[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Re: a linguist and a child on D. Trump

A lousy book that is getting high praise from "mainstream" media (NYTimes, the Economist) is Hillbilly Elegy by someone named J.D. Vance. It is being touted as being a key -maybe "the" key - to understanding Trump voters. 

It tells first-person the story of a boy growing up in central Ohio whose family is among that many who emigrated north from the mountains of Kentucky and other lower-midwest and mid-Atlantic states during the 40's and 50's, somewhat parallel to the black "Great Migration"into the industrializing cities of the north. The draw in Middletown, Ohio was AK Steel, where the narrator's grandfather worked. The boy survives a messed up family, surrounded by drinking and drugs, joins the Marines, gets through Ohio State U and then on to Yale law school and is  now a lawyer, raising a family in San Francisco. His book is apparently going to be a movie.

He identifies himself as a "conservative" and admires Mitch Daniels, who as gov of Indiana brought back right-to-work. He uses phrases like "welfare queen" and "on the dole" seriously. He says that employers in Middletown can't find people to hire for $13 an hour because people there don't like to work hard. He says that the white working class has no "sense of agency." When as a teenager he works as a cashier in a grocery store he criticizes the food choices of people on food stamps. 

His description of the culture he came from sounds a lot like the people Hillary Clinton called "the deplorables."

His book sounds to me as if someone said to him, "Why don't you write your life story and tell how you made good?" So he did. Then he showed it to someone with access to a publisher who told him, "This is great, but you should add some policy recommendations based on your experience." So he did -- and they are basically boot camp for the poor-type policies, austerity policies. Then someone said, "You probably need to footnote some of this," so he did a quick internet search and has footnotes to things like the Huffington Post. 

The book is a mess, but what's alarming is the hype it is getting. It affirms the myth that Trump was voted in by white working class folk who were so hopeless that they figured anything, even something obviously self-destructive, to shake things up would be an improvement. If this is the way you look at the situation, then the policies that he advocates -- tough love, austerity, let them learn the consequences of their actions, they deserve what they get - are logical.

 In fact, Trump voters were not the lowest-income demographic; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/05/its-time-to-bust-the-myth-most-trump-voters-were-not-working-class/?utm_term=.985cd7492401  So the hype is promoting a lie from the git-go.

When Vance, the narrator, goes to Yale he is awed by the lifestyles of the rich. There's a substantial section on choosing the right fork at a dinner. He also recognizes the quantity of social capital or human capital (his terms) represented by the networking behavior of the rich. He then turns is eyes back to Middletown and says there is nothing comparable among the working class there, just family (kind of like Thatcher's "no such thing as society; just individuals and family).

However, AK Steel, which still exists today and is apparently highly productive, was represented by the UAW -- the workers had a union, in other words. It turns out that when his grandfather died his grandmother still had survivor benefits including healthcare, whcih was definitely something negotiated by the union. However, the only mention of workers being unionized in the book is the grandfather sitting on the porch "grumbling" about the union. 

In other words, the social capital of the rich, as represented by dinner parties and networking, is visible to Vance but the social capital of the working class, as represented by the political organizing that goes into having a a union and bargaining a contract, is invisible to him. Actually, the dinner party is just as political but it does look different.

Sorry about the long post, a violation of my one-screen rule. However, I'll bet a lot of people on this list have either heard of or even actually read this book. I'm arguing that it confirms the Clinton Democrat position, which is that the Democratic Party can win if it keeps moving to the right -- and that's why it's getting so much hype, and why it's being used as a key to Trump voters.


