From the era of slavery to the rise of Donald Trump, wealthy elites have relied on the loyalty of poor whites. All Americans deserve better.
I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.
met the man who said those words while working as a bartender in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. It was a one-street town in Benton County. It had a beauty parlor, a gas station, and a bar where locals came on Friday nights to shoot the shit over cheap drinks and country music. I arrived in Arkansas by way of another little town in Louisiana, where all but a few local businesses had boarded up when Walmart moved in. In Arkansas, I was struggling to survive. I served drinks in the middle of the afternoon to people described as America’s “white underclass” — in other words, people just like me.
Across the highway from the bar was the trailer park where I lived. I bought my trailer for $1000, and it looked just like you would imagine a trailer that cost $1000 would look. There was a big hole in the ceiling, and parts of the floor were starting to crumble under my feet. It leaned to one side, and the faint odor of death hung around the bathroom. No doubt a squirrel or a rat had died in the walls. I told myself that once the flesh was gone, dissolved into the nothingness, the smell would go away, but it never did. Maybe that’s what vermin ghosts smell like.
I loved that trailer. Sitting in a ratty brown La-Z-Boy, I would look around my tin can and imagine all the ways I could paint the walls in shades of possibility. I loved it for the simple reason that it was the first and only home I have ever owned.
My trailer was parked in the middle of Walmart country, which is also home to J.B. Hunt Transportation, Glad Manufacturing, and Tyson Chicken. There is a whole lot of money in that pocket of Arkansas, but the grand wealth casts an oppressive shadow over a region entrenched in poverty. Executive mansions line the lakefronts and golf courses. On the other side of Country Club Road, trailer parks are tucked back in the woods. The haves and have-nots rarely share the same view, with one exception: politics. Benton County has been among the most historically conservative counties in Arkansas. The last Democratic president Benton County voted for was Harry S. Truman, in 1948.
There is an unavoidable question about places like Benton County, a question many liberals have tried to answer for years now: Why do poor whites vote along the same party lines as their wealthy neighbors across the road? Isn’t that against their best interests?
Ask a Republican, and they’ll probably say conservatives are united by shared positions on moral issues: family values, religious freedom, the right to life, the sanctity of marriage, and, of course, guns.
Ask a Democrat the same question, and they might mention white privilege, but they’re more likely to describe conservatives as racist, sexist, homophobic gun nuts who believe Christianity should be the national religion.
But what if those easy answers are two sides of the same political coin, a coin that keeps getting hurled back and forth between the two parties without ever shedding light on the real, more complicated truth?
I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.
What if he’s right?
• • •
People want to be heard. They want to believe their voices matter. A January 2016 survey by the Rand Corporation reported that Republican primary voters are 86.5 percent more likely to favor Donald Trump if they “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement, “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does.”
What is it about a flamboyant millionaire that appeals to poor white conservatives? Why do they believe a Trump presidency would amplify their voices? The answer may lie in America’s historical relationship between the wealthiest class and the army of poor whites who have loyally supported them.
From the time of slavery (yes, slavery) to the rise of Donald Trump, wealthy elites have relied on the allegiance of the white underclass to retain their affluence and political power. To understand this dynamic, to see through the eyes of poor and working class whites as they chant, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” let’s look back at a few unsavory slices of America’s capitalist pie.
ntil the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, wealthy plantation owners relied on indentured servants for cheap labor. These white servants were mostly poor Europeans who traded their freedom for passage to the American colonies. They were given room and board, and, after four to seven years of grueling servitude, freedom.
About 40 percent lived long enough to see the end of their contract. Colonial law provided “freedom dues,” which usually included 100 acres of land, a small sum of money, and a new suit of clothes. Yet some freed servants didn’t know what was due them, and they were swindled out of their land grants. With no resources and nowhere to go, many walked to regions where land could still be homesteaded, and settled in remote areas such as the Appalachian Mountains.
As the British labor market improved in the 1680s, the idea of indentured servitude lost its appeal to many would-be immigrants. Increasing demand for indentured servants, many of whom were skilled laborers, soon bumped up against a dwindling supply, and the cost of white indentured servants rose sharply. Plantation owners kept skilled white servants, of course, often making them plantation managers and supervisors of slaves. This introduced the first racial divide between skilled and unskilled workers.
Still, African slaves were cheaper, and the supply was plentiful. Seeing an opportunity to realize a higher return on investment, elite colonial landowners began to favor African slaves over white indentured servants, and shifted their business models accordingly. They trained slaves to take over the skilled jobs of white servants.
An investment in African slaves also ensured a cost-effective, long-term workforce. Female slaves were often raped by their white owners or forced to breed with male slaves, and children born into slavery remained slaves for life. In contrast, white female servants who became pregnant were often punished with extended contracts, because a pregnancy meant months of lost work time. From a business perspective, a white baby was a liability, but African children were permanent assets.
As the number of African slaves grew, landowners realized they had a problem on their hands. Slave owners saw white servants living, working, socializing, and even having babies with African slaves. Sometimes they tried to escape together. What’s more, freed white servants who received land as part of their freedom dues had begun to complain about its poor quality. This created a potentially explosive situation for landowners, as oppressed workers quickly outnumbered the upper classes. What was to prevent freed whites, indentured servants, and African slaves from joining forces against the tyranny of their masters?
As Edmund S. Morgan says in his book American Slavery, American Freedom, “The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt.”
Many slave owners in both the North and South were also political leaders. Soon, they began to pass laws that stipulated different treatment of white indentured servants, newly freed white men, and African slaves. No white indentured servant could be beaten while naked, but an African slave could. Any free white man could whip a Black slave, and most important, poor whites could “police” Black slaves. These new laws gave poor whites another elevation in status over their Black peers. It was a slow but effective process, and with the passing of a few generations, any bond that indentured servants shared with African slaves was permanently severed.
As slavery expanded in the South and indentured servitude declined, the wealthy elite offered poor whites the earliest version of the American Dream: if they worked hard enough, they could achieve prosperity, success, and upward social mobility — if not for themselves, then perhaps for future generations.
But few realized that dream. In “The Whiting of Euro-Americans: A Divide and Conquer Strategy,” the Rev. Dr. Thandeka notes:
Not surprisingly, however, poor whites never became the economic equals of the elite. Though both groups’ economic status rose, the gap between the wealthy and poor widened as a result of slave productivity. Thus, poor whites’ belief that they now shared status and dignity with their social betters was largely illusory.
