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Book cover for "Strangers in their Own Land" by Arlie Hochschild
The New Press / The New Press

In the days following the 2016 election, I [Joe Donahue] was drawn to a book published just as the fall campaign was getting underway. It helped me understand the election and the forces roiling in the country. The book was: "Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right" by sociologist Arlie Hochschild.

Almost a decade ago, she ventured into the Republican heartland, the state of Louisiana, and stayed there, on and off, for about five years. During that time, she grappled with what she called the "deep story" of voters who were determined to elect Donald Trump as their next president.

Four years later and a day before election day, I wanted to check in with her again. In what has become the most factious era of U.S. politics, I feel like I need help – help understanding. I called Hochschild and asked if she could join us to dissect what is happening within our nation. More accurately – what has happened, what is happening and what will happen – beginning with tomorrow.

Hochschild is Professor Emerita in the department of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley.

According to Adam Gopnik, not since the early 20th century has liberalism and liberals been under such relentless attack from both right and left. The crisis of democracy in our era has produced a crisis of faith in liberal institutions and even worse, in liberal thought. His new book, "A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism" is a manifesto rooted in the lives of people who invented and extended the liberal tradition.

Adam Gopnik is a staff writer at the New Yorker. He has written for the magazine since 1986. He is the author of numerous best selling books, including "Paris to the Moon." "A Thousand Small Sanities" is now out in paperback. 

In 2014 in the book "Dog Whistle Politics," Ian Haney López named and explained the coded racial appeals exploited by right-wing politicians over the last half century and thereby anticipated the 2016 presidential election. Now the country is heading into what will surely be one of the most consequential elections ever, with the Right gearing up to exploit racial fear-mongering to divide and distract, and the Left splintered over the next step forward. Some want to focus on racial justice head-on; others insist that a race-silent focus on class avoids alienating white voters.

Can either approach - race-forward or colorblind - build the progressive supermajorities necessary to break political gridlock and fundamentally change the country’s direction?

The new book is "Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America."

In "Try Common Sense: Replacing the Failed Ideologies of Right and Left ," Philip K. Howard attacks the failed ideologies of both political parties and proposes a radical simplification of government to re-empower Americans in their daily choices. Nothing will make sense until people are free to roll up their sleeves and make things work.

Americans are a practical people. They want government to be practical. Washington can’t do anything practically. Worse, its bureaucracy prevents Americans from doing what’s sensible. Conservative bluster won’t fix this problem. Liberal hand-wringing won’t work either. Frustrated voters reach for extremist leaders, but they too get bogged down in the bureaucracy that has accumulated over the past century.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and author or co-author of several books on American politics.

The words “optimism” and “the left” do not seem to go together very well these days. The dominant view on the left--reinforced by the election of Donald Trump--is as follows: (1) progress in today’s world has largely stopped and in many ways reversed; (2) the left is weak and at the mercy of a rapacious capitalism and a marauding right; and (3) the outlook for the future is bleak, with ordinary citizens suffering even more deprivation and the planet itself sliding inexorably toward catastrophe.

Teixeira's new book, The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think, maintains that all these propositions are wrong. It is not the case that progress has stopped. Today, we live in a freer, more democratic, less violent and more prosperous world than we ever have before.

Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and Hastings Foundation Chair at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Williams’s work includes What Works for Women at Work, coauthored with Rachel Dempsey; Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What To Do About It. Williams is frequently featured as an expert on social class.

Around the world, populist movements are gaining traction among the white working class. Meanwhile, members of the professional elite - journalists, managers, and establishment politicians - are on the outside looking in, left to argue over the reasons. In White Working Class, Joan C. Williams, described as having “something approaching rock star status” by the New York Times, explains why so much of the elite’s analysis of the white working class is misguided, rooted in class cluelessness.

Why did Donald Trump follow Barack Obama into the White House? Why is America so polarized? And how does American exceptionalism explain these social changes?

In Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other, Mugambi Jouet describes why Americans are far more divided than other Westerners over basic issues, including wealth inequality, health care, climate change, evolution, gender roles, abortion, gay rights, sex, gun control, mass incarceration, the death penalty, torture, human rights, and war. Raised in Paris by a French mother and Kenyan father, Jouet then lived in the Bible Belt, Manhattan, and beyond.

While exceptionalism once was a source of strength, it may now spell decline, as unique features of U.S. history, politics, law, culture, religion, and race relations foster grave conflicts. Exceptional America dissects the American soul, in all of its peculiar, clashing, and striking manifestations.

In Strangers in Their Own Land, sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream—and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America.