No, Senator Sasse, loneliness is not the issue

Senator Ben Sasse has published a new book, accompanied by a media blitz and columns explaining that our real political problem is that politics substitutes for “other communities that actually can make you happy …  President Trump can’t fix this. He didn’t cause this. Politics can’t fix this. Politics didn’t cause this, but it’s true that our political tribalism is filling that vacuum, that loneliness that’s coming from all these other institutions.” What we need is the kind of togetherness and bonding we had in the good old days, when everyone went to the Rotary or the Freemasons, when we bonded through work, when the nuclear family was the center of our existence, etc., etc., etc. (I’m not providing a link, sorry).

This is not a new idea. Sasse invokes Putnam’s Bowling Alone, a 2000 book that discusses the loss of social connections as Americans no longer join the clubs, bowling leagues, fraternal orders, etc. that were once a distinctive feature of American society. A columnist back in FWB was forever waxing nostalgic about the good old days when people helped each other out and stuck together in hard times. More recently, David Brooks explained all our political anger can be blamed on prioritizing politics over our jobs, family, neighborhood.

The analysis if flawed. As Putnam points out in his book (I read it back in the day) that social cohesion isn’t always a plus: mob families and extremist groups can have high social cohesion, for instance. The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s was as tight a social gathering as the Freemasons or the Rotarians. Communities came together, but sometimes they came together to keep Jews or blacks from moving in. They got together at lynchings where they stood and posed around the victim’s hanging body.

Which leads to the next point: Sasse declaring all this fixation on politics is irrational ignores that what’s “politics” to him is life and death to other people. Their ability to get health insurance. Their ability to marry the person they love (Sasse is not a gay marriage supporter).  The ability to have a sex life and not have a kid, or to report rapists and have faith the authorities will act (Sasse expresses himself baffled by the outrage over Kavanaugh). It’s just an attempt to duck the issues, like the complaints that non-whites, non-straights or non-Christians about the Republican agenda are merely identity politics. Or claims that Trump is the liberals’ fault.

In other news:

Mitch McConnell says we have to cut Social Security and Medicare because we’re running up a big deficit, and the tax cut that lined his pocket (McConnell is one of the richest senators) is totally not at fault. Given that Republicans obviously don’t care about the deficit, I’d say he’s using the tax cut-generated deficit as an excuse to do what he wants to do anyway. Hence the suggestion Democrats should denounce the entire Republican party as rotten to the core.

A racist white woman harasses a black man for walking into his apartment building. And a white guy calls the cops on a black woman for opening her car trunk.

Republicans are still doing what they can to disenfranchise black voters. And in Arkansas, Repub French Hill is running an ad claiming if Dems almost lynched Kavanaugh, they’ll soon lynch black people.

Pat Robertson says we shouldn’t make a fuss over Saudi Arabia murdering a journalist because our munitions industry makes so much money off them. Proving, as Fred Clark says, that you can’t serve God and Mammon — not that you shouldn’t, that you can’t.

Where Kavanaugh and similar judges are grown.

It wasn’t Amazon that killed Sears, it was having a CEO who looted Sears for his private-equity firm. The same problem has been gutting newspapers.

Elizabeth Warren has taken flak for addressing Trump’s Pocahontas bullshit, but she’d been getting crap if she ignored it. The right wing, of course, are desperately lying that Warren’s test proves she’s a liar.

A woman tweets that her son won’t go on solo dates because he’s afraid of false rape charges. He says she’s wrong.

And don’t forget: VOTE!


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