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Limited scope, but good insight into people who likely voted for Trump
on April 25, 2017
This book is very timely in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Hochschild, a liberal from Berkley, spends time with conservatives and Tea Party members in Louisiana in an attempt to understand how people living in one of the most economically depressed and polluted states can still justify voting for the conservative candidates that they support. The answer isn't always clear, and you get the sense that Hochschild struggles, with many of the people she interviews, to really understand fully where they're coming from, or why they prioritize certain things over others. The book does illuminate for liberal readers some of the motivations of southern conservatives tied to their political choices that democrats often have trouble understanding - many of the interviewees are grounded in church, family, family histories of hard work and struggle and the value of individual freedom. Interestingly, many of her subjects who support candidates who either deny climate change or don't want to do much about it are actually concerned about the environment - it's just not their top priority when selecting candidates to vote for.
One of the most poignant analogies Hochschild draws on repeatedly is that of the "line"; that the southerners she interviews, white, middle aged, often men, find that they are waiting patiently in line but other people (outsiders, immigrants, women, etc.) are pushing ahead or being given priority. Even though the reader may not agree with the sentiment, Hochschild makes it easy to understand where these people are coming from and how painful it is for them to feel this way. In this way, Hochschild helps the reader to feel empathy for people who democrats may not otherwise feel any empathy for.
Obviously the book has limited scope. Hochschild has interviewed people from a specific demographic in a single state. We can't necessarily extrapolate the findings in this book to all Americans who voted for Donald Trump. But many of the people she interviewed probably did vote for him, and this book democrats to realize that they are more complex and yes, more human, and just like us, than we might like to believe when we find our own opinions so at odds with those espoused by the president they have chosen.