The Establishment’s ‘Pain’
I do not like Ted Cruz, no I don’t, don’t, don’t. But he made a good point last night, highlighted in his answer on immigration:
What was said was right, the Democrats are laughing because if Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose. And you know, I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn’t often see it as an economic issue. But I can tell you for millions of Americans at home, watching this, it is a very personal economic issue. And I will say the politics of it would be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press. Then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation. And I will say for those of us who believe people ought to come to this country legally and we should enforce the law, we’re tired of being told, it is anti-immigrant. It’s offensive. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. To seek the American dream. And we can embrace legal immigration while believing in the rule of law. And I would note, try going illegally to another country. Try going to China or Japan. Try to go into Mexico. See what they do. Every sovereign nation secures its borders and it is not compassionate to say we’re not going to enforce the laws and we’re going to drive down the wages for millions of hard-working men and women. That is abandoning the hard-working men and women.
Not too many lawyers, bankers, or journalists have to use public hospitals in cities with large illegal immigrant populations. If they did, I bet you would see a Strange New Respect in the Establishment for enforcing immigration laws.
Here’s a good example of that, from a posting by the Washington Post‘s media blogger Erik Wemple, regarding the outrageous intimidation by a Missouri mob against photographer Tim Tai. Wemple is talking about faculty/staff members Melissa Click, Chip Callahan, and Janna Basler, all of whom were caught on video intimidating Tai and trying to stop him from doing what his legally protected, that is, photographing a news event in public space:
These three university employees had a chance to stick up for free expression on Monday. Instead, they stood up for coercion and darkness. They should lose their jobs as a result.
I don’t think I would go that far, but if I did not agree with the cultural politics of Click or Callahan (who is chair of the Religious Studies department), I would not take a class from either of them, because they are on video proving that they are intolerant of basic First Amendment liberties. They have demonstrated that they lack a basic quality required of teachers in a university: respect for free speech, including freedom of the press. Should that cost them their jobs? Again, my instinct is not to go that far, but at least they should be severely reprimanded.
The point here is that the illiberalism of the Mizzou protests became clear to Wemple (or so it seems) when these academics interfered with something he understands: newsgathering. (Though I wonder: why does he not chastise the students who muscled Tai out of the way. What gives them a pass? Their youth? These are adults, every one of them.)
This is normal human behavior, I guess, but I wonder how many journalists were entirely uncritical, even sympathetic, to the Mizzou protests until the protesters were recorded turning on journalists? For that matter, I wonder how many journalists are experiencing ideologically-based cognitive dissonance over all this, separating out the disgusting anti-First Amendment behavior of the mob from the overall protest, which they are determined to see as a sacred cause.
I’m reminded of the report I highlighted last week, the study that found soaring death rates among middle-aged white working class people, from suicide, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Angus Deaton, the Princeton economist who co-authored the study with his wife, another Princeton economist, said, “Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this.”
The report got some notice in the media, but not a lot, certainly not commensurate to the scale of the problem. Now, it could be that major media organizations are preparing follow-up reports, which can’t be done well overnight. But I doubt it. Major-media reporters don’t know people like these. And they think of them as the Wrong Sort of Person.
So, let’s consider the University of Missouri situation (and not Yale, because what working class person ever thinks his son or daughter will go to Yale?). I bet more than a few parents of undergraduates at Mizzou are like my parents: working-class people who couldn’t afford any option other than the state universities. Mizzou is not really affordable: in-state tuition, room, board, and expenses are over $25,000 per year. Absent scholarships, working-class students are going to have to go seriously into debt to attend there.
A white working-class mom and dad see the fight going on there, and see Social Justice Warriors dictating policy to the university. They see the board running the state university system imposing a new level of (no doubt costly) “diversity” bureaucracy, and imposing
political re-education mandatory diversity training (but of course, no mandatory First Amendment training). They may well wonder if their own kids will be treated fairly in class, and whether or not their kids stand to be reported to campus police if some thin-skinned person finds something their kid said to be “hurtful.” They’re paying $25,000 a year for their kids to put up with that? Really?
Are journalists getting past their liberal bias and finding these people to talk to? Do they care? I am not a working class person, but I am facing sending a kid to college in a couple of years, and trying to think about how I’m going to pay for it. You had better believe that my wife and I will be thinking long and hard about the kind of education our son is likely to receive for the investment we make in it. We will not spend that kind of money, or go into debt, for him to spend four years at an unserious, politically contaminated place like Mizzou or Yale, where students who aren’t interested in debate, but who just want to talk about their pain, have the power to humiliate and emasculate a nationally known scholar who defended the apparently radical notion that college students are adults, and free speech ought to be tolerated.
If we, as people with a lot more means than working class folks, are losing faith in the American university as an institution, and do not believe we can afford to be anything less than extremely cautious about where we send our kids to college, given the cost, how much more must white working class parents, and students (after all, they will be carrying the loans) feel right about now, watching all this play out?
Economists may yet manage to tease out a reason from among the thicket of trends and variables. But this may simply be one of those times when economic theory isn’t that useful. After all, there exists no good economic model of drug abuse and suicide in the first place. The roots must be somehow sociological and psychological.
In fact, the deterioration of the American white working class is evident in other areas. Divorce rates have risen dramatically for this demographic group, even as they have fallen for the more educated. In other words, family breakdown is now as severe among the white working class as it was among the black working class in the 1960s, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous report.
Is family breakdown the cause of alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide? Possibly — after all, families are an incredibly important source of emotional support. But that merely leads us to the question of why family breakdown is occurring in the first place.
Here’s a possible explanation that takes us back to economic factors. Beginning in the 1980s, the U.S. economy started trending toward greater inequality. The less-educated lost the semi-skilled jobs that they had held in previous decades. The uneducated class became a floating low-skilled labor force, which decreased themarriageability of white working-class men. That impaired family formation. A couple of decades later, the lack of family support started to take a big bite out of the emotional health of working-class whites, causing them to turn to alcohol, drugs and suicide once they reached middle age.
What happens when those people stop turning on themselves, and start turning on the people who run this country? Trump is not going to win, but if a more skilled politician follows him — someone like Ted Cruz — speaking to the same frustrations, we are going to be in trouble. Yet the clowns who run the institutions in this country only want to talk about the “pain” of some of the most privileged people to walk the face of this earth. The pain of the working classes — white and otherwise — does not really register.
I’ll repeat the excerpt from Houellebecq’s novel Submission that I quoted in this space last night:
History is full of such blindness: we see it among the intellectuals, politicians, and journalists of the 1930s, all of whom were convinced that Hitler could “come to see reason.” It may well be impossible for people who have lived and prospered under a given social system to imagine the point of view of those who feel it offers them nothing, and who contemplate its destruction without any particular dismay.
I would invite journalists, academics, and professional class people to think about what this little campus p.c. revolution so many of you are embracing says to the huge number of people outside your narrow circles of privilege. Houellebecq is speaking to you. You are waging a culture war on the people who are not like you. They know you hate them, and are pulling the ladders up behind you. When the university system collapses — as it will, because we cannot afford it — do you really think they are going to give a damn? Do you really think that they will, in the end, have any more concern for free speech, fair play, and other classically liberal values than you have shown? Here’s a hint: there are a lot more of them than there are of you. And sooner or later, some rough beast is going to come along and inspire them to vote.