So what factor distinguishes Trump and non-Trump voters? My answer is social connectedness or, to use Robert Putnam’s term in “Bowling Alone,” social capital. Socially connected people have strong family ties and wide circles of friends, are active in churches and voluntary organizations and work steadily.
Putnam’s thesis is that social connectedness has declined sharply since the 1950s. But as Charles Murray notes in “Coming Apart,” that decline is uneven. Whites in the top third of income and education scales still have plenty of social capital. But there’s been a precipitous decline among whites in the lowest fifth of those scales. They work less steadily, attend church less often and participate very little in voluntary organizations.
Looking over the election returns, I sense that Trump’s support comes disproportionately from those with low social connectedness. My first clues came from the Dutch. Heavily Dutch-American counties in northwest and central Iowa and western Michigan, around Grand Rapids, were Huckabee and Santorum territory in past years.
This year, unlike surrounding territory, they voted for Ted Cruz, with Trump a poor third. Dutch-Americans have dense networks of churches and civic groups — unusually high social connectedness.
I saw something similar in strong Huckabee/Santorum southern Missouri. Southeast Missouri voted heavily for Trump, but southwest Missouri for Cruz. Southeast Missouri has high rates of disability insurance, an indicator of low workforce participation and low social connectedness. Southwest Missouri, headquarters of the Assemblies of God, has dense networks of civically active churches.
Similarly, exit polls show Trump doing worse with evangelicals who attend church weekly than with those who don’t. This helps explain why Trump carried South Carolina and lost Oklahoma, where church attendance is higher.
Then there is majority-Mormon Utah, whose Mormon majority has higher social connectedness than any other American group. Only 14 percent of Utah Republicans voted for Trump.
Putnam reports that social connectedness is highest in states with large Scandinavian- and German-American populations and in Utah. It’s lowest in — no surprise — Nevada, one of Trump’s best states.
In the 13 states highest in social connectedness, Trump has gotten just 21 to 35 percent in primaries and caucuses. In the 11 states lowest in social connectedness (except for Cruz’s Texas), his percentages ranged from 33 to 47 percent.
In states with medium social-connectedness but many retirees voting in Republican primaries – Florida and Arizona –Trump has run in the high 40s. He ran similarly in Massachusetts, where only a sliver of voters there are registered Republicans and their social connectedness may be limited to listening to Howie Carr on talk radio.
In 1900, there were two great philosophers working side by side at Harvard, William James and Josiah Royce. James was from an eminent Boston family and had all the grace, brilliance and sophistication that his class aspired to. Royce, as the historian Allen Guelzo points out, was the first major American philosopher born west of the Mississippi. His parents were Forty-Niners who moved to California but failed to find gold. He grew up in squalor, was stocky, lonely and probably knew more about despair and the brooding shadows that can come in life.
James and Royce admired and learned from each other, but their philosophies were different, too. James was pragmatic and tough-minded, looking for empirical truth. Royce was more idealistic and tender-minded, more spiritual and abstract.
They differed on the individual’s role in society. As David Lamberth of Harvard notes, James’s emphasis was on tolerance. We live in a pluralistic society and we each know only a fragment of the truth. People should give one another enough social space so they can be themselves. For Royce the good life meant tightly binding yourself to others — giving yourself away with others for the sake of a noble cause. Tolerance is not enough.
James’s influence is now enormous — deservedly so. Royce is almost entirely forgotten. And yet I would say that Royce is the philosopher we need today. In an age of division, fragmentation and isolation, Royce is the philosopher we don’t know we have. He is the philosopher of binding and connection.
Royce argued that meaningful lives are marked, above all, by loyalty. Out on the frontier, he had seen the chaos and anarchy that ensues when it’s every man for himself, when society is just a bunch of individuals searching for gain. He concluded that people make themselves miserable when they pursue nothing more than their “fleeting, capricious and insatiable” desires.
So for him the good human life meant loyalty, “the willing and practical and thoroughgoing devotion of a person to a cause.”
A person doesn’t have to invent a cause, or find it deep within herself. You are born into a world of causes, which existed before you were born and will be there after you die. You just have to become gripped by one, to give yourself away to it realizing that the cause is more important than your individual pleasure or pain.
You’re never going to find a cause if you are working in a bland office; you have to go out to where the problems are. Loyalty is not just emotion. It is action.
“The loyal man serves. That is, he does not merely follow his own impulses. He looks to his cause for guidance. This cause tells him what to do,” Royce wrote in “The Philosophy of Loyalty.”
In such a community, people submit themselves to their institution, say to a university. They discover how good it is by serving it, and they allow themselves to be formed by it. According to Royce, communities find their voice when they own their own betrayals; evil exists so we can struggle to overcome it.
Royce took his philosophy one more crucial step: Though we have our different communities, underneath there is an absolute unity to life. He believed that all separate individuals and all separate loyalties are mere fragments of a spiritual unity — an Absolute Knower, a moral truth.
That sense of an ultimate unity at the end things, shines back on us, because it means all our diverse loyalties are actually parts of the same loyalty. We all, he wrote, “seek a city out of sight.” This sense of ultimate unity, of human brotherhood and sisterhood, is what is missing in a lot of the current pessimism and divisiveness.
Royce’s philosophy is helpful with the problem we have today. How does the individual fit into the community and how does each community fit into the whole? He offered a shift in perspective. When evaluating your life, don’t ask, “How happy am I?” Ask, “How loyal am I, and to what?”
- perspective taking
- staying out of judgement
- recognizing emotion in others
Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.
What is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.
Jesus uses yeast in both a positive way, to describe a growth-inducing “yeast which is hidden inside the dough” (see Matthew 13:33), and in a very negative way, when he warns the disciples against “the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod” (see Mark 8:15).
I would like to suggest these passages tell us that leaven or yeast is a metaphor for things hidden in the unconscious, which will have a lasting effect on us if we do not bring them to consciousness. Carl Jung seemed to think that ninety percent of our energy—good and bad—resides in the unconscious, over which we have little direct control or accountability.
If we do not discover a prayer practice that “invades” our unconscious and reveals what is hidden, we will actually change very little over our lifetime. This was much of the genius of John of the Cross (1542–1591) who, in a highly externalized Spanish Catholicism, spoke from personal experience of darkness, inner journeys, and the shadow self. He was centuries ahead of the modern discovery of the unconscious, and thus many of his fellow Carmelites considered him heretical and dangerous.
Prayer should not be too rational, social, verbal, linear, or transactional. It must be more mysterious, inner, dialogical, receptive, and pervasive. Silence, symbol, poetry, music, movement, and sacrament are much more helpful than mere words.
When you meditate consistently, a sense of your autonomy and private self-importance—what you think of as your “self”—falls away, little by little, as unnecessary, unimportant, and even unhelpful. The imperial “I,” the self that you likely think of as your only self, reveals itself as largely a creation of your mind.
Through regular access to contemplation, you become less and less interested in protecting this self-created, relative identity. You don’t have to attack it; it calmly falls away of its own accord and you experience a kind of natural humility.
If your prayer goes deep, “invading” your unconscious, as it were, your whole view of the world will change from fear to connection, because you don’t live inside your fragile and encapsulated self anymore.
In meditation, you move from ego consciousness to soul awareness, from being fear-driven to being love-drawn. That’s it in a few words!
Of course, you can only do this if Someone Else is holding you, taking away your fear, doing the knowing, and satisfying your desire for a Great Lover. If you can allow that Someone Else to have their way with you, you will live with a new vitality, a natural gracefulness, and inside of a Flow that you did not create. It is actually the Life of the Trinity, spinning and flowing through you.