Hochschild developed a particular interest in why people who had suffered so much from deregulation were working so hard for politicians who wanted more of it. The energy and plastics companies that employed many of them were turning southern Louisiana into a gigantic chemical dump. Hochschild spent time with a plumber who had emptied toxic waste into a river, only to suffer years of guilt and regret, and with fishermen who coped with pollution by studying which fish flushed out the chemicals quickly and might still be O.K. to eat. She met local environmentalists, village ideologues who holed up in remote cabins, measuring the quality of the water—but they were often Tea Party supporters, too. Leaving the cabin of two environmental activists, Hochschild noticed a bundle of lawn signs for the local Tea Party congressional candidate, awaiting distribution.
At a Tea Party focus group on Lake Charles, Hochschild met a woman named Jackie Tabor. “Pollution is the price we pay for capitalism,” Tabor, the wife of a contractor, told her. While proudly showing Hochschild her subdivision house, Tabor explained that she had grown up poor in Chicago. She relied on welfare as a child and was briefly homeless. Tabor had a strong sense of the fragility of her own position. “This could all vanish tomorrow!” she said, gesturing around her living room. Tabor wanted clean air and water, Hochschild writes. But she also felt that she benefitted from things staying as they were. “Sometimes you had to do without what you wanted,” Hochschild writes, from Tabor’s point of view. “You accommodated.”
At the same focus group, Hochschild met an insurance saleswoman named Sharon Galicia, who moves the sociologist closer to the Trump phenomenon. Galicia had spent some years working as the management agent for a trailer park, and the lives of her mostly white renters there, Hochschild writes, “appalled and unnerved her.” Some of them had “matter-of-factly admitted lying to get food stamps,” Galicia told Hochschild. Hochschild also spoke to a woman named Janice Areno, who said that she knew construction workers who quit their jobs “so they can draw unemployment to hunt in season.” This evidence of social decline had complicated how Galicia and Areno saw their communities. The failings of their neighbors had become more obvious to them.