the enemy :-) Whether “they” are muslims, people with a college degree, wealthy business men, immigrants, jews or blue collar republicans. We’re all humans, with families, hopes and dreams, and hating/blaming another group won’t fix your problems – It’s some of the same mechanisms that led up to WW2 – and we’ve seen them in Europe as well, with Brexit, and more votes in general to right wing populistic parties.
    I hope we can work hard in our private and public debates, to deal with and resolve our fears and worries together – without blaming other groups in our societies – your idea about different groups of people getting to know each other is good Thomas :-)


  4. Liz Dexter November 10, 2016 / 4:05 am

    Bringing in an UK perspective from the Brexit fallout, my observation of the people I know who voted Out and indeed UKIP in the last election are that they feel they have a genuine grievance, that they have been overlooked in a kind of political correctness gone mad way. They genuinely feel that “other” people are bonded together in groups that are set against them (e.g. I didn’t pass my driving test because all the examiners are Asian and I’m white so they’re against me and will only pass their own). The others have a siege mentality, a house bristling with CCTV and notices, they are obviously scared of something, presumably another “other”. My hope is that they are both quite community minded, and I saw the first person chatting to her British Muslim neighbour, so maybe slowly and through kindness and, yes, linking people up, we can get people to see that Other people not like them are only looking for the same stuff in life, and are not out to get them. I had started avoiding these families. I’m going to try to interact with them more now.


  5. Elle November 10, 2016 / 4:08 am

    I suspect that a large proportion of Trump voters are not these mythical infuriated rednecks, but are in fact “educated” and at least semi-urban whites. In my hometown, plenty of the country club folks voted for him. The only reasons I can possibly imagine are a) ignorance of (or indifference to) the consequences of a Trump presidency for more vulnerable citizens, b) thinly veiled white supremacism, or c) some of both.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sue November 10, 2016 / 4:21 am

    I read an article this morning that said every country has its “expendables” those people who are on low wages or unemployed and are often less well educated. They do not see a bright future for themselves and feel left behind by a world that is increasingly competitive and knowledge driven (the “knowledge economy”). I think that there is resentment at some political leaders (elites) who are seen as not listening to the “expendables’.

    I live outside the USA and I read a range of general North American blogs and my sense is that social issues (abortion, the right to bear arms, same sex marriages ) are game changers for quite a number of people.

    I agree with your point about communication between different groups of people; it is the single most important starting point in breaking down barriers and promoting understanding between groups who would never meet otherwise. Wouldn’t it be great to initiate the kind of contact you are suggesting?


  7. Deb November 10, 2016 / 10:33 am

    What I find both baffling and enraging is that somehow it is “unacceptable” for white people to be stuck in dead-end jobs with minimal employment opportunities living paycheck to paycheck when this is the condition that many of our minority working-class citizens have lived in for generations. Apparently, this was never a major concern for at least one of our two main political parties until that economic insufficiency “trickled down” to whites. There has been plenty of acknowledged racism in this election, but the unspoken subtext–it’s acceptable for minorities to live hardscrabble and bleak lives, but not whites–is very disconcerting.

    I also think that Democrats and liberals have failed to realize the overwhelming power of the right-wing media machine that has become engrained in the lives of many suburban and rural whites over the past quarter-century. It’s very hard to balance out or even approach someone to “discuss differences in a empathetic way” when the person you’re trying to reach has spent the better part of three decades listening to talk radio, watching Fox News, and (more recently) visiting various right-wing websites on the Internet. While I admire the optimism of your one-on-one idea, I think it would require a tremendous amount of goodness to overcome the entrenched position cultivated by the right-wing over 25-plus year.


  8. Ti November 10, 2016 / 4:26 pm

    I wanted it to go a different way but I feel that now we have no choice but to give him a chance to prove himself and to make good on all those promises he made. I’ve said a lot the past two days so I am all talked out. This is all I have left to say. I wish these protests would settle down though. It’s getting really bad in Los Angeles.


  9. Gubbinal November 13, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    I voted for Clinton but would have preferred to have had Sanders on the ballot. If I were a more credulous person, however, I would have jumped at the opportunity to drain the swamp that is Washington.

    In my family, we reached our greatest prosperity in about 1980 when Carter was president. Since then, our earning power and our pay raises have diminished every year. My two over-educated and heavily indebted children have not been able to find any employment that is not merely mechanical customer service. Benefits? Forget it! One cannot afford Obamacare and yet is not qualified for Medicaid. It’s very difficult to work hard yet be unable to afford a car. It’s difficult to work full time and realize that just one serious illness will push you into bankruptcy. it’s difficult to know that your retirement pension will be worth just pennies on the dollar thanks to the 2008 Wall Street fiasco. It is very difficult to think that it’s hard to earn a lot of money without entering into schemes to exploit others.

    And I am an “expendable”. So are all members of my family. We are not idiots. We read romantic poetry and listen to opera; we are frugal; we are educated. Donald Trump said a lot of things that frightened us. Hillary Clinton said nothing that reassured us.


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