6.7.18

ANTHROPOLOGY BEGINS AT HOME.

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, NBC talker Chuck Todd quipped about having to establish a bureau in Kenosha County, not far from here.  I don't know that such a bureau is opening soon.  I do know that the incela corridor media are wising up to the fact that the troubles inland were visible from the train window, if they'd but take a train ride and interact with the passengers.

Among the reporter class, Pittsburgh native (still a fan of teams that wear black and gold) Salena Zito has emerged as a go-to pundit, simply for being able to hear a lot just by listening.
George Orwell also talked to people, and learned more common sense from them than anyone did from intellectuals like Sidney and Beatrice Webb. And Albert Camus understood the French better than Left Bank Marxists like Jean-Paul Sartre.

Orwell and Camus were like William Butler Yeats’ “Seven Sages,” who “walked the road, mimicking what they heard, as children mimic.” So, too, Zito, who understood that wisdom comes of beggary.
She and Republican operative Brad Todd collaborated on The Great Revolt, which I have read, and filled the pages with annotations, enough that getting a proper book review out will take some time.  The Daily Beast offers an excerpt.

I base this post on an observation Todd and Zito made about too many of the Smart People.
It became formulaic for analysts who did not understand the Trump voter to ascribe their motivations to either economic desperation or a lack of intelligence, or both. “Why are white, uneducated voters willing to vote for Trump? Job unhappiness to be sure, but I would posit that it is also because they have not been adequately educated to understand just how dangerous a President Trump would be to the Constitution,” wrote one Newsweek pundit.

Those insults say more about their writers than the Luzerne County voters who too many journalists, sitting an easy drive away in their New York bureaus, did not come to meet. The common analytical inaccuracy of describing Trump supporters as unthoughtful rubes is driven as much by the lifestyles of the analysts as the intellect of those analyzed.
Here's where the nonjudgmental stance of a social scientist matters: you cannot analyze the behavior of people who live differently by your standards in tight priors. In the interaction of different approaches to life there will be strategies that confer evolutionary advantage, and strategies that fail, but that is a different conversation entirely.  But note this: "Part of the reason the election polls predicting the outcomes for Brexit and the 2016 presidential election were so off, she said, was because anthropologists and others were ignoring their own countries."

It also matters that the discontent was a long time in coming, and how the insurgency will disrupt both of the major political parties, or midwive new ones, remains to be seen.  "Whether Trumpism becomes a real strain of conservatism, or whether the populist wave transforms the Republican party the way it transformed the Democrats a century ago, only time can tell."

But sometimes, the Gentry get out of the incela corridor and look around.  Dan Balz of the Washington Post did so.  It's a long essay, worth careful study.
Among the president's true loyalists, his grip remains strong. Among others who supported him, that hold has weakened. Almost no one, even his most ardent supporters, appreciates the president's tweets, although for some it is less the content that offends them and more the worry that it reveals a volatile president unable to control his impulses.

But there is a deeper unease that filters through conversations with some of those who voted for him, a recognition that to gain something, they must give something - that to see policy changes they favor they must tolerate behavior they sometimes find inexcusable. For Trump, political risk lies in the degree to which dissatisfaction with the disorder and conduct outweigh any achievements that his voters expected to see. That holds implications for this November's midterm elections but even more so for 2020.
Mr Balz passed through the neighborhood, calling at Freeport, Sterling, and Morrison in Illinois, as well as DeWitt and Elkader in Iowa, and stops in southern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin.
As [Freeport factory hand Tom] Gaulrapp left the McDonald's, he passed by a table of half a dozen men, most of them retired and one sporting a red "Make America Great Again" cap. They all said they had voted for Trump and they jokingly called themselves "a basket of deplorables." They blamed President Bill Clinton and the North American Free Trade Agreement the exodus of jobs from the town. They blamed Obama for not bridging racial divides and for other things. They couldn't stomach Hillary Clinton. They already viewed the incoming president as a success. "I think he's done a better job, and he isn't even president yet, than Obama did in eight years," one man said.
Mr Gaulrapp is a skeptical Trump voter. There are likely plenty of those, in the Midwest and elsewhere.

The latest anthropological expedition had Salena Zito herself as principal investigator, with Harvard students doing the field study.
Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.

As they settled in, I looked at them.

