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Strangers in Their Own Land

Just finished Arlie Russell Hochschild's exhausting and eye-opening new book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and mourning on the American right, a journey to the heart of our political divide. She meets and talks at great length over many years with Tea Party–supporting residents of Louisiana.

Her central issue is pollution. Despite terrible environmental problems, Louisiana, an oil state, gives concessions to petroleum companies and few people there favor environmental regulations. Many think the EPA should be abolished, even people who have suffered greatly from living and working with highly toxic chemicals.

She began her research in an attempt to bridge the empathy gap, and I think she did, at least on a one-to-one basis, although I don't get a sense that there was much bridging going on in the other direction. Liberals are regularly exhorted to meet people like her friends, but those people are seldom if ever asked or expected to try to understand what makes liberals tick.

I learned:
* The animus to regulation is not monolithic. "Liquor, guns, motorcycle helmets—mainly white masculine pursuits—are fairly unregulated. But for women and black men, regulation is greater," referring to abortions & even what blacks can or cannot wear. (page 68)

* Residents of the 22 states that voted Republican in the 5 presidential elections between 1992 and 2008 live in more polluted environments than residents of the 22 Democratic states. (page 79)

* The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which was founded to favor a free market perspective and has the support of many of the country's 30 million Evangelicals and their leaders (Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell) is funded by, among other corporations, ExxonMobil. (pp 123–124)

* The economy does better under Democratic administrations and has for 80 years.
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