Saturday, December 19, 2020

Predicting Trumpism in 1998

 Richard Rorty in Achieving Our Country, published in 1998:

Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.


David said...

Yes, this is a great quote that has been making the rounds, and has given Rorty legitimate fame as something of a prophet.

One finds a similar analysis of the Israeli right described in a recent NYT article, worth reading:

The problem is that too often the solution offered is, "when they act like bigoted assholes, liberals should respond with oodles of kindness and patience, and try to understand instead of condemn." This amounts to one of two things: either we're saying that bigoted assholes is just what they are, and we're going to have to let them be themselves (because how far are we really supposed to go in "understanding" what even Rorty calls "socially accepted sadism"?); or we're admitting that, well, we really aren't ever going to let ourselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else, so we might as well let them have their sadistic fun so we can keep our money.

Based on the Wikipedia synopsis of his book, Rorty's own solution seems to be that liberals should stop reading Thomas Pynchon and Neal Stephenson, and instead bring back the hopeful rhetoric of Whitman and the pragmatism of Dewey. Which, if it actually means raising taxes and redistributing some wealth, might do some good, but sounds in itself like weak sauce.

G. Verloren said...


Hear, hear.