In 2011, sociologist Arlie Hochschild left her perch in the liberal enclave of Berkeley, California, to venture deep into the Louisiana bayou. Her aim was to understand what she calls the “red state paradox”—why some people in challenging circumstances align with politicians that don’t support policies that would seem to address their needs. Spending five years in the bayou listening to the stories of people she met, most of them Tea Party conservatives, Hochschild discovered deep skepticism of the federal government and a near-total sense disenfranchisement from the promises of the American dream.

Hochschild chronicled her findings in her award-winning book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. On November 6, she sat down with Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law and the director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, for a rich discussion of the widening gulf in American politics and her attempts to get past her own blue state biases and “climb the empathy wall.”

Select remarks:
[Hillary Clinton’s] narrative was the wrong narrative. It was: ‘Well, you’ll get there to the American dream. Things are upwards and bright, and need just a few fixes.’ It was a good news story, and they don’t relate to a good news story. Things feel like they’re falling apart. I think President Trump captured their narrative, their deep story…He gave them something; he named their basic feeling of worry and fear and complaint, and gave them someone to pin the blame on. And then he offered almost a secular rapture, ‘I will lift you up. You can have what I have.’”

“I think it’s true that liberals in blue bubbles are less in touch with people who are ‘the other’ than [their red state counterparts] are, and that in this political moment—now I’m speaking not just as a sociologist but a citizen—I think it behooves progressives to reach out. It’s not all we should do, but I do believe that good will come of that.” 

Watch the full video of the event (1 hour, 5 minutes):

Posted December 5, 2017