Thursday, November 16, 2017

Distance From Power

There was a link over at Maggie's to a College Fix article about America's Outer Class. Colin Johnson, professor of Gender Studies at Indiana University, told an academic conference that Trump voters feel oppressed too. I think he gets something very right about this.
At a session titled “WTF Rural America? Geography. Culpability. Trump.,*”Johnson told his peers they should tinker with the traditional top-to-bottom social class structure that puts the wealthy at the highest point and poor at bottom. He argued the traditional model is poor at predicting voting patterns and doesn’t fully tease out the frustration currently felt by many Americans and exhibited in last year’s election.
“Specifically, I would suggest we need to stop thinking about class in terms of vertically oriented hierarchy and start thinking of it instead in terms of perceived proximity to or distance from centers of power, be they real or imagined,” he said.
Centering social class around one’s distance to power, the scholar says, better captures feelings of resentment and underrepresentation — two factors Johnson suggested played a major role in last year’s presidential election.
 Distance from power would explain why many Trump supporters remain angry with the GOPe. We no longer care whether we agree with you more than the Democrats on issues.  You won't fight for us.**  We're done with you. It also fits with the anger at protestors and victim groups. How can you say you're being "silenced?" You're on TV. People are giving you awards, and making concessions to you, and coming up with new programs so you get jobs, or inside tracks. You have access to power, and I don't, and you didn't do anything to earn it but complain and kick other people. 

I think Professor Johnson's idea is correct in general as well, not just about Trump voters, minorities, and women.  The larger and more intrusive government is, the greater the percentage of the people who feel they don't have a voice.  When power is dispersed throughout society (which it still is in America, though that ebbs a little each year) people see that there are many things they have influence over, and these are the most important things.

*Link leads only to the conference description, but that's pretty darn entertaining in itself. You can sign in if you're a member. Let's just say that Colin Johnson, for all his previous cred writing about Queer People in rural America, might have serious pushback from this crew.

**It used to be that Democrats said they would fight for you, and Republicans said they would work for you,  as I discussed here. Bonus: you get to read the early writings of Bethany as well. This has been changing over the years, and the change became very strong in the last election. It is related to my observation that angry liberals go on offense - usually against objects, though sometimes humans - while conservatives get back on defense; in the extreme, holing up with weapons and daring Obama/liberals/gun-grabbbers to come get them. Even in milder forms, though, conservatives in a society are more tied to the status quo, while liberals are looking to shake things up and create change.  The meanings become fluid because change and status quo can look very different in different centuries and on different continents. Gladstone was the height of 19th C liberalism, which included free trade and laissez-faire economics. The offense-defense distinction is breaking down, in bad directions in both cases.


RichardJohnson said...

It used to be that Democrats said they would fight for you, and Republicans said they would work for you, and I discussed the reasons why here.
American Studies Association, have to log in?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Fixed. Thank you.

Roy Lofquist said...

"Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority."

"Some of these functions are carried out by local political bodies, others by private associations: so long as they are kept local, and are marked by the general agreement of those affected, they constitute healthy community. But when these functions pass by default or usurpation to centralized authority, then community is in serious danger." ~~ Russell Kirk

Sam L. said...

My impression is that Colin Johnson does not know we who live in the hinterlands and "flyover" country.

Texan99 said...

I saw that piece, too, and thought it was a better take than most, especially considering the source.

jaed said...

Random "fight/work"-related observation: in 2008, McCain urged voters to "Fight with me."

Not the same as "I'll fight for you", yet "work" is nowhere in sight.