With whites and Blacks divided, the wealthy elite prospered enormously for the next two hundred years while poor whites remained locked in poverty. With the potential election of Abraham Lincoln, however, the upper class began to worry they would lose their most valuable commodity: slave labor. The numbers were not on their side — not the financial numbers, but the number of bodies it would take to wage war should Lincoln try to abolish slavery. And it was white male bodies they needed. (Poor women were of little value to the rich, since they couldn’t vote or fight in a war.) So how did wealthy plantation owners convince poor white males to fight for a “peculiar institution” that did not benefit them?“With whites and Blacks divided, the wealthy elite prospered for the next two hundred years.” Click To Tweet
Religious and political leaders began using a combination of fear, sex, and God to paint a chilling picture of freed angry Black men ravaging the South. Rev. Richard Furman stated,
… every Negro in South Carolina and every other Southern state will be his own master; nay, more than that, will be the equal of every one of you. If you are tame enough to submit, abolition preachers will be at hand to consummate the marriage of your daughters to black husbands.
Another warning from Georgia Commissioner Henry Benning to the Virginia legislature predicted,
War will break out everywhere like hidden fire from the earth. We will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate in imagination. We will be completely exterminated and the land will be left in the possession of the blacks, and then it will go back to a wilderness and become another Africa or Saint Domingo.
Wealthy plantation owners had succeeded in separating the two races, and they now planted a fear of Blacks in the minds of poor and working white men. Enslaved Blacks were an asset to the wealthy, but freed Blacks were portrayed as a danger to all. By creating this common enemy among rich and poor alike, the wealthy elite sent a clear message: fight with us against abolitionists and you will remain safe.
It worked. Poor and working class whites signed up by the hundreds of thousands to fight for what they believed was their way of life. Meanwhile, many of the wealthy planters who benefitted economically from slavery were granted exemptions from military service and avoided the horrors of battle. On both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, wealthy elites were allowed to pay other men to take their place on the bloody battlefields. As the war lingered on, poor whites in the North and South began to realize the rich had waged the war, but it was the poor who were dying in it.
I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.
With more than 650,000 deaths, the end of the Civil War eventually brought freedom for African-Americans. But after the war, ex-slaves were left to linger and die in a world created by those in the North who no longer cared and those in the South who now resented their existence. Poor whites didn’t fare much better. Without land, property, or hope for economic gains, many freed Blacks and returning white soldiers turned to sharecropping and found themselves once again working side by side, dependent on wealthy landowners.
• • •
During the Reconstruction Era, the press continued to spread “black men raping white women” propaganda. Again, this was intended to prevent poor whites and poor Blacks from joining forces. As Ida B. Wells wrote in her 1892 pamphlet, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases:
The editorial in question was prompted by the many inhuman and fiendish lynchings of Afro-Americans which have recently taken place and was meant as a warning. Eight lynched in one week and five of them charged with rape! The thinking public will not easily believe freedom and education more brutalizing than slavery, and the world knows that the crime of rape was unknown during four years of civil war when the white women of the South were at the mercy of the race which is all at once charged with being a bestial one.
This fear and mistrust continued for decades, not just in the South, but throughout all of America. From the factories of industrialized cities in the North to rural farmlands in the Midwest, from the Statue of Liberty in the East to the filmmakers in the West, racism had replaced classism as the most blatant form of oppression. But classism lingered, despite what wealthy elites would have Americans believe.
Martin Luther King Jr. saw the enduring oppression of both poor whites and Blacks. In December 1967, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began organizing the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. According to Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the campaign’s goal was to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”
King alluded to that goal when he spoke about wealth inequality in “The Drum Major Instinct” on February 4, 1968. In his sermon, he talked about a conversation with his white jailers, saying:
And then we got down one day to the point — that was the second or third day — to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because, through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”
Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white — and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out.
The first Poor People’s Campaign gathering took place in Atlanta in March 1968, and included more than fifty multiracial organizations committed to the radical redistribution of political and economic power.
When King was assassinated just a month later on April 4, the SCLC and King’s widow, Coretta Scott, decided to go ahead with the campaign. On Mother’s Day, May 12, thousands of women formed the ﬁrst wave of demonstrators, led by Coretta Scott King and joined by Ethel Kennedy, wife of presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy. Protestors built a temporary encampment on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and 3,000 participants occupied “Resurrection City” for over a month. In June, 50,000 demonstrators joined them for the Solidarity Day Rally for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom. SCLC leaders and the National Welfare Rights Organization lobbied Congress to introduce an “economic bill of rights” for all Americans.
Robert Kennedy, a key advocate for the campaign, was assassinated on June 6, 1968, a month into the campaign. His funeral procession passed through Resurrection City. Discouraged by the murders of King and Kennedy, scarce media coverage, and horrible living conditions in the camp, demonstrators’ optimism waned. Their land use permit expired on June 24, and Resurrection City closed. When the Poor People’s Campaign ended, so ended King’s vision of turning the nation’s attention to eradicating poverty among all people, and guaranteeing all people the opportunity for meaningful jobs with livable wages.
he minimum wage for a tipped position in Arkansas — like the one I held as a bartender — is $2.63 an hour. The assumption is that tipped workers will earn their own minimum wages by making up the difference in tips. When this happens, a “tip credit” is given to employers, and they save money by paying less than the standard minimum wage.
It was the way I spoke that landed me the job. I had no experience, but the owner of the bar told a friend she hired me because, “she speaks well and has all her own teeth.” I guess she assumed I would learn to make drinks. I didn’t. I wasn’t very good at my job, but one thing I was good at was listening. And what I often heard was a growing dissatisfaction among poor whites who were struggling to make ends meet in the failing economy.
I understood their fear and frustration. I’ve spent a great deal of my life living in poverty. It’s scary being poor, worrying that one parking ticket would mean I couldn’t buy groceries, or deciding whether I should see a dentist about a toothache or pay my trailer park fee. It’s humiliating and terrifying, but sitting around and crying about it isn’t an option because we know that the only thing more pathetic than someone living in poverty is someone living in poverty and crying about it. How many times have we been told to get a job, or that if we just worked harder we could improve our situation? Work harder. Work harder. Work harder. American society has made it perfectly clear: if you are poor, it’s your own damn fault.
