I begin today’s Note with a letter from one of our readers, Stuart Shroff, sent in response to Ed’s last note on alert alarmist:
Dear Ed and Rana,
OK, yes, we all know that the revival of Donald Trump is real and that a much more organized and sinister version is waiting in the wings to prey on the underprivileged of the underprivileged or are looking for a place to alleviate their anxiety drop. Yes, again, we know this, and we are utterly terrified.
But seriously, what action can people like me in Greenwich Village take on it? What positive and meaningful steps can be taken besides donations for political campaigns?
Otherwise, if it is inevitable, I might have to look at selling my apartment while the market is hot and emigrating. Or just maintain greater anxiety that will limit my lifespan faster than climate change threatens my existence.
Big questions, Stuart. First, I’m with you about the moving fantasies. Many people have certainly already moved away from New York, although it seems that most of them do tax reasons rather than worrying about democracy.
I love the city, but after months of struggling and spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees to evict a dangerous, abusive tenant from my tombstone apartment during my Covid apartment (I honestly did not mind paying rent) no, I just did not want to feel like I’m in Pacific heights every day), I feel less in love with the Big Apple than before. Read this New York Times for a taste of what I’m talking about piece. For a greater taste, check out an FT Weekend article I will be writing about at some point.
I raise this issue because it is in line with what I see as the fundamental answer to your question: more empathy and more heterodox thinking. For example, until eight months ago, I was the kind of progressive who would never take a landlord’s side over a tenant. More regulation of tenants? Bring it on!
Suffice it to say that I now have much more empathy for owners, not so much Blackstones of the world, but the numerous small landlords who were dependent on rent during the pandemic and were completely weakened by the eviction moratorium. I did not see too much coverage about them. But new statistics show that tenants have actually come out better credit scores after pandemic, while homeowners’ credit has diminished.
Heterodox thinking. Question our own belief systems. Try to find a point of contact with the other side. I think I see it as the only way forward. But it’s amazing how touching people are these days when you step outside the political box you’re supposed to be. For example, I’m ready for the hate mail I’ll probably come for my latest column, in which I argue against the conventional progressive view that we should keep interest rates low to help working people.
Many of us are worried about Trump. Or the future of New York. Or whether democracy will prevail. But half the country is not crazy. We must keep trying to reach out to each other. A few ways I can recommend for progressive people like me to do this: let us not be ashamed of the people who can not completely master the whole new world of sex flow overnight. Let’s not get up and walk away from the table when eating with someone who voted for Trump (this actually happened during a dinner I attended recently). Let’s listen as smallholder farmers and producers complain that climate change regulation will kill them and figure out how to find a better balance. I can go on, but you get the idea (and I suspect from the soft tone of your post that you probably already did).
Furthermore, I give people in my friends and family circle what I think could be better informed subscriptions to the FT for Christmas. You will forgive my prejudice, but I think we are much less biased than the NYT or The Wall Street Journal. And research shows that biased news consumption is one of the reasons why we first ended up in this mess.
Ed, what advice would you give Stuart and other readers despair about the state of our country?
I was interested in this news report in the WSJ and noticed that Big Tech companies are putting their extra money to work commercial properties for sale. I wrote about this when it first started before the pandemic, but since then it has increased significantly. Since the future of cities and the office is still unclear, I’m not sure what to make of it, except to note that it concentrates a lot of power and risk in the hands of a few players who already have a lot of the former .
Here is a fascinating discussion of George Soros, the political economy of China and whether President Xi Jinping really is crazy like a fox.
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Edward Luce responds
Rana, I love heterodoxy, curiosity about people with a different point of view and giving people FT subscriptions for Christmas. Judging by the tenor of some of the commentators (a small minority I should add), the latter is not an automatic cure for disorder. But it’s worth a try. I do not have a simple cure for America’s slow train wreck. If it was a literal imminent disaster, you would do your best to warn the public, persuade the driver to slow down, contact the Amtrak signaling department and let passengers know there are other forms of travel. Ignoring all these figures will only increase the likelihood of impending disaster. I probably exhausted the metaphor. My point is that interaction – and blowing the whistle – is a good thing, especially with people who seem unaware of the disaster before them.
I certainly would not go out to dinner if I discovered that one of the guests was a Trump supporter. I’m friends with several Trump supporters. Although I think they are very misleading and very poorly informed, these particular individuals are not motivated by malice or greed. But that’s not true for all Trump groups. For example, I would not want to hang out with Tucker Carlson. He knows exactly what he is doing. You must therefore judge each individual as it comes. Most are probably open to some kind of involvement, even if positive results are not necessarily clear. But we must acknowledge that there are also people in bad faith. To pretend otherwise is self-deception. I have no doubt that Trumpism can destroy this republic. We need to be pragmatic – and indeed heterodox – about the best ways to prevent it. But we must not pretend that this is not the case.
And now a word from our Swampians. . .
In response to ‘We need to pay more attention to alarmists‘:
‘Since 1990, the share of labor has been in a downward trend in terms of capital, with gains only during recessions. Obviously, labor became increasingly dissatisfied. Although labor remains disorganized, anger is palpable. . . To the establishment, which loves globalization (immigration, trade, and American hegemony that promotes globalization), populist rejection seems illogical and will have dire consequences. It will, for the establishment. This may not be for the populists. So far, the establishment has been able to keep the populists divided. It may not continue indefinitely. ” – Bill O’Grady
In response to ‘Are men at risk?‘
‘Apart from agreeing with the contents of the note, I believe that one event specifically has an impact on boys’ literacy. These are video games and their tunnel vision impact on children, especially boys. . . I believe that the issue of technology is much bigger and a structural problem than most of us would like to think. ” – Jose F San Román, Zaragoza, Spain
Get up to date on the previous swamp notes FT.com.