September 29, 2016

"It’s almost a religious belief in the rapture, but a secular monetary version of it."

‘Secular Rapture’: Trump and the American Dispossessed

Working-class whites are now the reigning champs of pessimism in America.  No other group of working-class Americans — Black, Hispanic, or Asian — holds a more despairing, more dire outlook on the future of our country. According to our guest J.D. Vance, only 44% of all working-class whites now believe that their children will be better off economically than themselves.

It’s not hard to understand why: rural, de-industrialized parts of our country are hurting badly. Surging suicide rates, spiraling drug epidemics, rampant joblessness, the same kind of community breakdown often associated with poor, urban African American neighborhoods.

Trump Country

Donald Trump knows this. And while he may not be mobilizing “white working-class voters” as much as the punditry likes to think, much of his speech is directed at whites who are feeling disenfranchised, culturally alienated, and left behind as the coastal elite reap all the advantages of a rigged political system.

Arlie Hochschild has spent the last five years researching and writing her new book, Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. Around Louisiana bayou country, she traces “deep stories” of whites who feel they’ve been screwed over. For them, Trumpand his rebuke of corruption, civility, multiculturalism, and (especially) feminismlooks a lot like “secular rapture,” she says.


This hour, three scenes from a divided country. From the oil patches of Louisiana to the Rustbelt of southwestern Michigan to the steel town of Ohio, we’re asking where it all comes from. Hochschild and Vance are joined by one other close watcher of rural America. Novelist Bonnie Jo Campbell, in the style of grotesque noir, tells us about the pressures of a changing world and primal existential need to feel necessary and important.

Photos: Sarah L. Voisin; Stacy Kranitz; University of California, Berkeley

Guest List
Arlie Hochschild
professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Strangers in Their Own Land
Bonnie Jo Campbell
author of American Salvage (National Book Award Finalist)
J.D. Vance
venture capitalist and New York Times best selling author of Hillbilly Elegy

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  • Cal McCrevan

    Thanks for another great show ! With this stated I want to tell you what the unspoken pain of these White people is : It is the secret denial of their implicit White entitlement coming to an end . They would love to claim that they have been wronged , that they are justifiably the aggrieved that they indeed are the despised, they are the TRUE minority. These individuals , who had a race based elitism with a bias towards sexism are at a variance with everyone else in America .Until these White people acknowledge that their entitlement is over America is at the precipice . All of this resentment circles around their racism . Unless White America attends to this delusional parallel universe the game is over .

    • cmbennett01

      Well now that you’ve told these white people what their problem is I’m sure everything will be great. You don’t really despise them, it’s just that they refuse to acknowledge their privileged right? Their trailer park elitism. Of course they’re dirt poor, but any privileged white man who isn’t rich, it’s because there’s something wrong with him amiright? These white people are destroying America right?

      • Cal McCrevan

        Thank you for your comments. Yes you are correct, these white people not all white people are destroying America. Any dirt poor white man should not act as if they are getting a raw deal. They have chosen the path of the ostrich. They vote republican against their interests. They choose to volunteer for the Iraq war like other races choose. They only need to remove themselves from their subjective denial of these facts . There is no driving while white that I have ever heard of. Again thank you for your comments.

    • A in Sharon

      I think you may be targeting the wrong people for your scorn. I believe a mistake is made by thinking all these white people have any real power. Surely, they historically had more “power” relative to other non-white poor people, especially in their local communities. But, it’s clear to me real power is limited to the elites. Additionally, those elites are now going global. If I were you I would fear the global elite that have no special relationship to the American interests of all the races. I would also ask you to reconsider the emphasis on race alone. If we don’t move beyond that we will simply recycle our race-based politics but with different players. Try to imagine that time when “whites” seemingly are no longer dominant. What happens among the now dominant non-white people? Will Latinos and Black Americans see each other as equals now that the white man is a minority? How about the millions of Asian Americans? The country will stand only as long as we maintain a unique American identity despite the real pain and suffering by minorities. MLK knew this as does President Obama.