I understood what it was to go hungry. Many times I didn’t eat on my days off, but waited until I could get back to work and sneak something from the kitchen. Remember that tip credit? I did, too, every time I stole a biscuit with gravy or a basket of tater tots.
I understood their anger. Since crying isn’t an option, we swallow the sadness, and it sits and churns and gets spit back out as anger. I’ve felt this anger more times than I care to remember. I was angry that I couldn’t afford to paint my walls in shades of possibility. I was angry at my life choices that never felt like real choices. I was angry that wealth and prosperity were all around me while my hands remained clenched in empty pockets.
What I couldn’t understand was why my customers directed their anger at other poor people.
“I applied for a job at Tyson Chicken. They only hire Mexicans because they work cheap. We need to get those people out if we want jobs.”
I heard this over and over from unemployed men at the bar. So why weren’t they angry with Tyson Foods, a company that could easily afford to pay higher wages? Why weren’t they angry with CEO-turned Chairman John Tyson, whose personal net worth is over a billion dollars?“American society has made it perfectly clear: if you are poor, it’s your own damn fault.” Click To Tweet
The answer I always got was that John’s father, Donald “Don” J. Tyson, the college drop-out who built his own father’s chicken farm into a multi-billion-dollar company, was a good ol’ boy. He wasn’t highfalutin like the city slickers of California and New York. Tyson, they felt, was one of them, a working class man who’d bootstrapped his way into the top one percent. He wore a khaki uniform with his name embroidered over the pocket, spoke with an “aw shucks” southern twang and was often quoted as saying, “I’m just a chicken farmer.”Don Tyson wasn’t just a chicken farmer, much like the plantation owners weren’t just cotton growers. He was a multi-billionaire running a global corporation. Didn’t they know that in 1997, Tyson Foods pled guilty and paid $6 million in fines and costs for making gifts to Mike Espy, then President Bill Clinton’s secretary of agriculture? Didn’t they know that, from 1988 to 1990, Bill Clinton gave Tyson Foods $7.8 million in tax breaks while turning a blind eye to 300 miles of rivers polluted from chicken waste? Maybe they didn’t know those things, but what they did know was that poor Mexicans were taking their jobs.
Over the years, Tyson Foods has settled numerous lawsuits, paying millions of dollars for infractions ranging from water pollution, race discrimination, and sex discrimination, as well as a $32 million wage settlement case.
“The Mexican guys just hire other Mexicans. You can’t even work there if you don’t speak Spanish.”
Were they right? I would say yes.
In December 2001, a federal grand jury indicted Tyson Foods and six managers on 36 counts related to conspiring to import undocumented workers into the U.S., and employing them at fifteen chicken processing plants throughout the country. One defendant shot himself a few months after the indictment. Two made plea agreements and testified for the government. They said they were doing what the company demanded when they went along with the hiring of illegal workers. The remaining three executives claimed the others were “rogue” employees, and denied any knowledge of wrongdoing; they were acquitted.
The grand jury alleged that the conspiracy began in 1994, when Tyson executive Gerald Lankford mentioned production at a Tennessee facility and said, “That plant needs more Mexicans.”
There was no question that Tyson illegally smuggled undocumented workers into the U.S. The trial was about who initiated the operation. Regardless of who knew what, at least three managers at Tyson saw that brown workers were cheaper than white workers, and adjusted their business model accordingly.
• • •
It makes perfect sense that Don Tyson would say, “My theory about politics is that if they will just leave me alone, we’ll do just fine.” What didn’t make sense to me was that poor and working class locals would agree with him.
Don Tyson, having lived his entire life in northwest Arkansas, was one of them. I wasn’t. I was born and raised in California. Sure, my people were blue-collar rednecks and my mother often reminded me that we were one generation removed from poor white trash, but I wasn’t Southern and I didn’t speak their language. My speech pattern wasn’t formed by higher education or a silver spoon in my mouth; it was simply a matter of accent. But it is an accent associated with liberal snobs. I was an outsider.
Don Tyson didn’t make poor people in town feel inferior, but outsiders did. I’m not surprised, considering how socially acceptable it has become to mock poor whites, especially those born and raised in the South. Instead of fighting for better education for the white underclass, we call them ignorant rednecks. Instead of fighting for them to have better health care, we laugh at their missing teeth. Instead of fighting for them to have better housing, we joke about tornados hitting trailer parks.
Luckily, life often has a way of turning stereotypes on their heads, if we pay attention.“It has become socially acceptable to mock poor whites born and raised in the South.” Click To Tweet
I was working my day shift at the bar, the same regulars sitting on the same barstools. Three men I’d never seen came in and sat at a table on the patio. They looked like most everyone else in the area, blue-collar scruffy types. I figured they were on a lunch break or they were in town to fish on the lake. I took their order, brought their food, and when they finished eating, dropped off the check. When they came up to the register to pay, one of the men made a comment about my hat. I didn’t catch what he said but his friends smirked.
I said, “Excuse me?”
My hat was a black and white newsboy cap. It covered my head on days I didn’t feel like doing my hair. But to the man, it meant something else, something I didn’t understand.
He said, “I guess you like ‘em black.”
I said, “My hat?”
I was confused and I felt tension in the air. The bar had gone quiet. One of my regulars was sitting near the register, and he asked the man if he was from a particular town, one I hadn’t heard of. When the man nodded, my regular said, “Well, we don’t roll like that around here.”
I handed the man his change. He glanced around at the regulars staring at him. It felt like a stand-off in an old western movie. Was a brawl about to break out over my hat? The man shook his head, looked at me in disgust, and walked out with his friends. The tension left with them.
I asked, “What the hell was that all about?”
“They’re Klan,” my customer said. I must have looked shocked. He said, “Don’t worry. We got your back.”
A few months later, I left Arkansas and moved to Vancouver, Washington. Across the river in Portland, they call it “Vantucky.” I always dreaded driving into Portland with my big F150 truck sporting Arkansas plates. I imagined the liberal urbanites seeing me as one of “those people,” as if they expected me to barrel down the street chucking Walmart bags full of trash out the open window while blasting “Sweet Home Alabama” on my way to shoot up an abortion clinic. This was all in my head, but in a city known for its liberalism, I once again felt I didn’t belong.
