The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

We don’t need bubble ambassadors, we need politics

On December 23, 2016, the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog published an article penned by our very own President Raynard Kington entitled, “College president: Schools can’t be blue islands in red states,” essentially a proposition for how academics should cope with and consider the nearby conservative presence in the Trump years. Unfortunately, there is a distinct discrepancy between legitimate politics and liberal proverbs.

President Kington’s article is a mild reiteration of the post-election beltway narrative that America was simply too bigoted to elect another Democrat, an intriguing conclusion considering about 6 months ago the center-left media class had disavowed Donald Trump as too bigoted to win. In the fallout of Nov 8, the befuddled Democrats declared, “Of course Trump won! He appealed to the hate of the flyover states! There was simply nothing we could do! America’s voters were just too backwards to work for progress!” If only there was something the left could have done to dissuade the rural American from hammering in those Trump yard signs.

The fact of the matter is that, demographically speaking, the rural white male, the supposed intrinsically prejudicial boogeyman of the centrist imagination, is not why the worst candidate of the modern era was elected. The organizational inefficiency, unpopular corporatism and flawed campaign messaging of the Democratic elite decimated their historically loyal voting blocs. Attending to their adverse platform, however, is cognitively difficult for the left ruling class and its allied collegiate intelligentsia. What else could be offered? Something more ostensibly intellectual?

Kington’s article stresses, “…we have recognized the necessity of helping our students understand different global perspectives, we must do more to educate our students about understanding the different worlds and divides within our domestic world.” This striving for local awareness, making business connections with the town and ushering students towards more actively engaging with the proximate community, is posited as a tacit solution to assuaging stark ideological differences between the unwashed masses of the rural folk and the noble, keen and scholastically dutiful collegian.

While encouraging students to volunteer at after school programs and shop locally is of course a neighborly campaign, it is naïve to assume that this can lead to profound political change. Is John Smith, anthropology major from Oak Park, Illinois, supposed to walk down to the Elks Lodge and converse with the nearest MAGAite he sees? Will the influence of individual students’ logic, rhetoric, and “discourse” convince a population misinformed by encompassing American hegemony that their politics are rooted in white supremacy? No. Broadening the college’s involvement with Grinnell life will surely reinforce positive associations between the two areas, but this is not how political organization is fostered and this is not how bigotry is quelled. Individually disseminating an abstract conception of “knowledge” into adjacent rural locales is an innocuous, if not dangerous, form of political activism.

Iowa is an interesting case. The state went blue for Obama in 2008 and 2012. There are a lot of explanations as to why the state turned to Trump, but as someone who grew up in the heart of rural central Iowa, I personally think it always comes back to resources.

Trumpism can be defeated through class solidarity. Class solidarity is achieved through addressing material needs and building a coalition based upon that. This endeavor is not initiated by the vague notion of what Kington describes as an effort “to bridge the separation,” an outwardly cordial, but ultimately platitudinous vision.

If the American intellectual seeks to overcome the purportedly rigid demarcation between the American reactionary and the liberal left, instead of focusing on the distractions of fake news, third partyists, and liberal bubbles, they should avidly advocate for and support candidates that eschew corporatism and stale neoliberal pragmatism. It is not sensational to claim that a party platform that supports universal education, healthcare and social opportunity would rally a nationwide progressive base and surely defray any fear of hard right populism. Or, we could shop at McNally’s. But if we collectively commit to that activity, we should accept what it is, a pleasantry and not politics.

-Jenkin Benson ’17

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