Nov 27, 2021Liked by Ethan Strauss

Journalism’s shift to PR-ing on both sides of the political spectrum has removed any space for subtlety and nuance. As someone who isn’t from the US - only just moved here - I find it weird how if you’re a conservative (right) then you’re a racist and don’t want to pay tax (let’s be honest, who wants to pay tax especially when America does a poor job at investing back in healthcare and social services & infrastructure), and if you’re a liberal then you’re one step away from letting communism takeover… The point is, America is the king of extremes.

The divide is hardly different to anywhere else though in the world. In the UK,data suggests that white lower working class especially in the north are some of the most underserved group of people. They’re in critical need of support to advance their career and life prospects, so it’s no wonder they get turned off by the Labour Party right now (meant to be their party!) and turn Tory (although they don’t do anything for them either!).

Despite saying this, people in the US are the same they’ve always been - mixed with great people, weirdos and idiots. One final comment: After moving here in LA and seeing the places where Hollywood and athletes live in Santa Barbara, Hidden Hills etc., you realise how absurd it is we think they can possibly add any value to the national conversation when they operate in such an extravagant way.

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It feels like a “national” temperature is fairly impossible to have. Anecdotally, I live in a mid-sized (top 30) metro with a large university. You could end up in kitchen-table conservative land, monied progressive spaces, left-behind country roads or majority-minority ‘Clinton Dem’ spaces. All depending on which direction you drive for 30 minutes.

The only common thread is that all those folks are tired of COVID and much more likely to throw their hands up and wonder if saving seniors and a handful of infirm adults is worth all this trouble.

Socially it seems like all those groups are somewhat aware of the problems of the terminally online but bored by them. The amount of talk about the “woke” is many orders of magnitude more prevalent online than with anyone who has to see and converse with other humans in non-Twitter and Facebook spaces on a regular basis

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I think the political divide is largely manufactured and people irl are not that crazy and can generally agree on a lot of things so long as they respect one another. Otoh, TV/Internet/Social media is “real life” too in the sense that most people spend hours a day consuming it and it is really polluting the way we perceive one another.

As a newly formed right winger, I must say the last two years have radicalized me to an extent and have made me plunge into the “conspiracy theory” waters. I know nothing about viruses or climate science, to use two examples. I also have zero inclination to become an expert on either of those things. We’re told to trust the experts, believe the science and so forth, which seems reasonable enough, but then these same experts/scientists tell us blm protests don’t spread covid but biker rallies do. The climate alarmists have been telling us “we’re 10 years from the point of no return” for 30 years now. How am I supposed to trust what these people say when they so blatantly lie or engage in hyperbole? They’ve strained credulity to the point that I can’t believe them on anything any longer. I’m sure they are accurate and tell the truth sometimes, but how are we supposed to be able to discern when that is? I’m fairly adept at interpreting statistics, but its easy to be misled by them if you don’t have deep knowledge of the underlying subject.

I don’t know how this gets fixed. I think there are plenty of people like me who are simply never going to trust these institutions ever again.

On a lighter note, I’m curious to hear your take on this warriors season. Fringe title contender? Clearly a contender? Favorites?

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If I had to name our single biggest problem, it’s we have too much free access to speak our minds. Whatever your crackpot political leaning, you were once left to rant at dinner parties or bars to a handful of barely listening friends. Now? Everyone is subjected to your wildest drunkest ramblings. I think that increases the perception of a divide, which turns into an actual divide.

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I think the extremes of political ideology are whats ripping people apart even though they represent the smaller part of our population. I estimate the far left and the far right combined represent up to 30% of people and the other 70% are left scratching our heads wondering what’s wrong with these people. The person that drives around with a giant Trump flag hanging off their car and the person who openly calls people racist with no facts is one and the same and are just simple the loudest and like someone else described have a larger platform then ever which confuses us into thinking it’s a normal or common thought process. I feel like i represent most liberals in that i found myself becoming obsessed with politics in 2016 because of a hatred of trump, then over the last 5 years have become disenfranchised by the extreme of the left and their nonsense.

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It all just feels exhausting. I wish my woke friends would take a nap, and others I know be quiet about socialism. Sports are my safe space:)

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101° as taken in Kansas with one of those ear thermometers that doesn't feel super accurate

Top issues:

- General COVID fatigue. Very little capacity for any additional restrictions if there's another surge. This is something that the red and blue team seem to actually have in common, regardless of the public posturing.

- Specific COVID school-related outrage. My teacher sister's school district in upstate NY just went remote-only again given an uptick in COVID cases. Most parents here are well past their limit and believe the risk-reward calculus is way off. This feels like a potentially nuclear topic.

- Underwhelmed. I spent last weekend with older Democrat relatives. They're thrilled that Trump lost, but are underwhelmed with Biden. Their sentiment seems to be a combination of reaction to his generally unimpressive public performances, concern over who will be the nominee in 2024, and distaste for the battle between progressives and moderates. For what it's worth, their power ranking of nominees was 1) Booker, 2) Klobuchar, and 3) Buttigieg. They didn't seem thrilled with any.

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Living overseas and seeing America through a lens of Twitter and other online outlets, it feels like America is more divided than ever. But as a previous commenter wrote, the divide feels more manufactured than anything. People face to face are generally good to each other, whatever one’s political affiliation may be. If I’m wrong, ya’ll can feel free to correct me.