I signed up for training to be a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for kids in foster care, and attended a series of classes in Vancouver. One night, the instructors gathered the forty or so trainees for an exercise. We stood in a room and the leader of the group read a list of statements. Without speaking, we were to cross to the other side if the statement applied to us or stay in our place if it didn’t. As the exercise went on, I started to notice a pattern.
“I’ve been affected by a family member’s drug or alcohol problem.” I crossed the room with a third of the volunteers.
“I’ve been affected by poverty.” I crossed the room with a tiny fraction of volunteers.
“I’ve graduated with a degree in higher education.” I stayed in my place as all but one woman crossed to the other side. The woman stood next to me and held my arm, and I immediately sized her up: older, well-dressed, probably married right out of high school. Privileged.
It was an exercise in non-judgment — and it was humiliating. Not a single person looked at us. Their eyes focused on the floor, their hands, or something incredibly interesting on the ceiling. I suppose it was the polite, non-judgmental thing to do. If something or someone makes us uncomfortable, we simply avert our eyes and create an invisible barrier. You stay over there. I’ll stay over here.
Those two experiences helped me see more clearly than ever how fool-headed it is to stereotype people based on how they look and where they live. The “redneck hillbillies” in that Arkansas bar could have laughed with the three Klan members, or said nothing at all. Instead, they stood up for me — an outsider — and made it known that the Klan wasn’t welcome there. On the other hand, I assumed a group of liberal, college-educated volunteers would ooze warmth and solidarity. But in class that night, I didn’t feel especially welcome. And I felt ashamed for judging that woman’s life based entirely on her appearance.
I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.
What would America look like today if King had succeeded in uniting poor people of all races? Would my bar customers in Arkansas more easily identify with Blacks, Hispanics, and other people of color than with billionaires like Don Tyson? Would they feel as if their voices mattered, as if they had some say in what their government does?
artin Luther King Jr. was concerned about poverty, and he also saw the growing inequality between the richest Americans and the poor and working classes. By the 1960s, this inequality was on the rise, but would soon become much more pronounced.
In 1976 — just eight years after King’s call for unity among all poor people — Ronald Reagan launched his second unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. In his campaign, he repeatedly trotted out the now infamous “Welfare Queen” story.
Reagan got the GOP nod in 1980, and during his presidential campaign, he portrayed himself as a grandfatherly, all-American cowboy, a true Washington outsider. He promised to fix the economy with a combination of tax breaks, reduced government regulation, and cuts to federal programs.
Reagan’s economic plan, dubbed “Reaganomics,” provided tax cuts that primarily benefitted the rich. The intent was to encourage the upper classes to spend and invest more, which would boost the economy and create new jobs. His disdain for welfare hadn’t changed. To offset tax cuts and massive increases in military spending, Reagan slashed federal social programs — for low-income Americans.
Neither Reagan nor Congress was willing to touch Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid; they were too popular among the middle class. This left a tiny portion of the federal budget for social programs on the chopping block, including food stamps, vocational education, and subsidized housing, among others. From fiscal year 1980 to fiscal year 1987, federal funding for these programs plummeted by 35.6 percent.
After a two-year recession, the economy rebounded and continued to grow. Yet while the Reagan administration congratulated themselves on the economic expansion, poor people were still struggling. But Reagan had given poor whites someone to blame for their suffering: the Welfare Queen. He never said she was Black. He didn’t have to.
Lee Atwater was an adviser to both Reagan and President George H. W. Bush, and chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1989 until his death two years later. In 1981, while working in Reagan’s White House, Atwater gave an interview to Alexander Lamis, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University. In an unguarded moment that Atwater believed was off the record, he said:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
In five short sentences, Atwater explained how Republican politicians could appeal to poor whites’ racism (conscious or unconscious) without using blatantly racist language. This shift was important because Reagan had cut social programs that began with the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.“Republican politicians appealed to poor whites’ racism without using blatantly racist language.” Click To Tweet
In 1963, President John Kennedy had begun planning a “war on poverty” intended to help poor, southern whites — particularly in Appalachia and the rural South. Kennedy had visited Appalachia during the 1960 presidential campaign, and was shocked by what he saw — ”the hungry children, … the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms.” Many of these families were descendants of white indentured servants who had fled to the Appalachian Mountains. The poverty Kennedy saw was, in part, a legacy of the era of slavery.
President Johnson, a greater ally to Black civil rights leaders than Kennedy had been, took over the program after Kennedy’s assassination and expanded its scope. These programs ultimately helped poor Blacks and poor whites, in both urban and rural areas.
In 1987, Reagan quipped, “In the 60s we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won.” That was pretty glib for a President who had just slashed social services by almost 36 percent. What was to keep poor whites from seeing they had lost just as much as poor Blacks?
The groundwork had already been laid. It wasn’t Reagan’s fault that social programs had to be cut. The “welfare queens” made him do it. Poor whites were still poorer, but at least they weren’t criminals, and that distinction was critical in their minds.
“It’s one of those persistent symbols that come up every election cycle,” says Kaaryn Gustafson, author of Cheating Welfare: Public Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty. “This image of the lazy African-American woman who refuses to get a job and keeps having kids is pretty enduring. It’s always been a good way to distract the public from any meaningful conversations about poverty and inequality.”
Gustafson’s inclusion of inequality is important, because inequalities in both income and wealth distribution would soon begin a steep climb. The reality of Reaganomics was that Americans who gained the most were the nation’s richest ten percent. During periods of economic expansion, the bottom 90 percent saw a decline in income gains. By 2012, those gains had been replaced by losses.
In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that President Reagan would share Don Tyson’s desire for smaller government. In 1986, Reagan said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” What doesn’t make sense is that America’s white underclass would agree with him.
Public assistance programs are easy targets for politicians, thanks in part to the racial divide introduced by slave owners in colonial America. Politicians, the corporate media, and giant employers (like Tyson) have continued to drive socioeconomic wedges between poor whites and poor minorities. Working class whites may view economic struggles as temporary setbacks, and see their use of social services as a last resort. But politicians keep implying that for minorities, public assistance is a way of life.
