After Michigan fell, and Trump was elected, and Bay Area liberals experienced a hollowed-out feeling of shell shock, some of the initial analysis was that we were in a self-satisfied bubble. The cure to this was said to be a widening of horizons, and to have empathy for people with different values and circumstances, so as to be able to understand the reasons why people voted for a Trump.
That we were in a cultural bubble was a moment of clear self-reflection. This fits a theme I have worked on about local liberals, politics, non-profits and philanthropy for a while. The theme is, how can things actually be liberal if structural segregation in housing and low pay is tacitly allowed to persist? The bubble? We have big troubles ignoring serious material and social challenges right under our noses. The bubble? This is happening on our watch, in our own valley.
So much for popping any bubbles because with Trump, there is a doubling down on appealing to the bases, and this is inflaming partisanship bubbles. Cultural bubbles are being hardened off from each other. This is not a widening of views and a bridging of gaps. The precious moment of honest liberal introspection is now apparently forgotten as battle lines are increasingly drawn.
The people who could be appealed to, by understanding their gripes, are increasingly defensive. This is all part of a calculated divisive strategy.
Trump is a lightning rod playing all parties out in attracting attention with his outrageous speech. The media and people are drawn to have a look, like bugs to a lightbulb, and the whole gestalt gets to be a really bad habit, a death spiral even. Obama said what, one crazy partisan thing about rednecks clinging to guns and religion, and the right went nuts. Here we liberals are dealing with five of these things a day for two years. We’re like moths to a flame. This Trump disrespectful, vulgar and bullying speech is seriously inflammatory, in the US and in the world. It’s dishonest and puerile, to call other’s culture and points of view “fake.” Worse than that, they say, it’s fascist, authoritarian and dictatorial, undemocratic to the core. This not to mention an astounding lack of expert science and objectivity as to environmental and economic policy.
Liberals are thus drawn into a juvenile, psycho fight of Trump’s making, where the main post-election liberal project, to address the issues of people suffering inequitable injustice, is forgotten in the heat of a reactive battle of cheap slogans. It’s easy to be game to fight; that’s the lowest human common denominator. Lucky for us, Trump is a TV entertainer, and is more about ratings than any actual fascism. It’s a game here, in which we are all being played out.
The end result is to consolidate cultural bubbles, and that engenders more fighting, and makes a more all-or-nothing, maladaptive world, as real problems are ignored and people like Scott Pruitt hand the keys to the castle to corrupt corporations to do us all under with pollution, leaded water pipe and toxic algae bloom lakes etc.
The smart move, don’t play this game as it is defined by a psycho. That’s mistake number one, losing control of framing. The terms of our project, of our ideals have to be defined by us, by what we are for, not what we are against.
The liberal bubble here in the Bay Area has troubles. If we are not going to play Trump’s games, then we need to wake up, stop reacting and deal with our own business, according to our own values. An exclusive regional economy is grinding all workers and middle class under, to material insecurity, poor health and long, GHG spewing commutes. If anyone would be expected to address these things, wouldn’t it be liberals? Some open space and local character may need to be sacrificed to allow in the very people who are or could be Trump-type voters. These servant people need to have a place in local society. If it has to be denser, then so be it; if we need some local millionaires to divest and build affordable housing in perpetuity, do it and quit talking and standing around; if we need a Benny Tiaton-managed Grocery Outlet locally so people can afford to shop here, then so be it, why not drive prices down!? If we need to support local food ag and diversify from grape monoculture, let’s get some price supports so the working class can buy some of this good food. Get the free electric trolleys going. Get ’er done! Otherwise we remain hemmed in by the illusory reflections, limitations and apparent checks and stalemates of our own liberal bubble.
Unfortunately, the wine sipping, hot tub dipping, rich cocktail and fancy cheese party, disengaged stereotype seems fairly apt. This while serious social inequity lives right under our noses. We are content to let our own poor get poorer while the rich get richer.
I don’t see much action on the mandates delivered by the Hidden in Plain Sight study, to consolidate the delivery of social help, and to address structural causes of local inequity. I sense many bubbled actors girding to fight Sustainable Sonoma as not pure enough. Corrupt, corrupt. Bubble warfare blinds the virtuous on all sides. Old and new relationship issues and enmities tank efforts to cooperate because the intoxicating bubbled good fight supersedes the capacity to be a grown up, to get along, and figure out an adaptive way forward.
Sure, there is a danger of green washing and all kind of washing, that only symptoms would be addressed and not causes. But the whole thing about bubbles is that they wash you too. No one can see out of them. That’s why our own truths always seem self–evident; we are only looking under our own streetlights, to find our own self-fulfilling prophecies.
Maybe cultural bubbles never pop. The Greenland Vikings are a prime extirpated example. Why? Because culture is such an all-enveloping web and bubble of meaning. Meaing is the brick and mortar of socially constructed realty, and that is exactly what culture is; that is the bubble we live inside. We never see outside of the nurtured perspective we grew up with. And so, like with big academic arguments, they never resolve until the main actors die. Maybe the current generation needs to die before the next one can take the reins and put a different twist on things. The new folks can address the primary issues that the Baby Boomer bubbles in power created, and are now are so consumed with fighting about.
The moment of post-election clear self-reflection has passed. Alas, we willingly go to battle to defend our own maladaptive bubbled cultures and realties. The cure? Vote for young people now, to really change the channel, let their fresh bubbles have a day in the sun.