What (some) Trump supporters were thinking—and feeling

A Berkeley academic empathizes with antigovernment Louisianans.

Can a self-described progressive from Berkeley understand and even empathize with Tea Party supporters in the Deep South? Is it possible for any of us to connect across the huge political fault lines in American society? For Arlie Russell Hochs­child, an academic sociologist, these are not academic questions. They are as real as the next family reunion. Bringing the extended family together for the holidays can mean confronting America’s political divide over the dinner table.

Our often conflicted efforts to comprehend those on the other side of the divide was exponentially increased by this year’s presidential election. Often I heard people in my blue bubble of Seattle ask, “Do you actually know any Trump supporters?” (as if inquiring about a tribe somewhere deep beyond contact in the Amazon). “I just don’t get it—what can they be thinking?” Reading this book might have helped them.

Hochschild, whose previous work focused mainly on the family and the changing role of women, sets out to understand people on the other side of “our political divide.” And she sets out literally, traveling ten times over five years to Louisiana, where she embeds herself among government-hating Tea Party supporters.