Many social programs — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants and Children (WIC) — provide benefits that cannot be abused. Yet the message to the white underclass was clear: your tax dollars are being squandered on undeserving people looking for a free ride.
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I can’t speak to how much assistance people with children or disabilities receive, but I can tell you what I received as a single, childless adult with no assets and a zero balance in my checking account. I qualified for less than $200 a month through the SNAP food stamp program. That’s it. I wasn’t living large off the man. I wasn’t kicking back playing video games on a big screen TV. I was struggling to survive until I could find work.
I didn’t have the luxury of feeling shame or embarrassment about using food stamps, but I didn’t prance into the grocery store waving my card around, either. At the checkout line, I shielded my card, and myself, from the people around me. I thought, “Fuck you and your judgment.”
When I eventually found a job, I no longer qualified for assistance, and I remained poor. My story is common and unremarkable, unlike the fictional tale of welfare recipients driving luxury cars and eating lobster every night.
• • •
When terrorists attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, Americans pulled together. They displayed a unity reminiscent of the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. President George. W. Bush declared, “America is united.”
Ultimately, there would be two versions of unity: one for the rich and one for the poor.
The Carlyle Group was named after the luxury hotel where founding members first met in 1987 to discuss the creation of a multinational private equity corporation. In 2001, employees and advisors of the firm included former U.S. President George H. W. Bush; Bush’s former Secretary of State James Baker; former Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci; and former British Prime Minister John Major.
Under the guidance of this powerful lineup of Washington insiders and international leaders, the Carlyle Group soon became known for buying businesses related to the defense industry — and tripling their value during wartime. In 2002, they received $677 million in government contracts. By 2003, as the war effort shifted focus from Afghanistan to Iraq in search of weapon of mass destruction, the defense contracts leapt to $2.1 billion.
The Carlyle Group wasn’t the only corporation that would profit from the wars. From 2003 to 2013, KBR — a subsidiary of Halliburton, once run by Dick Cheney — was awarded $39.5 billion in government contracts. Other war profiteers include Agility ($7.4 billion), DynCorp ($4.1 billion), and Blackwater ($1.3 billion). By early 2013, private defense contractors had collectively earned more than $138 billion.
A 2006 report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that, in 2005, CEOs of the largest U.S. private defense contractors continued to profit from the ongoing wars.
Defense CEO pay was 44 times that of a military general with 20 years of experience and 308 times that of an Army private in 2005. Generals made $174,452 and Army privates made $25,085, while average defense CEO pay was $7.7 million.
In contrast to wealthy individuals who became even wealthier, those who were sent to do the actual fighting comprised disproportionately high numbers of working class Americans. In the combined efforts of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, almost 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died. More than 970,000 veteran disability claims have been registered with the Veterans Administration.
Returning soldiers face higher unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts, particularly among male veterans age 21 to 24. Between 2009 and 2012, the youngest veterans had an unemployment rate of 21.6 percent, compared to 13.5 percent for civilians.
Veterans struggle to find proper healthcare in a system ill-prepared for the number of wounded, particularly those with catastrophic injuries and mental health issues that require long-term care. Private nonprofit organizations have been picking up the slack left by inadequate funding in the federal budget.“Army privates made $25,085, while average defense CEO pay was $7.7 million.” Click To Tweet
Like their ancestors who fought in and survived the Civil War, today’s soldiers return to find their situations either the same, or much worse, than when they left. Who would blame them for being angry? As soldiers go off to war we say, “God bless our troops.” Maybe we should add, “God help them when they come home.”
y entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were. And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.”
— Donald Trump, New York Times, 1999, “Liberties; Trump Shrugged”
Donald Trump sells himself as a scrappy, self-made man whose vision, tenacity, and business savvy alone have made him one of the world’s most famous billionaires, but Trump is not self-made by any measure. A poster boy for generations of socioeconomic privilege, Trump joined the New York Military Academy at age thirteen, then studied at Fordham University before transferring to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. During the Vietnam War, Trump was granted five draft deferments — the first four for education, and the last for medical reasons.
In 1968, he joined his father’s real estate business, then conservatively valued at $40 million. Donald took over The Trump Organization in 1974 and restyled the company in his image — a special blend of ego, flamboyance, and rabid ambition. He steered clear of the steerage class and catered exclusively to the rich by buying or building luxury residential properties, office buildings, hotels, casinos, golf courses, and resorts.
Capital from his father’s company wasn’t Trump’s only empire-building head start. He depended on both government and private assistance, too, including tax abatements, financial support from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), investors, and, during the company’s 1990 massive financial troubles, a bailout pact involving seventy banks.
In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump criticized governmental interference in American business. He wrote, “The greatest threat to the American Dream is the idea that dreamers need close government scrutiny and control. Job one for us is to make sure the public sector does a limited job, and no more.”
Trump didn’t seem threatened by the public sector’s involvement in his four corporate bankruptcies. Trump told Forbes in April 2011, “Basically I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage and to other people’s advantage … just as many, many others on top of the business world have.”
In his eyes, Trump is a self-made entrepreneur who refuses to acknowledge the millions of dollars of family, public, and private assistance that helped him realize his gilt, mirrored glass, and pink marble American dream. Government regulations that stifle ambition are a threat to American dreamers everywhere, but laws that can be used to the advantage of top-of-the-business-world warriors are just fine.
It makes perfect sense that Trump would share Ronald Reagan’s and Don Tyson’s desire for smaller government. What doesn’t make sense is that America’s white underclass would agree with him.
Big or small, our government has failed everyone but the wealthiest class. Most politicians barely maintain a pretense of representing the people — except during election years when they talk about “issues” and make promises they have no intention of keeping. Once in office, they become puppets of the richest ten percent of Americans. If you think I’m exaggerating, watch this video.
Donald Trump is a business man. Until recently, money and fame were everything to him. He measured his success by his ranking in the Forbes 400 list of billionaires. Now, Trump wants power and control, too. Like wealthy plantation owners who just happened to be politicians, Trump does not need to be bought; he is already rich enough. From a business perspective, he’s trying to cut out the middle man — the politicians who have become puppets of the wealthy elite.
I’m just a poor white trash motherfucker. No one cares about me.
What if some people did care, but the wealthy pushed them away?