      • Cal McCrevan

        A in Sharon thank you for your comments!
        I don’t have any scorn for anyone. But I must deal with the devil that is and not the devil that is to come . I and all other black people are aware of the views of other minority groups. We are aware of the potential for other groups to be as racist in the future as some whites are in the present. Nevertheless we must deal with the issue at hand. I am from Birmingham Alabama, the place in which MLK did much of his work and I have deep roots in Boston a place where Obama has great familiarity. MLK lived in another time. Mr Obama does not share the views of most black people concerning racism and racial issues. You only need to review his statements concerning Mr Kaepernick at the military town hall . If I was in your position I would not be do bold as to give the descendants of slaves any advice on how to deal with discrimination past, present or future. Again, thank you for your comments.

        • A in Sharon

          I appreciate the way you described the “devil that is and not the devil that is to come.” It helped me understand where you are coming from. It’s pragmatism has merit. But, could it be we are already there in some places? For instance, I spend a lot of time in Miami. That city is now definitively Latin American. I have observed there the same level of racial conflict but non-Hispanic whites are now bit players. I acknowledge in Birmingham the historical conditions may have not changed like that. Your comment about Obama is true. But, it should be noted that by emphasizing he represents all Americans he was able to win, the most pragmatic of all outcomes. As to being too bold, I’ll rely on trying to be respectful in my responses. If I fail I will try to do better.

  • Robert J. Crawford

    Another outstanding discussion, listened to as usual on my bike ride in the French Alps. I want to read all 3 books.

  • Anne

    I am asked to pity and feel for these folks. I feel for the loss of jobs, the loss of usefulness–the fact that the government, primarily on the Republican end, doesn’t help, doesn’t invest in the infrastructure which could give them jobs—BUT no pity for the racism, sexism, blaming of the ‘other.’ I grew up in central Ohio. My husband grew up in a tiny coal-mining town in Western PA, near the border of Ohio and West Virginia. These folks were our neighbors and classmates. My husband escaped, and I left, thanks to the individual vision of our fathers, who pushed us to be educated.

    I see FB friends from high school spouting the same racist, homophobic crap that some of the writers are recognizing. Some of them, perfectly successful and comfortable, not beaten down or unemployed, still hate and blame and stew in their anger—and often say horrid sexist things about Hillary Clinton, and racist comments re: Obama and his family.

    I see the refusal to read about the policies of the two candidates, to go by emotion only and not step back and think. I watch them call Hillary and east coast elite—though she grew up in Michigan and Trump grew up filthy rich in NYC.

    I am tired of the lack of interest in critical thinking, and sick of the knee-jerk blame game, while at the same time, these voters continue to vote for lame, right-wing politicians who feed the voter’s racism but refuse to make policy that will help.

    I could have know JD Vance’s family. And when I hear Ohioans spout racist crap and cheer on Trump’s sexism, I feel much like his grandmother must have toward her lazier neighbors.


    • bplewis24

      It should also be noted that much of the loss they feel is a direct or indirect result of the policies they voted for, with promises of economic prosperity if they simply lowered taxes on rich folks and waited for it to trickle down to them.

  • Potter

    I’m dumbfounded at the cognitive dissonance of what is being related here. These are Republicans who are complaining about being left in the dust by their own leaders, leaders who give them a philosophy that benefits the few instead of anything substantial. In many cases the government or government policies advocated by the left and progressives could help them, including public education and healthcare.. never mind getting on board with climate change (folks in New Orleans! ).

    We have been instead stuck in gridlock designed against a black Democratic President for 8 years now that they ( some, many) resent and don’t like, think is illegitimate and a Muslim (heavens!).They listen to Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox news etc etc. The rest of us are in an alternate universe labeled disparagingly “liberal” and “elitist”. They are resentful, insecure and fall for racism and xenophobic rants. They feel entitled but neglected. If they are not willfully ignorant ( I don’t mean educated), then why do they fall for the bait? Well “at least he’s trying” [Trump]. Why don’t they know they are being taken? and have been taken by their Republican representatives first and foremost, the ones they keep re-electing. It’s easier to buy that it’s Obama’s, and now Hillary Clinton’s war/s in the Middle East; the last 30 years of foreign policy, her fault. Their young died, or have come back needing care that we were unprepared for, care underfunded. This under the flag, they waved with their support of the war.

