Having done three posts in a week–no small task for this slow writer–I was going to abandon a retrospective post this year. My traffic is down, and while I’m not concerned, I thought eh, no reason to write about it.
But I’ve written a retrospective every year. I started this blog on January 1, 2012 as a New Year’s Resolution, and when the anniversy went by I instantly felt a nagging sense of guilt and duty–and so, a retrospection. But not really on my blog.
For the first thirty years of my working life, I played mostly at the edges of occupations. A friend once introduced me as someone who does “obscure technical things” and that was when I worked at a large corporation. For many years, I made a decent living doing things few people cared about, or thought you could make a living at like, say, tutoring. Teaching is a mainstream, non-niche profession if ever there was one, but I was reminded that my opinions are still niche when I tried to write about my career. Getting any publication interested in my experiences or observations was a total non-starter. I occasionally got nibbles, but the intersection between what I could write about in 750 words and what someone was interested in publishing was almost non-existent–and I gave up trying rather easily.
And so the blog, with this resolution. I could focus on what interested me, not what was fashionable, and build an audience writing on topics as they occurred to me, not on what was timely. I could maybe start getting my audience to look at education as I did, or find like-minded folks, or both. I achieved more success than I ever dreamed in the first year and every year since has been better.
Then this year, this year that so many in the media rather provincially declare a gruesome annus horribilis, because they’re a bunch of narcissistic puppies who demand we share their misery. But I had a simply splendid time and for reasons directly related to the biography above.
I love politics, but as a spectator sport. My life is as niche as my careers are (custodial divorced parent, first generation college graduate, low six figure income, white, English major working in technology OR teaching math–pick three and you still have trouble forming a club, much less a political action committee. Heads of households who make too much for the Child Tax Credit: not a big interest group.)
So since I never expected politicians to speak to my interests, I became very interested in determining who politicians were talking to, which eventually led me to realize that politicians were weren’t talking to. Broadly, I realized that politicians were flatly ignoring an important interest group: working people making less than, say, mid-six figures. Note I said “interest group”. Many vote ideology, just as I do, despite their income level and best economic interests. Politicians seemed to be taking this for granted. They were running on issues largely ideological terms, both left and right. But they were ignoring areas that clearly affected and interested wide swathes of the electorate.
I came to this realization via immigration and education, two areas that I’ve been watching and reading about for thirty years. I was unaware of the depth of disaster done by China to manufacturing in this country, but it plays to the same failure to speak to the public’s interests.
So even before Sean Trende pointed it out, I was wondering why no one was making a play for white voters. This realization is one of the issues that led me to notice the great Steve Sailer in the early oughts. Like Steve, I’m not a white nationalist–in fact, I believe that implementing the “Sailer Strategy” would ultimately result in more blacks and Hispanics coming to the GOP. But white voters were a large enough group to make zeitgeist defiance a worthwhile risk. From there, it’s a short step to understanding that the GOP was just giving lip service to immigration and cultural issues because, in part, the conservative elites shared the same values as the media and liberal elites and had no plans to change anything.
Like many others, I’ve long believed elites were engaging in an effort to shut down opposition to these key values. The left and right both brought about political or economic doom for those who went against the grain–no donors to run for office, shaming, job loss, whatever was needed to achieve an apology or social and economic obliteration. That’s….not how our country is supposed to work. I have a close friend who said, years ago, that the only person who could break through would be a really rich person who didn’t give a damn about winning approval. I went further than that: I was certain that many in the country were deeply disgusted with the media’s enforcement of the canon, whether or not they called it The Cathedral, and were longing to see someone take them on–and that person, yes, would have to be really rich and already famous.
Enter Trump, but this isn’t about the election. It’s All About Me.
Instead of playing my usual role disengaged but passionate political observer, I was watching a neophyte politician with a genius for stagecraft promoting exactly the ideas that I thought were necessary to win disaffected white voters, using exactly the unapologetic, flagrant violation of media expectations I thought it would take. I had skin in this game. I wanted Trump to win the GOP nomination. I hoped he would win the presidency.
Not only was I fully engaged, but I had genuine understanding and insight into the forces driving the greatest and most shocking presidential campaign in our history. No longer niche, baby.
This mattered to no one but me. My Twitter engagement numbers exploded, but as mentioned, my blog traffic was down. Moreover, I’m not a predictor. I didn’t make any Ann Coulter or Scott Adams calls early on, didn’t go out there like Bill Mitchell and confidently call the election. I’m all about if-then. In fact, while I expected Trump, my hope for his victory was an if-then:
What I valued about the experience isn’t increased fame or respect (“strange new” or otherwise). I cherished the opportunity to really participate in an earthshaking event. When you’ve spent your life in niche issues, reading about politics but not caring terribly who wins or loses, playing on the main stage, even as one member of a huge choir, is exhilarating.
I watched the whole thing happen. Unlike the vast majority of conventional thinkers that populate the airwaves and web, I understood most of the events. I understood Trump’s popularity. I understood why the media’s anger and outrage only helped him. I understood why he didn’t apologize, didn’t back down, struck hard when attacked. I understood why his voters wanted this.
