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Strangers in Their Own Land

Anger and Mourning on the American Right

By Arlie Russell Hochschild
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Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Strangers in Their Own Land (2016) discusses the issues that divide American politics, with specific focus on the Tea Party of Louisiana. In the course of explaining how Louisiana ended up where it is today, the author encourages readers to empathize with disparate political stances.

Key idea 1 of 7

The supporters of the Tea Party in Louisiana seem to be behaving paradoxically.

You’d think that the poorer American states would advocate for government aid. After all, if you need help, and help is available, why wouldn’t you try to get it? But, paradoxically enough, Louisiana, one of the poorest states in the nation, seems to be against such aid.

This may well be because a large number of Louisiana’s citizens support the Tea Party, a politically conservative movement within the Republican Party that favors the free market, supports big businesses and desires a small government which exercises little regulation.

A majority of the citizens of Louisiana evidently support these ideologies. They elected Bobby Jindal to the position of state governor in both 2007 and 2011, and Jindal reduced the number of regulations in place for the large chemical and oil companies operating within the state. He purposely lowered the region’s pollution standards so that the companies would meet the requirements, even though these lowered standards were far below the national average. In addition, he offered cash incentives worth billions of dollars to oil companies, encouraging them to relocate to Louisiana.

As for Louisianans’ desire for a smaller government, they believe that the state already has too much power. They believe that the state “steals” their tax dollars, passing the money on to people who, rather than struggling with unemployment, choose to be lazy and accept government handouts. A majority of Louisianans think that if the government were reduced in size and influence this wouldn’t be the case.

Ironically, this overt lack of regulatory policies and reduced governmental involvement has led to Louisiana being one of the worst-off states in America. A year after Jindal was first elected, Louisiana was ranked number 49 out of 50 in The Measure of America. The ranking assessed life expectancy, the number of people with educational degrees, median personal income and school-enrollment levels.

The people of Louisiana believe that the few regulations still in place are the root of their ills. So why do they think this and continue to vote along conservative lines? In the following blinks, you’ll find out.

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