A collapse of churches and other civic institutions led to communities alienated from the American success story, a problem that the election of Donald Trump highlighted, Tim Carney argues in a new book.
The places that gave the strongest support to candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries had one thing in common, a decline in social capital, Carney observes in Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse.
In an email interview with The Christian Post, Carney, editor at the Washington Examiner and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, talks about the importance of churches to these alienated communities, and the racism and xenophobia associated with the rise of Trumpism.
The book isn’t about Trump, Carney writes, but Trump voters.
“The story of Election 2016, the story of the working class struggle in America, the story of rising suicides and crumbling families, and the story of growing inequality and falling economic mobility, is properly understood as the story of the dissolution of civil society,” Carney wrote in chapter 1.
Alienated America adds to a number of other books and reports on the struggles of white working-class Americans, such as Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (2012), Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (2015), J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016), Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (2018), and a 2017 Princeton study on a surge in “deaths of despair” among middle-aged whites.
What separates Carney’s contribution from these others is his emphasis on the role of churches.
“The woes of the white working class are best understood not by looking at the idled factories but by looking at the empty churches,” Carney writes in chapter 7, “It’s about Church: America’s Indispensable Institution.”
In this interview, Carney talks more about the role churches can play in the recovery of alienated communities in America.
Here is the full, unedited transcript of the interview:
CP: You write that this isn’t a book about Trump, but Trump voters. If Trump hadn’t won, would we still be talking about those voters?
Carney: Yes. Trump’s ability to immediately rise to the top of the polls in 2015 revealed a deep dissatisfaction in America that so many of us missed. In Alienated America, I look at Trump support in the early primaries and use that as an indicator of alienation. The alienation was there before Trump, and it would be there if he had faded away.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Napp Nazworth