Well, dear readers, I guess that everyone is well aware that the Pussy Grabber is (a) the American president and (b) making a terrible mess of things already. It’s as if Abbott and Costello were elected president and brought the Keystone Kops as their cabinet and the Three Stooges as their national security advisors. Fuck us all!
And if you’re like me — I KNOW, mother, no one is like me, but let’s pretend, okay? — then you still have moments throughout the day and night in which you stare in stupefied disbelief into that comforting mid-distance now that the Pussy Grabber is actually our president. Wipe the drool from my chin and grab my pussy, how did this happen? I find myself wondering all too frequently.
Luckily for all of us, Arlie Russell Hochschild, UC Berkeley sociologist, held her nose and dove into the deep derp of white rural conservative Louisianan voters for FIVE years to find out and then wrote, Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. She writes extensively about something she calls their deep story: it is the story that our feelings tell about how we perceive the trappings of our lives. It is the narrative that describes our point-of-view, motivations, and deep emotional reactions. And, she tries to climb the empathy wall, i.e. empathize with these folks, even though they live what she calls the great paradox: people who desperately need the aid of liberal government intervention vote against it.
The Deep Story
Fortunately? Unfortunately? It is exactly what you’d think: conservative white voters feel that they are being left out of America, pushed aside in favor of women, minorities, the LGBTQ, immigrants, Muslims, and a plethora of ominous threatening non-white conservative OTHERS. Apparently, they feel that their unique contributions to America are being ignored and trivialized and that this is UNFAIR! They feel like the liberal coastal elites are talking down to them from their ivory towers. Those liberal elites call them redneck and racist and think they are bad and stupid people. It hurts their feelings. It makes them feel marginalized. And, perhaps most importantly, it makes them mad because it isn’t true. They aren’t ignorant racist rednecks!
Also, too, in addition, they DO NOT trust the mainstream media and its liberal bias and the intrusive federal government that can’t do anything right and no amount of “facts” are going to change that. They believe that Christian values are paramount and are offended when we stray from their view of what Christian values should be. They know that they are good Christians, which means they are good people, which means that everything they do is good. How can good people be stupid racist rednecks? It jus’ don’t make no sense a’tall, y’all.
The most astonishing thing in the entire book is their view of large petrochemical corporations. You should sit down for this. Seriously, perhaps, you should take a Valium or a stiff drink or both, too. (a) They hate the environmental pollution that they live in in Southern Louisiana that is giving them incredible rates of cancers, a foreshortened mortality rate, and a degraded environment. (b) They feel that the pollution is necessary for the economy, though. (c) It is their patriotic duty to endure the pollution, cancers, destroyed environment, and poverty to supply the world with plastic and other things and get what meager jobs they can from the bargain. (d) They think that these corporations bring jobs to their impoverished corner of the world. (e) They accept that huge tax breaks to the corporations are necessary to secure these polluting facilities that do not really bring any jobs to the “little” people other than construction and security. And, that the state and local governments should expend money to fund infrastructure improvements that these companies demand in order to relocate but won’t be paying any taxes to support. (f) Federal environmental regulations stifle job production by these companies, and that these companies will preserve the environment without regulation and oversight because it is in the companies’ economic interest to do so.
The upshot is that these people think that it is okay for Gov. Bobby Jindal to have bankrupted the state in order to secure an expansion of the highly polluting petrochemical companies that are locating their plants in Louisiana and for the state’s chief function to be to make it easier for these companies to exploit the state’s natural resources including its citizens. By the end of the book not only are you sick to your stomach but you are convinced that Bobby Jindal is the most evil motherfucker to walk the nation. Holly shit, he condemned the entire southern region of the state to economic hardship, frequently occurring cancers, early death, and incredible environmental degradation. Worse, though, these people all happily and gaily skipped to the voting booths to elect these assholes.
They are tired of being made to feel guilty if they don’t feel sorry enough for the freeloading takers that the black community is, especially since there is no racism or discrimination against them. And, every day there is a new group that they must feel sorry for when no one is feeling sorry for them. To them it is a never ending parade of people they don’t understand cutting in line ahead of them due to liberal naiveté and stalling their progress to the American dream — whatever that is.