    But it’s true, they, these people that don’t feel they are wanted or needed, have power and we have to wake up to this, we should see that..and be scared of it. They vote in the millions and can do a lot of damage… as a Republican party that has cynically used them. …… remember empathy and our inequality.

    Krugman this week, especially the comments, some of them recommending Ms. Hochschild’s book:How the Clinton Trump Race Got Close

    Thank you for distilling a lot here. It’s another important show.

    • Thar ya go Potter, using facts and moral judgements instead of feeling life.

      Both deep stories are based on feelings.
      The public square as state of art children’s museum being ruined by McMansions is a feeling. Not a realization that the public square and the McMansions are built with the largess of the military-industrial complex raining bombs down on other people’s public squares.

      People aren’t thinking machines, they are feeling machines – The Enlightenment ended badly.

      • Potter

        The way I understand it is that you cannot eliminate thinking, So thoughts are maybe ruled by feelings mostly or maybe only ( I don’t know). And those thoughts are worn into prejudices, blaming that become grooves or ruts of this kind of thinking. Then the deep story is very deep, deeper than can be changed by mere reason and facts and not easily. It’s psychological or having to do with the subconscious.

        We are discussing this as a collective deep story here as well which gives it added strength I think. I.e. 5/38 reports that Republicans are.white people without a college degree, evangelical Christians and U.S. service members and veterans.

        I was not connecting to the public square/ children’s museum-McMansion analogy too well but overall it’s ALL connected and both sides are not getting the connections. Listening to the complaints on the other side it seems to me that the Republican remedy has been for people to pull themselves out of their ruts by themselves or with “a thousand points of light”. Those who can’t do that are angry instead. The others on the other end are undeserving or they are the ones who get to cut ahead through affirmative action and government programs etc. I find myself feeling the irony. I watch Trump as he whines and connects to the whiners.

        • “…way I understand it is that you cannot eliminate thinking.”
          Yeah, Arlie Hochschild’s ‘how does life feel?’ might be euphemistical.
          I would say that vocabulary is important and Vance actually alludes to it when he says things like …”something you know something is not quite right and you can’t put your finger on it…. a real difficult to define apprehension…not easy to articulate
          or quantify but still real…. the only vocabulary you have.”

          Arlie Hochschild and Bonnie Jo Campbell can help us get the vocabulary correct.
          So yes, “ deeper than can be changed by mere reason.”

    • vcragain

      Absolutely spot-on Potter – but the problem in America is partially religion, and partially pure ignorance of anything that has the word ‘social’ in it – they have been carefully & systematically taught that anything ‘social’ is the same as communism and they are terrified of anything that might give their peers an excuse to label them as such. They simply cannot see that they vote for their own controllers who basically just pull them around with the rings in their noses !!!

  • The arc of this show was really well crafted.

    One starts with Arlie’s idea of people cutting in line and ends with short cuts mentioned in JD’s world.

    Arlie Hochschild: Moral judgements out and facts out – how does life feel? Arlie Hochschild is basically describing a belief – a narrative without facts.

    J.D. Vance mentions the absence of religious institutions.

    The place between Hochschild and Vance is Bonnie Jo Campbell’s: Not born to a world that needs them rather we are expected to make ourselves into the people who are needed by the world.

  • Paul Spagnoli

    I can empathize with the economic grievances of these folks, but Arlie Hochshild goes too far. I can’t help recalling that many Germans were appalled by the Weimar Republic’s guarantee of equal rights to women. One Nazi militant complained that “German women seemed to have forgotten their good German ways.” And as for Trump’s supposed “charisma,” it reminds me of Hitler’s 1928 speech, arguing that “Force determines the way of life…. But when a people dances Negro dances and listens only to jazz music, then we need not be surprised if it should perish, and seek out parliamentary monstrosities.”

    • “….but Arlie Hochshild goes too far.”

      She detected a faint electromagnet signal and found its source to be a feeling. On further investigation she found that these sentient beings traverse life by way of these feelings – and they vote.

      She reported her findings in a book.
      What is the problem?

      • Potter

        As well they may be finding community they crave, if not their savior, in the Trump movement. Also it’s been suggested that there is so much anger that Trump is their finger up to it all come what may which really goes far.