Helena Worthen
Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com

On Jul 10, 2017, at 8:53 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

> Chris Uhlmann is just a good ABC political reporter. He has no reputation for being Left or Right or anything. Maybe it is the very matter-of-factness of his report on the G20 (no different from any others I saw) which struck a chord in the US?
> Greg, I would have thought that the fragmentation of the media which means that 40% of Americans get their only "news" from Fox has to be a big part of the explanation ("the echo chamber"). Add to that what is sometimes called "the reinforcement effect", namely that everything you see is interpreted in the light of what you already believe and assimilated - obviously a universal for you anthropologists. The continuing 40% approval hardly needs explaining. But what breaks the spell???
> Interesting puzzle for me though. The Republicans seem to maintain support even in areas like Utah where Trump is on the nose, while support for TrumpCare is running at about 17%. How can Trump's Health policy be so on the nose while his popularity remains high? What fairy tale is rationalising this?
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Andy Blunden
> http://home.mira.net/~andy
> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making 
> On 11/07/2017 4:10 AM, Peg Griffin wrote:
>> If we didn't see it, we had help from OZ.  (I suspect the Australian ABC's Chris Uhlmann might not be a favorite on some issues there but on this...).
>> Some take a nationalist position that looking bad in the "eyes of the world" is badge of honor.
>> But the rest of us have been woke for a while, Andy.
>> Peg
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
>> Sent: Monday, July 10, 2017 11:50 AM
>> To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: a linguist and a child on D. Trump
>> An American friend said to me that if he had to choose between stupidity and evil, he would choose stupidity. All these options for removing Trump can only end in President Pence which is worse even if more predictable. But the longer Trump stumbles along with the GOP defending him the more likely the chumps who voted for them may ask questions of themselves by the time the next elections come along.
>> True, all sorts of evil laws are slipping through Congress while Trump distracts us with his antics, but these measures are  reversible.
>> It seems I was wrong in thinking that the repeal of ObamaCare would generate perezhivaniya for the millions of Trump voters reliant on Medicaid - they have lied so badly for the past 7 years that they actually can't "Repeal and Replace" or simply Repeal ObamaCare. Thanks to Fox News none of Trump's supporters realise this, but if ObamaCare is still in place in 3 years' time and the government simply withholds funds, then who knows what the Trumpistas will make of it? Tragic. But he certainly has generated some activism round the country, hasn't he?
>> How is Trump's sad antics in Europe being seen in America?
>> Do flag-waving Americans realise how stupid America is looking at the moment in the eyes of the world?
>> Andy
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden
>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>> On 11/07/2017 12:51 AM, Peg Griffin wrote:
>>> About regency?
>>> There is a sort of "unfinished" amendment to the US constitution. The 25th amendment calls for a body to be formed if there is a question of the need for presidential succession.  And now there is a House bill to "finish" the 25th and establish such a body.  Jamie Raskin is the chief sponsor and there are some co-sponsors so far. Although relatively junior, Raskin is on important related House committees for doing something about presidential "inability" and he seems to me to be quite persuasive, knowledgeable and thorough.
>>> Here's the link to his bill:
>>> https://raskin.house.gov/media/press-releases/raskin-introduces-bill-e
>>> stablish-independent-commission-presidential-capacity
>>> A clause in the middle of the second paragraph of Section 4 of the
>>> 25th amendment is at issue (and if the bill gets introduced and/or passes would be litigated, no doubt -- we have lots of "intent of the framers" ouija boards to consult in courts ).  As it now it, it appears that the "other body" proposed would be constituted only if the President's inability has already been addressed up to a point by some procedures and there is an impasse between executive and legislative branches of the government.  The amendment's clause allows for the following: "...or such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."  As it now provides, the issue then goes back to the Senate and House (2/3 vote of both houses required or else the president resumes power and duties) shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office."
>>> Raskin's bill provides for an additional route (besides impeachment) to remove a sitting president.
>>> Right now (with the Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress and the Presidency), practically speaking,  it seems that the most it will provide is a venue for careful constitutional discussion.  If hearings are not allowed (by the majority party) to occur officially in the House of Representative, then it may well occur in forums  (Representative Conyers' approach), People's Hearings or state hearings.  Whichever way, the discussion may involve the judiciary, if Raskin and his growing list of co-sponsors take that route.  And the discussion may move some voters and votes.
>>> These aren't quite arrangements for a regent.  Jamie Raskin hasn't given up on the impeachment route: He's active about various other clauses of the constitution involving ethics, money, and about failures of the separation of powers and coordination of relations among government branches.  But Maxine Waters is the main member of the House for feeling hopeful (and a bit happy) on the impeachment front!   And I think there are a few more active and effective people and efforts behind the scenes.  Nothing wrong with a bit of enfadado, though, huh?
>>> PG
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu
>>> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Carol Macdonald
>>> Sent: Monday, July 10, 2017 6:56 AM
>>> To: Andy Blunden; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: a linguist and a child on D. Trump
>>> That would be the vice-President!
>>> I think Trump enjoyed being the fly in the ointment at G20, and then ...
>>> offered to work jointly with Russia on cyber security. And now we hear that his son went to a meeting with a Russian because he believed they had some damaging information on Clinton.
>>> Alfredo I think lots of us are feeling 'enfadado' -- but rather helpless with it too.
>>> Carol
>>> On 8 July 2017 at 11:43, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>>>> I was thinking ... does the US system allow for the appointment of a
>>>> Regent?
>>>> andy
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Andy Blunden
>>>> http://home.mira.net/~andy
>>>> http://www.brill.com/products/book/origins-collective-decision-making
>>>> On 8/07/2017 7:40 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil wrote:
>>>>> We've been perplexed (some may say horrified) by Trump's speech in
>>>>> this list before, as many others in the media have. A linguist in
>>>>> the Washington post (see link below) comments on this and notes how
>>>>> Trump's speech sounds like (American) everyday speech, like he
>>>>> 'could be a family member or a friend'. She also notes his use of hyperbolic verbal and gestural devices.
>>>>> ??I was watching the video and my two-years old daughter passed by
>>>>> and saw Trump talking. Pointing at him, my daughter said, 'enfadado'
>>>>> ('angry' in Spanish). Honestly, I am glad that not many of my family
>>>>> members or friends sound like that, even the American ones!
>>>>> https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/this-linguist-
>>>>> studied-the-way-trump-speaks-for-two-years-heres-what-she-
>>>>> found/2017/07/07/12f310c6-627d-11e7-80a2-8c226031ac3f_video.html
>>> --
>>> Carol A Macdonald Ph.D (Edin)
>>> Cultural Historical Activity Theory
>>> Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa alternative
>>> email address: tmacdoca@unisa.ac.za