Shame Worked in Alabama

Tom Nichols, in an op-ed for The Washington Post:

This raises an important question: How should conservative critics of the administration approach those people who, a year in, remain unshakably attached to an administration plumbing such moral depths? Should we engage and try to understand these voters, or should we shame and scold in an effort to reawaken some moral sense in a party that once proclaimed itself the defender of patriotic and family values?

Personally, I am in the “shame and scold” camp. The “engage and understand” approach is based on the deeply flawed assumption that these voters don’t know what they are doing. It is a kind of “root causes” explanation, in which Trump’s supporters are good people who are merely expressing a yawp of anger at a globalized world that has left them behind.

This explanation, ironically, mirrors one that conservatives once rejected when liberals used it to explain crime in some poor minority communities decades ago. Conservatives refused to accept the mechanistic reasoning that human beings are no more than victims, passively responsive to their environment, when it was applied to behavior among African Americans. Yet now they embrace it to explain the astounding collapse of civic virtue among the white working class.

If you’re looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas, Nichols’s The Death of Expertise is one of my favorite books of 2017.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017