        • Okay, but that is not what I am asking.

          What is the problem with Arlie’s work in that she went too far?

  • margie graham

    Profoundly embarrassing (the guest, not Chris, who’s always terrific). So glad she could share adventure stories from her brave expedition down to Lake Charles’s po folk and come back to tell us with bated breath–and amazement!– of their secret fears and desires. (Too bad in all of those years she never learned how to pronounce “New Orleans.”) Very quaint and sweet, but sadly dense.

  • Pat Crowley

    I agree with what I think some of the sentiment is in some of the comments below – I found myself yelling at the radio (again) saying …”but you folks voted for the people that did this to you, and your solution is….do again…just really hard this time?” People are angry about the lack of support from the government, but across the Rust belt and pockets of the south they send people to Washington to do exactly that – make government not work.

    Not sure if this book has been discussed on the show yet, but I just started reading “White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg. I think a show could be made out of her analysis of class in America.

    • zgoldhammer

      We haven’t discussed it, yet but we’re definitely interested. How should we extended conversation here? Feel free to send us other suggestions or guest ideas to

      • Potter

        How do you communicate to these people who are angry or in pain or consumed by hate and have pitchforks or actually building walls around themselves? They need the government and they actually depend on the government in so many ways but the culture does not accept this as okay .. to let go and know this, that no man is an island and that we are now in a global world. How does this connect to their belief system? The candidates either take advantage (Trump) or are fumbling trying to connect (Clinton).

        • A in Sharon

          I don’t understand the emphasis on government. Why would we believe they want government to solve their problems? Since when did we become a nation where all our problems can be solved by government? I don’t hear them clamoring for government help. I hear them saying that they can’t get work in the private sector anymore and its not getting any better. I hear them saying the government is being controlled by interests which want to take from them or allow others to take from them or tell them their culture is bad. I hear them saying that US government and business leaders no longer have allegiance to American workers first. When they hear the President say globalization is not irreversible they ask whose side are you on? This is not unique to America. Working people in the UK and the rest of Europe are saying the same thing. Hard choices are coming in this globalized economy. Where does your loyalty lie? Fluffy rhetoric excused, no human realistically wants to think of themselves living in a globally-sized village.

          • Potter

            A in Sharon: All of our problems cannot be solved by government Some of them can be helped and helped a great deal from spending on infrastructure projects, job-training, education subsidies/grants to healthcare and extensions of medicare and medicaid as well as early retirement for those who cannot re-train. The government has always been there when there were disasters, say, in Louisiana right? Or when the environment needed protection. Just think. I do hear them clamoring for help and this help is not going to come from corporations or the private sector, not without some help too from government incentives.

            Trade deals work both ways as well. Jobs are lost on the one hand, but businesses get more business from abroad.

            I do think that workers feel that in this era of globalization they have been left high and dry. They don’t want to let go of their coal for instance ( and also deny climate change) because they don’t know anything else or are culturally attached to coal ( and lung disease and pollution) Or there is nothing for them to grab onto, or they can’t or are afraid… whatever. This has to be addressed. And it has not been. But corporations are not going to do this.

            The government is us- or it should be. Globalization is not reversible; it’s been going on since forever as well starting from ancient times. I am all for Brexit as a temporary thing as the EU was not working for everyone. That needs to sort itself out, just as we do here.Trump is sort of right about that ( America first) but he cannot deliver.