Thanks to Twitter, I got to voice my disdain of the experts (who often answered, if only to block me), as well as my considerable outrage that cable TV, in particular, gave little time to Trump voters, while over-representing Never Trumpers. (My concern was not for equal time, but for the very real probability, early on, that the Never Trump folks would undo the primary results without giving the opposition a fair hearing. Fortunately, polls intervened.)
Best of all, I found kindred spirits, people who were watching the election with very similar insights and hopes. Ed Asante and David Pinsen were , like me, were “ordinary” people who happened to support Trump (often referred to as “sane Trump Twitter supporters”), and I thoroughly enjoyed agreeing with them throughout the year. Media folks Mickey Kaus, Michael Goodwin, and Mark Krikorian also viewed the election through the same lens of media skepticism and enthusiasm for the ideas of Trump, if not necessarily the imperfect vessel himself.
I don’t know if I can adequately convey how much sheer fun I had actively participating, being “on point”to others unless you, too, are an introvert whose concerns, professional and personal, are usually shared by perhaps a dozen people. Maybe a thousand or so nataionwide. And suddenly, the single biggest issue in my interest area was shared by millions.
I even learned something. While I still believe immigration won Trump the primary, I’m leaning towards the notion that trade was essential to putting him over the top. If it’s true that many Obama voters in the Big 4 (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio) voted for Trump this time round, then that has to be trade, not immigration that moved them. However, Trump couldn’t (and can’t) back down on immigration, because he can’t let down the GOP base.
The campaign period was not without difficulties, but they were all the struggles of any Trump voter: reading your favorite writers express utter disdain for you, never mind Trump, getting blocked early on by conservative writers who simply couldn’t grasp what was happening to their beloved party, feeling outraged at the media’s utterly unhinged misrepresentations and open bias. Nothing to dim the joy I felt.
I don’t know if I’m going to feel more vested in political events going forward. I’m going to enjoy finding out.
So. That is my retrospective on the year.
Blogwise: traffic was down, but I still had more “big” pieces than 2014, which is still my highest traffic year. I’m down from 2015, when I had 11 pieces over 1500, this year I had only 5. The midlists were off–I had no essays with 2000 pageviews, and a ton of work that usually hit 1000 plus views didn’t make it that far. I’ve been looking at the quality and topic of the pieces, and don’t see a huge difference. Given the disconnect between my twitter growth and my blog page views fall-off, I’m thinking it might be a falloff in my teacher readers. I hope not.
But it might just be that haven’t been promoting my work as vigorously. I’ll try to do better.
I set my sights on 48 essays. Hahahahaha. I did make 37, one more than last year! I shall try again for 4 essays a month.
Essays written this year with over 1500 page views:
|Notes from a Trump Supporter: It’s the Immigration, Stupid!||01/31/2016||5,147|
|Defining the Alt Right||09/05/2016||3,499|
|Citizens, Not Americans||06/16/2016||3,264|
|The Many Failings of Value-Added Modeling||05/20/2016||1,968|
|The SAT is Corrupt: Reuters Version||03/29/2016||1,903|
Pieces I think are quite good:
Happy Teacher Stories–I think you need to be a skeptical cynic to really deliver in this genre, so I’m born for it:
- Citizens, Not Americans (above), is one of my favorite pieces ever; I was pleased to see it do well. I have a good friend who is a highly-esteemed professor of education, who was devastated by Trump’s win. When we go to lunch, he asks about Dwayne, Chuy, and Omar. And if you want to know how they felt about Trump’s win, check out Celebrating Trump in a Deep Blue Land.
- Graduating My Geometry Class: I taught roughly 75% of my school’s class of 2016, including a group of freshmen four years ago in the first class of my (and their) first year.
- A Clarifying Moment: a student comes back to visit. By the way, Hui brought me some insanely amazing baked goods for Christmas.
- The Things I Teach: in this case, ELL.
- Realizing Radians–six and a little bit!
- Great Moments in Teaching: The Third Dimension and part 2
- Negatives, Not Subtraction–important concept that I made great strides on this year
- The Sum of a Parabola and a Line is another parabola, of course, but if you think of it that way, you can easily find the vertex with a series of steps, instead of an algorithm.
- Teaching History in the Trump Era
Teaching Issues–you know, these are all interesting aspects of teaching that most people don’t think about and got little traffic, so pass them on.
- Teaching Oddness #1: Teacher’s Aides, HS Version
- Teaching Oddness #2: Teach More, Get Paid More
- Teaching Oddness #3: What Happens When We’re Absent
- Teaching Oddness #4: Student Teachers
- In Which Ed Explains Induction
- Curriculum Development: Not Work for Hire
- Vocational Ed: Advancing the Debate
- Vocational Ed and the Elephant
- End of Education Reform?
- White Elephant Students and Charters: A Proposal (written on last day of 2015)
Finally, one piece that may become more viewed in the Trump era: Arizona’s Experience and the Tale It Tells, about the Wall Street Journal’s report on Arizona’s illegal immigration law.
Thanks, as always, for reading.