• • •
Marginalized people have been fighting for equality for decades. Admittedly, in the quest to fight for the oppressed — people of color, women, religious minorities, the LGBTQ community — we often overlook the fact that classism never completely disappeared. For the white underclass, it’s tempting to feel left out of this fight. But how can people fighting for social equality include poor whites who see them as the enemy?
If poor and working class whites who chant, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” believe they have little in common with these “enemies,” they are mistaken. We are all sides of the same coin, a coin that has been held in the pocket of the elite class since the first settlers arrived in the American colonies.
I’m no one special. I am a poor, uneducated, white woman. I am the white underclass, and I am no one’s enemy. I fight for racial equality because people of color are not my enemy. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people are not my enemy. Immigrants and refugees are not my enemy. Muslims are not my enemy. Native Americans are not my enemy. Single mothers and fathers are not my enemy. People on Medicare, disability, food stamps, and unemployment are not my enemy. The homeless are not my enemy. And it turns out that the people of a small Arkansas town in the middle of the Ozarks are not my enemy.
Other poor people are not the enemy, no matter how they look, how they pray, or who they love. They are fighting to be heard. They are people who, like Trump supporters, agree with the statement, “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does.”“Other poor people aren't the enemy, no matter how they look, how they pray, or who they love.” Click To Tweet
Trump supporters believe he’s different. They believe that he cares about us, that he tells it like it is, that he gives us a voice, that he can’t be bought because he’s already rich, that he’s railing against politics as usual.
But does Trump care about the white underclass, or does he still think poor people are “morons”?
Did slave owners care about white indentured servants when they pitted them against African slaves, or did they want to ensure a steady supply of cheap labor? Did Ronald Reagan care about poor white people when he trotted out the fictional welfare queen, or did he need a budget item to cut? Do wealthy elites and politicians care about poor and middle class people when they send them off to war, or are they anticipating massive profits?
Trump is railing against establishment politics not because he cares about the white underclass, but because he needs us — for now. He isn’t reaching out a hand to lift us up. He wants to stand on our shoulders so we can lift him up.
Related: O’ Say! Can You See The Oligarchy?
For more than four hundred years, wealthy elites have depended on the white underclass to “help keep America great.” But who are we keeping it great for? When will we realize we have more in common with all poor people than with rich capitalists and corrupt politicians who manipulate the system to increase their own wealth, power, and control? Instead of wondering which billionaire will finally reach out a hand to raise us up, we should stop waiting and start acting.
• • •
“The Revolution is coming and it is a very beautiful revolution.”
“There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
One of these quotes is from Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966; the other is from Bernie Sanders in 1969.
Bernie Sanders was born into a working-class home. His father dropped out of high school and supported the family as a paint salesman after coming to the U.S. from Poland and struggling through the Great Depression. Later, after the war, they would find out most of his family died in the Holocaust. From this, Bernie Sanders learned a life lesson, “An election in 1932 ended up killing 50 million people around the world.”
By the time Bernie graduated from college, he was alone. His brother had moved to England for work, and both of his parents had died. He moved to Vermont and held a variety of low-wage jobs, spending many of the following years broke. He is quoted in a New Yorker article as saying, “I do know what it’s like when the electric company shuts off the electricity and the phone company shuts off the phone — all that stuff. So, for me, to talk to working-class people is not very hard.”
He bootstrapped his way into politics and has remained loyal to the poor and working class for more than thirty years. He is not a millionaire. He has not built a fortune from his position holding office. He doesn’t make money by keeping others poor or sending them to war. He doesn’t gain power by keeping people silent. Donald Trump would have you believe Sanders is a “loser” for not taking financial advantage of his position. I prefer to call him one of our own.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t say that if you are poor, it’s your own damn fault. He says if you are poor, take my hand. Together we can lift you up. His campaign isn’t about freebies or handouts. It’s about opportunity. It’s about believing that, given a chance and an even playing field, the poor and working class can achieve their dreams. He knows this because he has lived it.
Sanders’ revolution is about lifting the hand of oppression so we can all move forward in equality. It is about everyone having the same opportunity to paint their walls in shades of possibility.
When we have been pushed down for so long, it can become impossible to see whose hands are keeping us there. Is it really welfare queens or immigrant laborers or Muslims, as Trump claims? I say no, because those people have so little power. Maybe the answer lies not in looking up, but in looking sideways and recognizing that our poor neighbors, who may be different than us, are struggling too. Maybe if we all look up together, we can see more clearly that the hand of oppression belongs only to those who have always had money, power, and control. Those are the real enemies.
The real enemies fear us. They know that if we come together, we will have the numbers on our side. They’ve always known this and it terrifies them. We must stop doing what they want: fighting among ourselves and allowing ourselves to be held down by their fear. We must direct a truly united voice against those who, four hundred years ago, created the American Dream and then held it out of reach. We must join together and fight back against the wealthy elite and corporate politicians. We must build a new country that belongs to all of us, a country where no one ever has to feel like just a poor motherfucker no one cares about.
I very much appreciate this piece overall. I did notice two small errors, however, that I thought you’d want to correct.
First, a typo: Ida B. Wells’s Southern Horrors was published in 1892, not 1982.
Second, in the sentence beginning “In 1991, while working in Reagan’s White House, Atwater gave an interview,” either the year or the president is wrong. Reagan was no longer the president in 1991; George H.W. Bush was.
Thanks for this capacious and insightful piece!
Both typos. Grrr. Thank you!
Great piece, although I also noticed an error. “Didn’t they know that, from 1988 to 1990, Bill Clinton gave Tyson Foods $7.8 million in tax breaks while turning a blind eye to 300 miles of rivers polluted from chicken waste?” Bill Clinton wasn’t president in 1988, Bush One was. Not sure if the error is with the year or the President.
I believe this means during his term as governor of Arkansas, where Tyson is headquartered.
Important piece, well-written. A couple of things, though – The charges against Tyson were dropped, not sure why you mentioned Clinton being president when you fail to mention GW Bush was POTUS during Iraq war; and governors quite often give tax breaks to industries to keep jobs in their state, no? As Bernie Sanders did with the gun manufacturer in Vermont?
Out of curiousity to the author, why is the b in ‘poor Blacks’ capitalized and yet the w in ‘poor whites’ is not?