They believe that it is their patriotic duty to endure the depredations that generations of Louisiana politicians have visited upon them in the name of economic development. They are quite right that the rest of enjoy cheap plastics and other petroleum products because the companies that make them are given such free reign in Louisiana.
The Great Disconnect Between Reality and Rhetoric
Probably, the most useful chapter in the book was Appendix C: Fact Checking Common Impressions. I’ll summarize some the most egregious disconnects between reality and craven Republican rhetoric:
- The government spends A LOT of money on welfare. It doesn’t. Only 8% of the 2014 US budget was devoted to “welfare” for the poor as we conceive of it.
- Welfare rolls are up and people on welfare don’t work. In other words, those welfare recipients are shiftless takers and it is UNFAIR to take money from the hardworking makers and give to lazy takers. Enrollment on welfare rolls has fallen by 20% since 1996, although rising again in the Great Recession peaking in 2013.
- Everyone who is poor gets a handout. According to the 2012 Census 26.2% of people eligible for “welfare” don’t receive it. In Louisiana, four poor people receive TANF benefits for every 100 who are eligible! While half of the tax benefits doled out by the US government goes to the richest 20%.
- Black women have a lot more children than white women. Fertility rates as of 2013 for black women was 1.88 children over their life time and 1.75 for white women. Thanks Planned Parenthood, now give us our money back and quit racisming blacks by forcing abortions on them!
- Forty percent of the American work force work for either the state or federal government. Good thing the Pussy Grabber just froze all federal hiring! Cut the takers off! In 2012 there were approximately 143 million people in the American work force. Seventeen percent worked for local, state, or federal government. This includes education, medical, police and fire, and military.
- Public sector workers are way overpaid. When education, experience, sex, race, ethnicity, and other demographic factors are held constant, private sector employees earned about 12% more than the public sector.
- The more environmental regulations, the fewer jobs. A 1993 study suggests that over a twenty year period, stronger environmental standards did not correlate with slower economic growth. A 2008 study found a net positive effect on employment from investments in environmental protection.
- State subsidies to industry help increase the number of jobs. Gov. Jindal gave away about $1.1 BILLION per year in state revenue as incentives for industry to relocate to or expand in Louisiana. For example, Valero received $10 million to expand a plant. It created 43 new jobs. That is about $250,000 per job. Oil and natural gas drilling varies based on the prices of oil and natural gas, not on state subsidies and incentives.
- I’ve had about all of this that I can take. When we said that the Pussy Grabber was playing to the rubes when he was saying that he would bring back manufacturing jobs and improve the inner-city slums that plague black America, we were right. There is no other word for it. These people are rubes. And, the Republicans are willing to lead them all to destruction to line their own pockets.
I don’t know any other word to describe people who keep participating in the Great Paradox other than rube. The information that disproves the entire platform of the GOP is so easily found and is so clear. The only way the GOP could continue was to convince its electorate that the facts were wrong and the sources of facts were untrustworthy. They’ve succeeded in spades.
No one likes to be a rube. Once you realize that you were scammed, people often react by justifying their actions and not challenging their assumptions. These conservative voters are willing if unaware participants in the con that is bringing them early death and misery. They have to. They have committed too much and come too far to admit their mistake.
When you cannot change actions taken in the past that you are ashamed of, you have to change your beliefs in the present so that your past actions match your present belief. So, if you were voting the robber baron politicians who were raping your land and devastating your life, then you cannot change that. Your child has died of cancer, your home has been consumed by a sinkhole, your favorite bayou fishing spot no longer can be fished, and it is ALL YOUR FAULT! YOU VOTED FOR BOBBY JINDAL and he sold you up the river to be ruthlessly exploited by petrochemical companies. Since you can’t change anything in the past, you change your beliefs: pollution is necessary and unavoidable, petrochemical companies will bring jobs and improvement, liberals are promoting the environment and minorities at your expense, liberals want to take your hard earned money from all of your hard work and give it to undeserving lazy poor people, i.e. blacks. You have to believe this horse hockey, otherwise, you have to acknowledge your role in your own demise.
Unfortunately, as easy as it is to condemn and laugh at these people, we need to help them in spite of themselves and try to make political allies of them. There is common cause that can be made here. We have to use their deep story to help shape our message so that it is more palatable to them.