Sunday, May 31, 2020

Are The Prevailing Mainstream Narratives Shaped By Demography?

fivethirtyeight |  Trying to pin 2014 as the start of a new era is a subjective exercise, perhaps a fool’s errand. But if politics is driven by emotion and memory, so in this case is its hindsight analysis. 2014 was in my book an annus horribilis, a blur of mortality. Perhaps if Gallup had called me, I’d have told them I’d lost trust.

In June 2014, someone I knew well was murdered. In July, Eric Garner died on Staten Island, in the city where I’d just moved. In August, I remember sitting on a fluorescent-lit subway car and reading about the beheading of a journalist named James Foley by some group called ISIS. A year later, I’d have to watch his beheading video and speak with his family for a magazine story I fact-checked about the vain attempts to save him and other Americans. Michael Brown was killed in August, too. September brought another ISIS beheading video. In October, a doctor in New York City was diagnosed with Ebola — a global terror of its own kind — and I found myself thinking uncontrollable thoughts about biohazards let loose on the subway. In November, Tamir Rice was killed in my hometown, and the midterm election gave the Republicans control of the U.S. Senate — though that’s only a blip in my memory. The emotions stirred by 2014 lingered longer with me than its discrete politics.

Perhaps that’s why the themes of fear and mortality that hovered over the 2016 election made some sense to me with 2014 in the rearview mirror. It’s hard to tell how long it takes for emotional responses like mine to get into the political bloodstream of a country, but when pricked by the right needle, America’s primal worry and righteous anger bled out over an election.