Because Blacks are a. Action group and white is merely a loose descriptive term.
This is truly one of the most important articles I have read in regards to the Trump Presidential bid; not just for it’s insight into the mindset of those who would hold him up, but also for putting it all into such a concise, illuminated historical perspective.
I thank you for this passionate piece of writing, and plan to share it with others.
I agree completely with your comment. The perspective of this article is very well documented and written. I was part of Johnson’s revolution, and also part of Reagan’s tearing it down. I’ve watched what we fought for and what Johnson did for us fall by the wayside. Young people don’t seem to realize the need to keep fighting, if they don’t, everything we fought for will have to be redone.I don’t think the blacks can be repressed again, but you never know.
“Young people don’t seem to realize the need to keep fighting”
Have you not noticed the last decade of mass protesting and grassroots organizing, of the likes never before seen? The largest protest movement in US and world history was against the Iraq War. At least that was true at the time. The Occupy movement might have been even larger. Then there have been the nation-wide protests against police brutality. And now there is the first major candidate in US campaign history that, along with the largest crowds ever, has raised such large amounts of campaign contributions from small donations. I think it’s the older generations that don’t realize what is going on and what needs to be done.
But young people stay home in droves during off-presidential election years. They complain about being ignored, but they don’t vote in those congressional elections. That opens the door to the Tea Party.
This is excellent, and I wanted to provide another excellent (if chilling) piece of supporting reading from 1945-1950: “Southern Exposure,” by Stetson Kennedy.
So – doesn’t it come down to the same old thing? The poor, white people are in fact too stupid to vote properly and (amazingly enough) selfishly. They are the ultimate suckers. They are just jokes and the joke is on them. And it’s on the rest of us that care and have cared for years.
OK – maybe “too stupid” is the wrong phrase. Well, no, it’s basically correct. This is a group of people who have almost effortlessly been manipulated by some pretty despicable people into voting against their own interests and aligning themselves with people who have nothing in common with them.
While I don’t believe the Democrats have all the right answers, I do believe they are on the right and decent side of history on most issues. Today’s GOP are a disaster and embarrassment to the world. They are always wrong, don’t believe in science, data, evidence, reality and they routinely ignore history and seem to operate under the belief that if they say it’s true, well, then it’s true. If allowed to rule this once great nation for too long, it will be game over, not just for the poor white people of this article, but for the entire Republic.
I dream of a time when the poor, white or not, vote decisively to remove today’s horrible GOP leadership from office. Another 8 or 16 years of reasonable people in power in multiple branches of the government should set this country in a better direction.
There’s a difference between “stupid” and “ignorant”.
The author of this is both stupid and ignorant.I used to vote democratic all the time.But over time the democratic party has become the party of sin.Godless atheist.Murdering abortionist.Perverted homosexuals.The list goes on.
Please read our comment policy. Disagreeing with what the author has written is fine; name calling is not.
Sound like you’re confusing “sin” with “basic civil rights” and have never actually understood the party you used to vote for. That’s quite sad, but definitely not due to anyone else’s stupidity or ignorance.
We do not have a theocratic governing body nor are most of our communities. That is good. Sin is a theocratic concept whereas in our civil system there are no behaviors codified as “sinful”; violations are either criminal or civil defined in laws and statues, and the constitution.
Sladec – you’re everything that this article says of poor, dumb, white folk. You have been swayed and distracted into thinking that those issues are Very important to us all (they’re not). Meanwhile the elites steal your soul and keep you poor and dumb. Please reread the article and maybe it will all sink in?
Sarah; Interesting, you call the prior respondent to your comment “poor dumb white folk” and do not get reprimanded by the moderator but others who express a more right-leaning attitude are chastised. The obvious liberal agenda has reared its ugly head. I liked the article for its well researched data, but was saddened to see that it was just another whine-laden political rant in the end. The author says that Muslims are not her enemy. How conveniently she ignores the Islamic method of subjugating women to second class citizens, which is the best they can hope for, or at its worst, condemns them to near slavery and death for the slightest perceived infractions against their archaic religious edicts. I bet she’d never accept that part of Islam as a guide for her life. Also conveniently ignored is LBJ’s rampant racism (which is the norm for most liberals, who spend their voices talking out of one side of their two faces). Let us not tout his achievements in social programs when his goal was to keep poor people (particularly blacks) under the government thumb and believing that the Democratic party actually cares for them.
Overall I do agree with her that class division is a ploy used by both parties (both which are filled to the brim with millionaires) to keep us po’ folks at each other’s throats so that we don’t have the clarity of sight to shift our blaming eyes at the true culprits in Washington. I have a love/hate relationship with her article, but I have to say that in spite of our left/right differences on some historical views, the “love” of this article outweighs the “hate”. Good job overall!
@Mark – Many Americans are Muslim. Some of the earliest Americans to experience religious oppression were Muslims, many of them brought here as slaves. A large part of the Muslim population today still are blacks who descend from those slaves.
I’d also point out that in the US Muslim and those of Arab ancestry have a lower rate of violence than Christians and those of non-Arab ancestry, while having a higher rate of being doctors. So, an American is more likely to be harmed by a white Christian and then have their live saved by an Arab Muslim.
Knowing some basic info about your own country can be helpful.
Some of these comments are crossing a line. Let’s all keep it civil, okay?
“The author says that Muslims are not her enemy. How conveniently she ignores the Islamic method of subjugating women to second class citizens, which is the best they can hope for, or at its worst, condemns them to near slavery and death for the slightest perceived infractions against their archaic religious edicts. I bet she’d never accept that part of Islam as a guide for her life.”
The “Islamic method” or the cultural method of certain countries in the world (not this country, which is what this article was about)?
This conflation of the Islamic faith with the cultural norms of other areas is another example of creating “others” or enemies in exactly the same way this article is describing. Do you really believe that Muslim women in America are following their men 6 feet behind, unable to vote, drive, get educated, or hold jobs?
There are reprehensible, archaic laws and practices existing in many portions of the world that can be traced back to religious origins of many faiths, including Christianity, but that does not automatically qualify each and every member of those faiths as a dangerous “enemy.”
BDS, what gives you the right to patronize others’ knowledge of this country?