“So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”

None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person whom they’d voted for.
I wonder how often matriculants at Massachusetts or Smith or Amherst get into Chicopee. But I digress. The good news is, proximity and respectful interaction breaks walls down, both ways.
In our final week, the class attended Mass at St. Stanislaus, a Polish church in the Strip District of downtown Pittsburgh. Before then, only two of my students had set foot in a Catholic church.

At the end of Mass, an older gentleman came up to me and said how nice it was to see young people dressed up and going to church. When I told him they were students from Harvard, he beamed.

“I have been reading for years that college kids these days are thin-skinned, what’s that word … ? Snowbirds, snowflakes, anyways … that they have no easiness with meeting someone new or trying something different or won’t be open to opposing opinions,” he said.

He smiled as he gave my kids an approving thumbs-up.

“Don’t you just love when a stereotype is blown up right in front of you?”
The land-grants and mid-majors and community colleges still have their values. Too bad the gentry of the incela corridor continue to not pay attention.  Take this Vox column.  (Please?)
[Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow] argues that rural Americans are less concerned about economic issues and more concerned about Washington threatening the social fabric of small towns and causing a “moral decline” in the country as a whole. The problem, though, is that it’s never quite clear what that means or how Washington is responsible for it.

So I decided to speak with Wuthnow about what he learned and whether fears about America’s “moral decline” are really just a cover for much deeper fears about race and demographic changes.
Not necessarily, although Sean Illing, the Voxxer who conducts the interview, gives Professor Wuthnow every opportunity to confirm those coastal priors.  Is anyone surprised that "Trump voters stay loyal because they feel disrespected?"  The abstract:  "Three new deep dives into Donald Trump’s strength in Midwestern counties that were previously Democratic strongholds — written by conservatives, liberals and a nonpartisan journalist — each highlight a deep craving for respect among supporters of the president and an enduring resentment toward coastal elites that buoys his popularity."

The American Conservative's Rod Dreher gives Professor Wuthnow a fairer hearing, leaving his own priors out of it.
I guess what ticks me off about Illing’s questions is his contempt for these people, and what they’ve lost, and are losing. In my hometown, it’s now become the expected thing that people’s children will move away. There are economic reasons for this, and maybe those are the primary reasons. But there are also cultural reasons. You couldn’t get more of a homegirl than my sister, but today, her oldest daughter lives in California, and doesn’t intend to return home to live; her second daughter is off at college, but doesn’t plan to settle in Louisiana; and her third daughter, still in high school, plans to leave and not come back.
There's more at the link, including further expansion on Professor Wuthnow's findings. It's likely easier, though, for the bubble inhabitants to be comfortable with their priors and their virtue signals.

Consider Harvard's new president, planning to go on his own walkabout. I wonder how well it's going to turn out.  “The world has changed,” [Lawrence] Bacow told the Globe. “We are well-represented already along the coasts. I’m not sure people in the part of the country where I grew up appreciate as much what institutions like this contribute to their welfare as well.” Mr Bacow grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, but he's picked up the coastal condescension along the way, hasn't he?  The students are in better hands, and they're likely to be treated better in Normal America.
If Obama or Clinton walked into any restaurant in Hillsboro, [Ohio], they would be treated with respect, even though their politics, lies and defense of the indefensible, as perceived locally, are as loathsome to most people here as [homeland security chief Kirsten] Nielsen and [press secretary Sarah] Sanders supposedly are to those who forced their exits. No one would shout them out the door, no one would ask them to leave. Instead, they would be asked, “Can I start you off with something to drink?” followed later by, “Can I get you anything else?” with a final invitation to “come back soon.”
Perhaps none of it matters, anyway. This Economist essay suggests that the writers of political books are mostly writing scripture for their own congregations.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, has bought the Washington Post, and urged upon it the motto: “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. But Amazon conquered the book market in part on the strength of its “recommendation engine”. That now contributes to the dark spots in Americans’ knowledge of their political opposites. Whether Amazon will—or even can—do anything to change that is yet to be seen.
The books listed therein are mostly polemical stuff, the dispassionate analyses (even the anodyne Theodore H. White stuff) either not being mentioned, or perhaps not being written.  The essay suggests the anodyne stuff won't get read.

Make of it what you want, dear reader, that those parts of my recent reading list making The Economist's chart, including White Trash, Strangers in Their Own Land, Hillbilly ElegyThe Once and Future Liberal, Shattered, and The Vanishing American Adult, skews center-left.

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