Love without help and help without love

If any of the major social/economic/political changes that have occurred in the United States in recent decades happened on their own, it would be a big deal.

  • Progress towards gender equality, women taking on the full range of roles they can and want to play, with all the implications for marriage, family, work and social life

  • The rise of China, the choice to open up trade with China, and the blow to American manufacturing, and the consequent rise in life ladders in many places

  • Since the early 1980s, oligarchs’ hoarding of wealth and power, the suppression of trade unions, crony capitalism and the stifling of opportunity for the majority

  • The expansion of rights, power, and freedoms for Black Americans beginning with the Civil Rights Era has resulted in the browning of the U.S. population due to changes in immigration policy and a cultural shift away from hearing once-silenced voices

  • The digital revolution disrupts everything, shuts down industries, spawns new ones, and makes everything quickly obsolete.

  • The climate crisis is making our way of life increasingly ineffective and requires a rapid shift to new ways of living

  • New ideas about gender and sexuality, how people define themselves, and how people choose who they love, challenge thousands of years of accepted thinking

  • The breakup of old media and old sources of authority for understanding the world, the rise of a more fragmented landscape, and the explosion of lies

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic changes it is still having on work patterns, relationships, and more

Now consider the fact that these changes did not happen all at once. Instead, we experienced them all at the same time.

There’s a reason we started with this long, tedious list of bullet points. This era has seen a lot.

We often forget that there is already a lot of it. This leaves us ill-equipped to deal with rising authoritarianism—specifically, the growing demand for authoritarianism from the grassroots rather than the growing supply of authoritarianism from right-wing party elites, which tends to be the focus. It’s easier to laugh at Donald Trump than to ask why tens of millions of people voluntarily contract his disease.

A consistent theme of this newsletter, if not widely accepted, is that popular demand for extremism, xenophobia, and reality-challenging authoritarianism is far more dangerous and serious than the fact that craven political manipulators are willing to meet that demand . The real story is in the roots, not the leaves.

There’s probably no better way to understand these roots than by starting with understanding what we’ve been through as a country—the big sea change.

Change is difficult. People struggle to change their diet to stay alive after a heart attack. People try to change in order to save their marriages with the people they love deeply. People are trying to change their habits to avoid contracting the potentially deadly virus.

So when you think about our time, think about the fact that just to make ends meet, to be seen as a good person, to continue to provide for your family, to feel informed, to have a stable sense of who you are, etc., most People have to adapt to a lot of changes.

Some people are crushing it. A lot of people. But a lot of people aren’t crushing it. People of all backgrounds find the future confusing, these changes bewildering, they resent having to reinvent themselves to endure, they feel ridiculed by the future. There are men, women, white people, people of color, old people and young people who feel this way. But the more of these changes you personally experience as headwinds rather than tailwinds, the worse it gets.

Both major political parties in the United States are aware of the disruption caused by the changes they have implemented on many fronts. But when it comes to answering that sense of dislocation—especially when it comes to older, more rural, more white, more male populations who suffer from the same dislocation that most of us suffer from, And there are some countervailing gains that women and people of color, people connected to global networks, and people familiar with new technologies have experienced — and the two parties are almost diametrically opposed.

The left offers help but no love, the right offers love but no help.

The Democratic approach tends to be policy-focused. Have you lost your job in the switch to green energy because coal mining no longer makes economic sense? Of course we will Provide training for your new career. But how do you help you deal with the fundamental threats this shift poses to you, to understand what it means to be a breadwinner, a member of a community, a man in the place where you live? thing?

For this, you have to rely on yourself.

Unfortunately, this is often the Democratic response to people affected by parallel upheavals in America’s rural agricultural and manufacturing economies. Democratic administrations have repeatedly proposed serious policy solutions to rural America’s problems without realizing the emotional issues behind them.

It’s as if the Democrats are saying, “We’re sorry you’ve lost the things that define you — here’s a new career, some temporary funding, and an infrastructure plan so you can take advantage of the new stuff.” It doesn’t land.

This opens the door for a radically different approach from the right.

Republicans don’t even try to provide economic relief because ordinary Americans who are displaced are not their real base. Billionaire donors are. But although they refused to provide material help, in fact because They refuse to offer, but still need some way to garner votes, and instead offer love — or, you could say, approval.

They say, “Those pointy-haired elites, those dark people, and the immigrants screwed you over, and you’re right to be angry. We feel your pain. We see you. We’re angry at you. They can just leave it at that.” give up.

Large swaths of America are grappling with times of economic occupation, ongoing crisis, high costs of living, technological creative destruction, and real social progress, caught between help without love and love without help.

what is this white country rageA new book by political scientist Tom Schaller and journalist Paul Waldman tells the story. Schaller and Waldman explore how the right has seized power in rural America by promising emotional support rather than economic gain, and how Republicans have exploited the skewed distribution of political power in rural states in the Senate and Electoral College to solidify that position with minimal The political risks of gaining power—in addition to the very serious threat that imbalance poses to American democracy.

In the interview below, we talk with Waldman about how the country got to this point, what happened to America’s tradition of progressive populism, how rural Americans are demanding better from their representatives, and hope Say now what political leaders need to do to truly save democracy.

The book’s core thesis is that the Republican Party rewards the support of rural Americans purely for emotional gain. No one wants material benefits for them or solutions to their problems—in fact, Republican policies make things worse. Why is the right better at telling a story that appeals to rural America? Or is the left not telling any stories at all?

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