Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Silver Lining of the Trump Election: Mobilizing Millennials to Civic Action

Millennials supported Clinton over Trump in the 2016 election by 20 points -- the biggest gap of any generation.

Moreover, the 35% who supported Trump "are less experienced in civic and community engagement ... and they are less likely to say that they would take up a formal civic opportunity (like regularly volunteering for a nonprofit organization)." 

Clinton supporters, by contrast, were more engaged in civic and political life to begin with.

The Tufts study, taken just after before and after the election, thought that the high level of civic mobilization of the Clinton voters would depend on whether the Trump administration attacked "individuals and organizations with diverse viewpoints, including those of young people largely oppose him."

Now that we are almost a year after the election, I think we can clearly answer that question in the affirmative.

Friday, October 20, 2017

General Kelly Gives a Clue About When They Imagine America Used to Be Great

General Kelly, President Trump's Chief of Staff, gave a speech in response to the controversy about the president calling the families of fallen service members.

In the course of this speech, he give this vision of the lost golden age:

And they [members of the military] volunteer to protect our country when there's nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required.
You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That's obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life, the dignity of life was sacred. That's gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well. Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer.

President Trump's slogan is "Make America Great Again."  It has never been clear when they thought America was great, nor why they do not think America is great now.  This speech gives a clue.

It is also mostly wrong.

Volunteering is up.  Millennials have higher levels of community service than prior generations. 

Feminism has produced a greater level of equal honor for women than ever before.  

The dignity of soldiers' lives, the very subject of Gen. Kelly's lament, is more honored than it was a generation ago.

The United States is the most religious industrialized country.

Gold Star families were central to one of the conventions last summer, even if not treated with equal respect at the other one.

America is great now, and improving in many ways.  The MAGA lament is really nostalgia for a time when things were worse.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trying to Empathize with My Enemies

The Hidden Brain podcast "Tribes and Traitors" has got me thinking about how to empathize with my  enemy, the angry white men who shoot people.

When I take angry white men as a group, I can kind of understand their view.  They are trying to defend themselves and their kind from what they regard as an invasion of dangerous aliens.  The impulse to protect is honorable.  Their reading of how to identify the dangerous people if grossly misplaced.

They err in taking every story of a non-white person doing a bad thing as typical of that group.  They treat similar stories of bad things done by white people as individual actions, not reflective of the group.

Their decision to act by shooting random non-white people draws in part on this sort-of-understandable-but-misplaced impulse to protect.  But it also draws on an impulse, which I think is buried in all of us, to wish to have a good reason to destroy things.

When I try to empathize with Dylann Roof, the Charleston church murderer, in particular, though, I have a harder time.  He is another of those angry white men.  But he did not just open fire on random black people.  He crossed state lines to go to a prominent church.  They welcomed him in to their Bible study.  He took part for an hour.  And then opened fire on these very non-random black people who were doing good.

Love your enemies is a commandment.  Empathize with your enemies is an empirical path to a better society.  But some particular individual enemies have, so far, defeated my attempts at empathy.