          • vcragain

            All you are saying is true – and these are what people see on both sides of the political spectrum, but it appears that the deepest resentment is from the rightward side – those who feel that they are losing out (true) but they have a deep-seated feeling that it is ‘those others’ fault, and they are the ones who are ENTITLED to the life they used to have – no – they are just suffering from exactly the same loss of working class post-war American good-life status ! Exactly the same thing is happening in Europe – altho the racial ‘thing’ is a little different. Working people are getting sacrificed for the benefit of global corporations which are getting more prosperous & have ever more power – THEY are the villains in this – the benefits are being felt by those in China, Vietnam etc who can now get jobs worth $30 a week, instead of nothing or $1 a day – they are ‘prosperous’ comparatively speaking, and the West is in decline because of that. There is no immediate answer to this dilemma, things will have to be sorted out in future, what will happen – will we reduce the world’s population to make sure everyone can survive ? will we make ‘work’ for people just so that everyone feels ‘useful’ – or will the bottom layer revolt & destroy the structure of existing life so we will just all have to rebuild things, hopefully in a better way. Isn’t it time to structure society more fairly – there is no reason things cannot be fairer – how many houses/chairs/carpets does a ‘Bill Gates’ actually need to enjoy a good life ? When will we all regard a fair, well-fed, well-educated society as something we are proud of and maybe regard with disgust those who selfishly aim for ever more wealth, which they really can barely use ? Ah well – I will be off the planet within the next 15 years or so, but I would like to think things will be better for my grandchildren – but I have very little hope of that unless humanity changes it’s attitude !!!!

    • “….they send people to Washington to do exactly that – make government not work.”

      Wouldn’t their logic be that less of something that doesn’t work is better than more of something that doesn’t work?

  • Dennis Hermanson

    Professor Hochschild’s heart and interest in listening to what the “others” have to say, and what it might mean in the unstated way for them, and us in this nation in change (and this world in change) was both a deep reading and rang so true for me. That she is a professorial sociologist and a deep researcher of her interest only gives her soft gently voice and sympathy more weight. Thank you, Professor, for seeing us with your trained eyes and mind.

    I am 70 and see my life as a success. My mother fought to get away from the rural South, Alabama, with it’s dirt farmer grind and lack of job and social opportunity, She rode the great job and social boom of World War II, and became middle class and successful due to it.

    So many of those who stayed on, are still there and still staying on, and perhaps hanging on. Like my Mother’s family was in the 1940’s.

    Now we’re waiting for another jump start for rural America. Surely World War in not the answer. Perhaps the Great Leader is? Sadly, we are given a suspect choice on both sides, and need to question the reasons why.

    Is it politics or ourselves we have to look to? For me, the big lie of TV political advertising and media pandering is not the inspiration I want for my belief. I can see that the dispossessed, both black and white, are looking for a miracle.

    And as always, hate is not the answer, whether in the family, the community, or the nation.

  • Terry MacDoald

    Ironic, isn’t it, that the Republicans, whose policies since the Reagan years have so undermined the condition of the middle class and skewed advantage to big business and to the wealthiest individuals, now enjoy the support of their victims.

  • Potter

    Thank you for mentioning Flannery O’Connor, Chris. I have a yellowing copy of “Everything that Rises Must Converge”; found it and read a couple of stories. wow

  • There’s a lot of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ talk here – what Richard Rorty calls a ‘final

    we look at the ‘other’ they seem to be voting against their self-interest but
    in fact they, like us, are being given poor choices. They’ve been given war,
    corporate misfeasance/malfeasance and a culture that reinforces the feeling of
    independence via consumer choice.

    their choice has been consistently applied – they have been voting for freedom.
    They’ve been voting in their self-interest, it just hasn’t worked out.

    Freedom –
    is not immanent, it is not concrete and it cannot be reified. Freedom is an
    idea and only the intellect can avail an individual to freedom.

    So –
    it is not a communication problem, it is a philosophical problem that has no
    end point. There is only the possibility to agree to disagree.

    (There are only diverse linguistic communities, each of which has its own final vocabulary and its shared context-embedded perspective on reality, a reality that is forever and already interpreted from that standpoint. Edward Grippe )

  • MaxFiction

    Estimated world population the year I was born (1963): 3,194,075,347; estimated world population 2015: 7,349,472,099. That’s more than a doubling in 53 years. Estimated world population (if we make it) in 2050: 9.7 billion, a tripling in less than a century. People think we have problems now, but this election is focused on symptoms and distractions, such as the matters discussed in this program. The population explosion and all the problems that devolve from it continue to be the elephant in the room. I would say we ignore it at our peril, but I believe it’s too late now. We’ve crossed the tipping point. But, Chris can count on ever-more-interesting programs in the future, that’s for sure.

  • cratewasher

    When advocating for poor rural whites, I’m often called a communist by poor rural whites…