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Tim Carney, com­mentary editor at the Wash­ington Examiner, spoke at Hillsdale College regarding the findings of his new book, “Alienated America.” Wiki­media Commons

Com­mu­nities with strong civil insti­tu­tions provide a safe and healthy envi­ronment in which to raise children, said Tim Carney, com­mentary editor at the Wash­ington Examiner, at a talk last week.

Carney, author of three books, spoke on Thursday, April 4 on his most recent book, “Alienated America.” He described the book as a story about the American Dream, faith, family, and a partial expla­nation as to why Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

Carney made the argument, based off his own per­sonal research, that in places where there are strong com­munity orga­ni­za­tions, there is a sense of purpose. And where both of those are strongest, the American Dream seems most alive to those who live there.

Part of his research included stopping into bars and talking to people about the state of pol­itics. Carney noted that he always avoided roadside bars in the middle of nowhere as they typ­i­cally had people who, rather than com­menting on who they’re voting for, said that pol­itics alto­gether was “just BS.”

Based off his research, Carney said Trump’s message — that the American Dream was dead — drew certain types of people out. It res­onated with that group of people who, before Trump, thought all politi­cians were frauds.

According to Carney, this is why Donald Trump struggled in areas like Holland, MI, where the com­munity is very con­nected through dif­ferent com­munity orga­ni­za­tions, namely churches. He said reformed churches specif­i­cally defines these Dutch com­mu­nities.

That message didn’t res­onate with con­nected reli­gious com­mu­nities, where the sense of purpose was high. The American Dream was alive and well in their eyes.

According to Carney, wealthier people are dis­pro­por­tion­ately more likely to be involved in other com­munity orga­ni­za­tions such as sports teams, musical groups, and golf clubs, and it’s easy not to see the com­munity value these groups provide. This com­munity support creates a sort of safety net. As the nation sec­u­larizes, the elite have other outlets to turn to for this net. The lower and middle classes rely more on going to church as it soci­o­log­i­cally makes people feel a sense of belonging.  

Without the sense of purpose that com­munity allows, the struggles of the working class feel pointless. The necessity of a family or having an essential job are common among elite circles, but not lower and middle class.

During the Q & A fol­lowing Carney’s lecture, junior Joel Meng asked a question regarding the changing com­munity inter­ac­tions with the increasing presence of internet com­mu­nities.

“To what degree has the internet dis­placed a lot of real com­mu­nities or physical com­mu­nities with more virtual com­mu­nities, and to what extent do you think people can use the internet to actually establish com­mu­nities that build up?” Meng said.

In response, Carney told a story about the office for Reason Mag­azine attempting, but even­tually failing, to elim­inate a physical work­place. People being phys­i­cally together makes you work better, so the best thing you can do is put people together, he said.

Carney gave a per­sonal anecdote about his daughter, Eve, to show the power of the com­munity. When she started going blue from a  res­pi­ratory virus, Carney fran­ti­cally took her to a special children’s hos­pital in Wash­ington, DC. The doctors were able to get enough oxygen in her lungs and ordered her to stay on this special oxygen machine for a few days. While Eve was recov­ering in the fol­lowing days, friends con­tin­ually brought over food and gifts for the Carneys.

“People would come bring me food in the hos­pital, bring my wife dark chocolate and I would say ‘Oh that was a guy from The Examiner,’ ‘oh that’s a guy from the American Enter­prise Institute,’ ‘that was a couple from our parish,’ ‘that’s a guy from swim club,’ ‘oh that gift card? That came from an orga­ni­zation. I used to serve on their board of directors.’”

In describing these people, Carney pointed out that the wording he used wasn’t just friend — it was always someone con­nected to him by one of these insti­tu­tions he belongs to.

“It’s a safety net,” he said. “All of you have expe­rience of either the giving or receiving end if you’re plugged into one of these things.”

Senior Josiah Johnson helped organize a book club for “Alienated America” two weeks prior to Carney’s visit in prepa­ration to discuss his book with him.

Johnson said the book can be directly applicable to the lives of Hillsdale stu­dents.

“It’s in a way advice for Hillsdale stu­dents,” he said.

He explained that, whether you’re rich or poor, you can have power in these virtues and in the church that can help you thrive. Everyone has access to the church as a source of com­munity and support regardless of their socio-eco­nomic status.