There has been a huge divide between the working class and what I suppose could be called the college educated class for many years now in America. And this divide is rapidly becoming more and more unbridgeable. As tempers get hotter and hotter, the names each side calls each other are getting more and more insulting and degrading.
Personally I think this great divide is one of the biggest problems in America right now. And I think the best way we can begin to fix this problem is to quit calling each other names.
To be more specific, progressives and the college educated need to quit calling the Trump base morons. In the first place, they are no such thing. Here is an essay I wrote a couple weeks back about how and why the working class often know exactly what they are doing.
The Trump base may not always be in complete possession of accurate political knowledge of what is going on all the time. And a lot of them may not have college educations. But when you are trying to feed your kids on shitty wages, who has time for this? And I’ve got to say I’ve know some incredibly uninformed college graduates.
Anyway, it definitely does not help things to keep on calling the Trump base morons, even in private. Calling them morons is one of the main reasons we are in the mess we are in now. Nobody likes to be disrespected. And nobody likes to be called a moron. And when your society keeps doing this you tend to reject that society and accept the authority of anyone who treats you nicely and with respect.
Unfortunately all autocrats know this trick of being nice to the downtrodden. Autocrats well know that these are the people who keep them in power. And unfortunately this is exactly what is happening to us in America right now.
If we are ever going to solve this problem we are going to have to accept the white working-class, the Trump base, with respect and understanding. They are after all a large hunk of our fellow Americans. Yes the Trump base is acting tribally but so is most of the rest of America, including the upper and the educated classes. And it is not really hard to treat the Trump base decently and with respect. Basically what the college educated class needs to do is to stop acting tribally themselves.
The Trump base has been treated economically badly for at least forty years and dis-respected for ages, and lied to forever. They know this well. And they know how it feels. Unfortunately they have found the wrong solution, as the downtrodden and mistreated often do. This is what all humans have always done.
When people do not understand the complex economics and politics of the world they live in (and who does?) they often become tribal. That is, they band together with people who feel the same way they feel. Unfortunately this also includes people who just pretend to feel the same and who are actually using the tribe for their own benefit. And of course Trump is at the very head of this list.
Unfortunately, when tribalism takes hold it’s impossible to use rational means to change anyones mind, working class, college class, whatever. In the present situation almost no ones minds have been made rationally and therefore they will not be un-made rationally.
The only thing that will work is to treat working class people with respect and fairness and honesty and try to help them get the things they need to make their lives better. Like free medicare for all and free college for all and free retirement care for all and healthy food for all at reasonable prices and good jobs for all. What a better county this would be if we would at least work for these things. And they are not all that hard to accomplish once you realize that the upper 1% don’t have a God-given right to all of the money in America.
Paul Krugman wrote an article yesterday, January 14, 2019, entitled Trump and His Team of Morons. I have an immense amount of respect for Paul Krugman and I think everything he writes is totally correct from a rational point of view. And I think this article is scrupulously accurate and correct.
However I really don’t think it helps to call Trump and his crew morons. This is implying that his base are also morons for supporting Trump and his crew.
This just hardens The tribalistic trap that we find ourselves in. I emphatically do think that Krugman needs to go on writing articles that tell it like it is, but I think he needs to use more sensible language. I may not be correct about this; maybe we do need to call a spade a spade, but I really don’t think it helps solve the underlying problem.
As I said tribalism is a very very difficult situation. Politics in America are not going to get better in American until we get rid of Trump and then get rid of as much tribalism as possible. On both sides of the fence.
Unfortunately tribalism is not going to be solved by any name-calling no matter how accurate it is, nor is it going to be solved by calling a spade a spade even if the information is accurate. As I said, I feel pretty bad about criticizing Krugman who I think is one of the very best critics of Trump and the Republications. Actually I think he is not one of the best I think he is THE very best of those pointing out the idiocy of Republican political and economic policy . But I still think it would be much more helpful if he could use a different set of words and a different tone. I know you are mad Paul. I’m mad too. But this isn’t helping things, I don’t think.
Elizabeth Warren has been trying to solve the Republican problem in America for many years. But she has gone at it a bit differently then Krugman has. She has the ability to feel honestly and respectfully and fairly towards the Trump base. And I think she’s probably the person, more than anyone else, who is best equipped to lead us out of this mess.
Warren grew up as a working class girl and knows what it’s like when your Dad has a heart attack and all family income suddenly stops. Fortunately this happened at a time, in the 1950s, when it was still possible for her mother to get a service job at Montgomery Wards and to actually make enough money to support the family. There are no service jobs like this any more. Anyway, Warren tells this story and other similar stories well enough for them to resonate with the Trump base. Maybe. At least I hope so.
Elizabeth Warren is my favorite candidate for president in 2020.
Tribalism is a hard spot for any modern society to be in. When people don’t respond rationally to a situation it is almost unfixable, and almost always ends in absolute disaster. Just look at Brexit in Britain and in Trumpism in America and Nazism in 1933 Germany.
But we have to start somewhere and do what we can.
The image at the top of this page was taken in
Yankee Boy Basin in Colorado near Ouray.