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In part, I think it's really (perhaps unusually) hard to tell? For instance, I'm thinking of some of deBoer's writing from the past week, where he speaks at points of a growing exhaustion with elite sanctimony, wokeness, etc. That's probably right; it fits with my experience. But if people from within institutions proceed as if (and write / outwardly opine as if) everything's business as usual, it can be difficult to pick up on how deep the exhaustion really runs: a culture with a stark divide between the professed beliefs of an elite / institutional caste and everyone else, as well as lots of kayfabe, leaves us all a little in the dark as to questions of political climate, I think. One can make inferences (and I'm interested to see what others say in this thread!) but I honestly feel kind of uncertain about these things. (This relates strongly to much of what you say about preference falsification and a drive to keep it going.)

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Little late to the convo here but I can’t believe how the entire country has essentially washed over January 6th.

To me, any political conversation about “wokeness” or any other topics are serving as distractions from the fact that one of our 2 major political parties attempted and is still attempting to end American democracy as we know it. We can’t go on as a country debating kitchen table issues and discussing right vs left when one side is rejecting the rules of the system. It’s like we’re watching an NBA game but one team is just playing with 8 players and we’re talking about what strategy the team with 5 needs to adjust.

Openly rejecting elections, gerrymandering their way back to a majority, blocking a non-partisan investigation into January 6th, refusing to work together on federal voting rights legislation. The examples go on and on, one party has no interest in actually governing and it’s going to destroy us. The temperature doesn’t matter in my opinion, the whole thermometer is broken.

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I think we’ve are at a dangerous moment in history. People that want to express “their truth” pollute a logic based universe. Everyone can have a belief, but when what someone feels becomes their empirical fact, we have a dangerous situation. I believe the Celtics are the greatest team in the NBA. Empirically it is unfortunately false, but it is my belief. Does that make my belief become a fact? Unfortunately it does not.

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Ethan, I'd be interested to hear what your take was on living in a planned Reno community and why you believe you have the pulse of America.

I tried really hard to listen to the TFC podcast, but when a blogger/commentator says that Trump is nothing but a pathological liar it really angers me and I give up. Not only does it anger me but it angers a HUGE portion of the american electorate and it shows just how out of touch the media/commentators have become (or always were). Obama and Biden are constantly lying out of their asses yet they are treated as the saviors of American democracy. Give me a break.

It's interesting how the American public is now being treated. Now that Trump is out of office, the focus in no longer on Trump but on his voters. They are white nationalists, they are domestic terrorists, etc. What the hell did I do, but simply vote for a man. I can't believe that I'm being treated this way as an American for simply having different views.

Uggghhh. Your saturday morning email really got my blood boiling.

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Man, people are just working through it and enjoying the holidays as much as they can. If it wasn’t Covid it would be something else. Job market is good and so are stocks, even if there is a sinking suspicion it’s another bubble in the making. The libs in my family are avoiding politics this time around and everyone else is opting for peace and football. One step in front of the next, it’s what we do.

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This is a great thread. It sounds like I might be in the minority a bit, politics-wise, but fun to read. On the repeated point on wokeness, here’s the question I keep coming back to, as I think about our national political climate, currently dominated by calls to “reject wokeness,” particularly after Dem losses like in the VA Gov race. I wonder: who, precisely, is supposed to do what, precisely, to whom, and by what mechanism will that work? Like, if Biden said he publicly rejects Ibram X Kendi or, like, the trans Netflix employees, it would be a) meaningless/unbelieved by people to whom he’s already a villain, b) demoralizing/alienating to admirers of Kendi and trans allies, c) utterly meaningless to most people. Any anti-CRT speech from Dems would basically be the same result. So, speaking anecdotally from convos I have with right-leaning friends, I just don't know what folks want exactly.

Or is it possible that “anti-wokeness” makes for easy ammo by a political party that’s very, very, very good at finding the right ammo to color the national conversation and win elections...

When I think about where the country’s at, it’s this drowning out that I always return to. Elected Dems are fighting to cap insulin at $35 a month, allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, no longer be one of the only nations not to offer paid family leave, etc, etc. And these are popular positions!

Paid family and medical leave for new parents:

Support 70%

Oppose 20%

Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices:

Support 72%

Oppose 15%

Adding dental and vision benefits to Medicare:

Support 82%

Oppose 11%

Really, this is the only political story. The things virtually everybody wants (as much consensus as we ever get, except when Duke gets upset in March) can’t happen. It strikes at the heart of any claim that we have a functional democracy. Everything else in politics is strategically meant to distract from this. You have to engage in heroic pretzel logic to conclude anything else.

So, instead we get both-sides-ism, as if the far right (absolutely dominating American politics right now) and the far left (who constantly lose to the moderates in their own party) are seen as equally formidable. As if in ultra-liberal New York City, Dems didn’t just elect a big-business, ex-Republican former cop in Adams. Like, Joe Biden, you know? I’m not trying to be cute when I say I wouldn’t mind the far left to be half as influential as the far right, no matter what everyone seems to think about the Power of AOC or whatever.

Put another way: My Republican friends make cases of varying quality trying to nuance Covid, pointing to GOP heroes of theirs fighting the good fight against mask mandates or CRT. Meanwhile “extreme left” politicians are doing what right now? Fighting for paid family leave?

The asymmetrical polarization (https://bit.ly/3E9nqLq) is old news I know, and – also I can’t believe I’m still writing, sorry everybody – but the asymmetry of it has gotten out of hand. You can feel it in the national mood if you’re willing to see it. The party that created the Environmental Protection Agency would almost certainly vote against public libraries today if the concept didn’t yet exist. When I think about the national political conversation, I think about the workaday policies the left is focused on and the cultural battles the right loves to fight (and win). I guess it’s not too surprising which fills up more space.

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