Monday, December 5, 2016

Democrats are Learning the Wrong Lessons From the False Prophet of Blue Amereica

If you listen to John F. Kennedy campaigning in the West Virginia primary in 1960, it’s amazing how so many of the same issues still haunt us. Then it was the Republicans who didn't seem to understand the plight of Appalachia and of working America.

Democrats, in the person of JFK and later Johnson and Bobby Kennedy, made the personal and policy connection. So what happened? How did their party lose touch with that part of America?

The broad answers are complicated and best left for historians. However, how the Democratic party reconnects is a very contemporary political issues.

Books are flying off the shelf trying to explain flyover country to Democrats. Books like Arlie Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land and most notably J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.

But it’s possible that some of these books, particularly Vance's, teach the wrong lesson. Just like the 1960's, the lesson is not one of promulgating conservative culture and Horatio Alger stories, but of the failure of government to do the right thing.

Sarah Jones, in the most recent issue of the New Republic, deconstructs Vance's arguments.

My conversation with Sarah Jones: