Hoping Against Hope

By Lloyd Graff

I read Matthew Stewart’s long, insufferable guilt laden essay last night, “The Birth of a New Aristocracy,” which is the cover story of the June Atlantic.

Stewart recounts his own background, he descended from a grandfather who was the president of Standard Oil of Indiana way back in the 1930s. He grew up well off and has the guilt of an academic liberal tattooed on his arm.

His mission in the article is to make Americans who manage to live in a comfortable home, educate their kids well and take care of their health feel like they are doing it at the expense of a large group of folks who aspire and often succeed in doing the same thing.

The article is a profoundly pessimistic, arrogantly negative screed against the American dream of upward mobility and the possibility of possibility.

I have to thank Stewart for getting me angry enough to write about the strain of negativity that has infected so much of the “respectable” media like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Besides absolutely loathing Donald Trump, they despise the annoying possibility that anything good sprouts in America outside of the suffocating bureaucracies of Government.

Matthew Stewart’s Atlantic opus drones on endlessly about the gulf between the affluent 9.9% of America and the supposedly pathetic 90.1% who are falling further and further behind. Stewart implies that life is stacked so heavily against the 90% that they might as well give up, swallow more opioids and accept their inevitable decrepitude.

I wish Stewart would actually walk out of his dismal ivory tower into the machining world, for instance, where a person without a fancy degree has a real opportunity to advance, and even start her own business with ten grand, a customer and a dream.

I doubt miserable Matthew has watched a lot of Shark Tank on that plebeian bastion of optimism, the television set. If he watched he’d see tons of folk, young and old, trying stuff and dreaming the dream.

Stewart mocks the American public schools. He decries the fact that the 11 best public schools in American are supposedly in Palo Alto, California. As someone who spends a lot of time in Palo Alto, I see the kids walking and biking to schools, and a large percentage of them are of Asian descent, the children of immigrants, not the offspring of joyless country clubbers he seems to envision.

There is an educational elite in America, but the barrier to entry is far from impenetrable. The hiring frenzy in Silicon Valley is not one of exclusivity, nor is it confined to people with advanced degrees. The companies in the Valley are casting a wider net, because they know from experience that college does not necessarily produce original thought, which is not to say that they don’t have a big challenge with political and social orthodoxy that stifles daily conversation in the new office palaces of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

One reason the Silicon Mammoths are building second and third headquarters outside of the Bay Area is to get access to more diverse idea generators.

The thrust of the Atlantic cover story is that the United States is a hopeless aristocracy of the rich, educated and healthy, dedicated to keeping itself closed to outsiders who are stupid, angry and White.

While I did not vote for Donald Trump and find him a lout and a scoundrel as a person, I would vote for him today, if just to protest the intellectual sterility of negativists like Matthew Stewart. The no-nothing popular media hammers Trump mercilessly, and he provides ample juicy material. Yet his popularity is rising, and the Mueller vacuum cleaner cannot suck up the right dirt to impeach him.

The conception that America is hopeless and failing is the grist of the commentators who think everybody is as sour as they are.

If Matthew Stewart actually talked to the people he thinks he is defending he would find that optimism and belief are quite alive in America today.

Question: Were the people who voted for Trump hopeful or pessimistic?

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37 thoughts on “Hoping Against Hope

  1. al bjork

    i am not certain, but i think you walked into the lion cage with meat underwear on and asked if they were hungry.

    i cant wait to see the comments on this one.


  2. Jeff

    The people who voted for Trump were tired of the scoundrels running the gov. & lifetime politicians. I hope the Mueller investigation backfires & puts all the liberals who grandstanded & did illegals things for the Clintons in jail. The media is killing itself with its sensational obsession to bring down Trump. He is no angel, but I doubt Kennedy, Billy Clinton, Johnson and many others in the past could be considered that either. The political narrative in this country has become pathetic joke. Trump was elected by the very people Stewart despises & disrespects.

    1. Josh

      “The people who voted for Trump were tired of the scoundrels running the gov”

      Then why on planet Earth would they vote for the scoundrel in chief?

      1. Grimstod

        Because a murder(Benghazi) was the other option. That candidate’s name was Hillary, in case you cannot remember.

      2. Josh

        The only murder committed there was by terrorists. Don’t be a fool, speak with intellectual honesty or don’t speak at all.

      3. Grimstod

        Hillary had every opportunity to save those men’s lives. Maybe if they were women she would have intervened. That is murder my friend.

  3. Grimstod

    Well I was skeptical on my first vote, but am now overjoyed with our president. I will more than joyfully vote for him again.

    I to was tired of all the politicians that smooth talk. He speaks my language, and that language is truth. The media does not understand him, but they are liars so who is surprised? The more the Media hates him the more I love him.

    1. Josh

      What good has he done for you, other than making you feel good with his words? Genuine question.

      1. Grimstod

        To start I got a big raise because of the tax bill passing. I will keep more because of the new tax bill. I can now be better able to compete against business overseas thanks the new tariffs. Abominable Obama care is no longer mandatory. Man I could go on and on all day. What do you have my friend?

        PS. Don’t be so negative. That is not loving. The anti Trump world is not to loving.

      2. Grimstod

        I think Kennedy said it best.
        “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

        He was a democrat by the way.

      3. Josh

        That tax bill did nothing for me, because I am not in the lowest or highest tax brackets. My business is hurting because of uncertainty due to the tariffs. The ACA was an incredible boon to our business, we were able to find the best healthcare plans for our employees we have ever found and the rates were good. Do you realize that the ACA reduced the rate of cost increases for health plans dramatically? The only segment of the population that was negatively affected were those on the individual markets, so if you get your insurance through work the ACA didn’t do anything to you and it not being mandatory hasn’t done anything either.

        Show me some proof of how the tariffs have directly benefited your business. Also please elaborate on how the ACA directly harmed you.

        Trump and his ilk are far from asking what they can do for their country, they’re asking how best they can exploit their country for profit, largely at the expense of those who voted for them.

      4. Josh

        Okay, I’m done feeding you troll. If you can’t form an actual response you’re just more of the problem.

  4. Kelly

    I voted for Trump because the alternative was an extension of Obama and his policies.
    Who didn’t recognize that Hillary was corrupt and self-serving. Our choices where quite clear in the last election same old same old or let someone who knows how to run a sucessfull business try. You have to admit its very entertaining and just maybe we are shedding some light into the “swamp”. I sir am an optimist like I believe every entrepreneur is.

  5. Vicki Bohl

    I think that the people that voted for Trump were pessimistic, and putting him up for president was a last-ditch effort to slap some sense into a country that had become so politically correct that they have lost all common sense. In the process, they got the pig that we all knew him to be, and stoked the flames of the liberal left who now on one hand can say “No More Hate!”, and then call our President every name in the book as well as anyone who agrees with him on any subject. If the “90% (of which I am part) sits on their hands and blames the government, then they will fail. Or, they can get to work and make themselves a living and help their children and give to charities to their ability, and lift up others too.

  6. Misterchipster

    Hopeful that voters could elect a pragmatist in a ruling body full of self serving pessimists. Funny how when it worked and shocked the ruling body they are at a loss how to handle it and the media is screaming and acting foul.

  7. Keith

    I generally like the Atlantic, but realize that with few exceptions they do not investigate the “deplorables” they write about and decry. We are here in the Peoples’s Republik of Kalifornia and even though we have the highest taxes (maybe) in the nation it is still possible for my employees to succeed. We are a company of 22 people, and most of my employees were and are immigrants. None have a college degree. Almost all have now become citizens and many have their children in good schools like UCLA, CSUF, and others. They have also managed to save enough to buy houses in the SOCAL market. The potential and possibilities are real. My guess is that most did not vote for Trump, but are the beneficiaries of his policies. We gave a $.50 raise to everyone after the tax bill passed, and they can notice the difference in their paychecks. Many my vote for Trump the next time around.

  8. Josh

    Lloyd, Stewart made plenty of good arguments in his piece to which you seem to have responded with emotion rather than thoughtfulness. Regardless of how you’re feeling, the American dream of upward mobility is more of a dream now than it ever was. Regardless of how you feel, the fact of the matter is that economic mobility has been declining for decades and is now lower in the US than in many other developed nations. Your anecdotal evidence of a few sectors that are doing okay does nothing to disprove this.

    The cost of education is rising more and more each year and people are coming out of college with an education…. and a debt as large as a mortgage. Gone are the days of putting yourself through college on a minimum wage job.

    Why are those who are doing well in life so averse to admit that they may have had an advantage others did not? Frankly I’m sick of people who made their lives and careers in a completely different economic reality criticizing young people today as if they simply aren’t working hard enough. That’s BS. The person who may need to step outside their ivory tower is you Lloyd. A few publicized entrepreneurs aren’t saving the economy. There are real economic barriers to be considered, whether it makes you feel uncomfortable or not. Maybe you should analyze those feelings and look at where they are coming from. Why do you find it unbelievable that there may be systemic failings in the United States that lead to decreased economic opportunity and economic mobility? Why, because you’ve managed to succeed along with the rest of your generation who arguably had it better than any generation of Americans before or since? People born in the 80’s are 34% less wealthy than they would have been due to the recession, it declines to something like 18% for those in the 70s and 11% for those in the 60’s and continues to decline from there. Your generation wasn’t affected to nearly the same degree by the recession and yet here you are criticizing the people who suffered far more than you because of it.

    Hoping and dreaming won’t fix this country. Obama proved that through inaction. Recognizing that we have societal problems and working together to fix them is how we enact change. The American Dream doesn’t matter, it’s just a dream, the American Reality is what we need to look at and what we need to fix. Your complete resistance to the sound logic and evidence presented in the piece is proof we have a long way to go apparently.

      1. Josh

        Try a realist who isn’t immune to facts and logical argument. There are plenty of facts and evidence to back up my claims. What do you have other than wishy feelings and a death grip on a fake America that never existed anywhere other than your imagination and rose colored memories.

    1. Bruskie

      You admit that Obama did nothing to improve the economic situation in the country, yet criticize Trump for action. Interesting!

  9. Bob Ducanis

    Another thought provoking column by Lloyd. As Al Bjork previously mentioned, “I can’t wait to see the comments on this one”. How true.

    Obviously Lloyd’s column about the Atlantic article has struck a nerve in his readers. All that is right with the USA is still right and all that is wrong is still wrong. If anything, I think Americans have been and will continue to be pessimistic with regards to the way our government is being run. No doubt that the reason Trump was elected was due to the alienation that most of us ‘gun & bible toting deplorables’ felt was being directed at them as being inferior to the coastal, liberal academic and political elites. (I do not own a firearm)

    As far as economic opportunities, I still believe that they are in abundance if not for the continuing roadblocks that the government decides to throw in their way. In my opinion, the fact that the federal government and most state & local governments expenditures are more than their revenue, taxes will continue to rise to try to narrow the gap.

    I think it is absurd that Seattle is going to impose a $275 head tax on all companies that have $20million + in yearly revenues to address their homeless problems. How about the recent discussion in Illinois to raise property taxes by $2500 for homes valued at $250,000, $5000 for homes valued at $500,000 and $10,000 for $1million+ homes? Of course these taxes are to be imposed to rectify to horrendous shortfall in the state pension system. I think the shortfall is on the order of $100 billion or so. Connecticut is in such dire straights on their finances that they are considering selling their public buildings to private enterprises and then leasing them back. Financial geniuses working for us!! How did things ever get this way? I would never consider opening a business in either IL or CT and there are probably other states in the same fiscal crisis.

    Are there opportunities? YES Are there roadblocks? YES Are the politicians competent to solve our troubling issues? I DON’T KNOW. The issues are complex. With an extremely divided electorate, trying to accomplish any meaningful legislation is most likely a wishful dream. I am pessimistic on that point.

    1. Josh

      No one is claiming opportunities don’t exist, we’re claiming they’re fewer and farther between than at any time since the gilded age.

  10. Mike Trimble

    Count me as pessimistic. When are the Americans voters realize that we need to clean house in Washington of both democrats and republicans.
    1. We need term limits for House and Senate
    2. Publicly funded campaigns which means no PACs and no people like the Koch brothers influencing elections. Let the candidates run on their merits not special interest money.
    3. A viable 3rd party.

  11. Russ Ethridge

    Stewart’s failure in that piece was to offer even one solution to what he correctly concludes is a growing opportunity gap. I also think he’s blinded by his geography, his social milieu, and, perhaps, by his guilt over the spoils of his grandfather’s deceit. There is an opportunity gap worldwide that has roots in family breakdown, poor educational opportunities, lack of reliable and safe public transportation, good healthcare, and adequate housing. We need to fix that. But you can be sure I’m going to do everything I can for my kids, as I assume most responsible parents would. I was slightly offended that I should feel guilty for my good fortune and for what I could provide my kids. I’m glad my Nebraska born physician spouse, the first in her family to attend college, decided to mate “assortatively” with me. My three kids- a physician, a non-profit public health worker, and an expert in fighting terrorism through development in conflict zones- are adding value. What’s Stewart done lately?

  12. Randy

    Opportunity is more about willingness to take a risk and live with the consequences. Being able to seek and understand good counsel and work your tail off. Learn from the mistakes you made and hopefully make fewer the next time. My daughter will be 29 next month, never went to college, got a chance to work in the post production business in Hollywood, when the business she was at took a big hit and lid off people she took chance and worked in another department for a few years, ended up being encouraged by her aunt to learn programming on her own and eventually when she was laid off from the company in one facility got five offers in a week and took a union job in a different facility owned by the same company. Now was sought after by Disney studios because she had the rare combination of skill sets that gave her priority that others 10 and 20 yrs her senior never bothered to avail themselves of. Now she is making $150,000 a year and last week was asked to consider a mover to Palo Alto for a $250,000 a year job. Opportunity is everywhere, but you need to have some vision, some spunk and a willingness to take a risk.

    Her brother wanted to be a dancer, just moved out to share a two bedroom townhouse with a couple of friends for $600 a month and works part time at Starbucks and is back in school studying psychology.

    Difference was not opportunity, but choices made. They will both do fine, they are loved by their parents and happy with their choices so far. People looking for it to be easy will never find opportunity even when it is right in front of them. Those of us that find it worked at it and are more than willing to share the path with those that we work with and give advise to those looking for their own.

    It is out there Josh,

  13. John Walton

    I think voters for Trump were both hopeful and pessimistic. Hopeful that it is possible to turn back the clock to the good old days (its not) and pessimistic of modern politics in general, Hillary Clinton in particular and Obama for general reasons I have yet to hear fully and accurately articulated. And about the current occupant? You think Trump is a good businessman? Are you kidding me? How many here would take his word for anything in business? Haven’t you heard the stories of all the contractors he has screwed over? He is a bully in business and in life. In business and politics, he stars in the story of being born on third base and thinking he has hit a home run. He inherited a growing economy that got a shot of adrenaline with his early 20th century ideas of deregulation and MAGA but is it sustainable? Time will tell but I think not. He is all about short term results. This emperor has no clothes, no ability to tell the truth and from what I read from people that know him and I tend to respect and believe, not two functioning brain cells to rub together.

  14. Donnie M

    I voted for Trump, Because the alternatives (Hillary) was defiantly not a good choice for our Republic. Obama doubled our national debt in his 8 year fiasco, He did it in 8 years where it took almost a generation to get it to where Obama took over. We should have never let any Politian Republican or Democrat get away with financially ruining our country. This debt is too large it will never be paid back. Not with all the entitlements handed out. Obama care is a disaster, it should have been named the “Unaffordable Care Act” Our heath care policy was cancelled last Dec. Our premiums for this year they told me would have been 20K, for just my wife and I. That’s not affordable for a small business. When Obama won his first and 2nd term I was disappointed and sad for our country but being conservative I didn’t go out ranting and raving, destroying property, demonstrating in the streets and being a big cry baby like the democrats did when the old wicked witch didn’t win. I kept on working and doing what I love to do, make parts. I have never seen a bigger bunch of sore losers whining and complaining than the democrats and Hillary supporters. I have also never seen so much corruption come from the previous Obama administration as we are now finding out about. Can you say “deep state”? Is Trump perfect…No. Neither is anyone else. Oh I’m also glad Trump won because if Hillary would have won they would have had to change the call sign of Air Force One, to “Broomstick One”

  15. Bruskie

    No, not hopeful or optimistic, most Trump voters that I know get their hope and optimism not from politicians in Washington, or anywhere else, our hope comes from spirituality, family, job and responsibility. The Trump voters were, and are, sick and tired of being sick and tired, not literally but figuratively. More or the same form Jeb Bush, Ted Cruze or Marco Rubio? (“They’ve had 30 years to make things right and have failed miserably”..Donald Trump.) No, we’re sick and tired of that. Hillary Clinton is exactly right in line with the thinking of Matthew Stewart, except that she also finds the huddled masses deplorable.


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