In point of fact, not “many” Americans are Muslim, because by dogma and practice, Islam always attempts to seize power when its religionists have a significant statistical representation.
The African slaves imported to the US were not Muslim, because they were sold by Muslims, and while Islam forbids Muslims to make war upon each other, slavery and sale of captives are explicitly permitted. Religion had nothing to do with it – the issues were tribalism and greed, and that remains a constant in African conflicts today, particularly between African Muslims and kafirs. I have travelled in Islamic Africa and can tell you quite a bit about it.
Finally, it is a fallacy to claim that Muslims in the US have a lower rate of violence than Christians, for at least two reasons. First, insofar as it’s true, factors such as economic selection of certain classes of immigrants and cohesive families are strong negative indicators for violence. Second, if you think Muslims are less likely to be criminals, I would recommend you spend some time in county prison in any metropolitan region. Many prisons no longer offer the Bible on the commisary order sheet and offer only the Quran. “The Final Call” is ubiquitous in every cell block. But you are free to dismiss all those facts out of hand because I don’t offer a citation by some libarts lecturer who has no firsthand knowledge either.
Did you know any of those facts about Islam, or Muslims in the US? Or did you arrogantly assume your Little Red Book-style ideology is all you need to know?
This post brought to you by the insidious perils of anecdotal evidence.
@Earl – “This post brought to you by the insidious perils of anecdotal evidence.”
You obviously didn’t read the article. The author repeatedly quotes historians, historical documents, and specific data.
For example, the amount of fines, taxes, etc for Tyson Foods is given. Also, the amount of federal funding for various things is detailed, along with defense contracts, income growth, and such.
The personal aspects of the article simply showed what this data means for real Americans living their lives. Maybe you should read before commenting.
Thank you so very much for illustrating the entire point of this article with your clueless commentary.
Is that true?
You sound like someone who needs to read the article again.
Sladec: YOUR idea of “sin” is another person’s idea of FREEDOM!
But that’s always been the problem with “conservatives”: You whine about lost freedoms, but in reality you only care about YOUR freedom to do the things that YOU want to do. As for the freedom of other people to do things that they want to do, but that you don’t think they should (like gay sex, for example), you are ANTI-FREEDOM.
Well, you’re entitled to be anti-freedom if you want. But don’t you DARE try to pretend that there is anything American about you or your views!
Maybe you should just not vote judging by the ignorance you just spat
Please play nice.
Who did Jesus side up with? Prostitutes, the poor, thieves, foreigners. Who was he constantly at odds with? The religious elite. I think I will take my chances in the party of sinners.
Well said, Sara.
After defending the prostitute, Jesus also told her to go and sin no more. Jesus loved the sinner, but hated the sin. The left conveniently forgets that when discussing Jesus.
@Micah – “After defending the prostitute, Jesus also told her to go and sin no more. Jesus loved the sinner, but hated the sin. The left conveniently forgets that when discussing Jesus.”
You need to back to your bible study.
Jesus never said, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” That is a phrasing used by Gandhi, a non-Christian, in paraphrasing a letter by Augustine to a nunnery about disciplining nuns who had dedicated their lives to a life of holy renunciation. Augustine never stated it as specifically being an expression of Jesus’ teachings. Nor did he imply that it applied to all Christians as a universal law of Christianity.
Anyway, Jesus never used those words at all, since he didn’t speak English. The words ‘sin’ and ‘sinner’ are one of many possible translations of the original language. The The Greek word used in the new testament for “sin” is hamartia. It’s an archery term for “missing the mark,” sometimes translated as falling short. The implication is that we should be aiming for God or a spiritual ideal. Hamartia can even mean something as simple as being mistaken, not implying any absolute moral and divine failure whatsoever.
Jesus doesn’t make clear what ‘mark’ specifically is being missed, allowing for diverse interpretations. There is no evidence that Jesus was pointing to a specific sin. He often referred to sin in more general ways, as having fallen short. There is no evidence even that the accusations against this woman were true or that Jesus believed they were true, as he stated no opinion on the matter.
Besides, that story about the adulteress in John is an interpolation. It wasn’t found in the earliest versions and must have been added at some later point. No one knows its origin, although by the 4th century there are mentions of it. It’s a passage that Christians have struggled with for many reasons. It doesn’t even get included in all translations, considering its uncertain origins. It also leaves so much room for interpretation that it’s hard to know the intended meaning of it, the moral of the story. Some Christian humility is needed.
Please cool it with the links, BDS. They set off my spam alert and then I have to moderate. 🙂
@Benjamin David Steele
I’ll tell you what, I’ll go back to Bible study, as long as you work on your reading comprehension.
I never said that Jesus said, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”
I simply said, “Jesus loved the sinner, but hated the sin.” In other words, I was summarizing Jesus’ actions, not his words.
And honest to goodness, what kind of inane point is this, “Anyway, Jesus never used those words at all, since he didn’t speak English.”
Gee, thanks Captain Obvious, I didn’t realize that Jesus of Nazareth from 2,000 years ago didn’t speak English.
So thank you for your condescending word salad monologue on the history of the phrase and it’s implications in Christendom, but I never said that. The only thing I stated incorrectly was she was a prostitute, not an adulterer. But my point still stands.
@Micah – I simply proved that you were projecting your personal opinions onto Jesus. That is a bit problematic, if you consider yourself a Christian. Instead of embracing humility in trying to understand Jesus on his own terms, you attack others. Is that what Christianity means to you?
When describing Jesus the Jew’so actions, Billy Joel said it best,
“I’d rather laughter with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners have much more fun. “
Man you may live in a delapidate trailer, but I have news for you. You have more sense in the tip of your finger nails, than 90% of the
that run the country. I am with you; I am 65 going on 66 , and am one more white poor mother fucker. The problem is whites , hispanics we all have been played for fools, why the rich manipulate the facts that place and hold them in power. I just hope all people of the world realize that the average American is just one poor mother fucker. We mother fuckers are the True Average American. Loved Your Article. Best one yet on the Internet. Larry Hawkins
SC, I think the author of this is brilliant and thoughtful. She did her homework. She considered the issue. She made a connection. And then she shared it. Why on earth would you call her stupid and ignorant? If you have an opposing view, why not voice it in an intelligently written piece like hers instead of resorting to ridiculously broad generalizations? People are more likely to listen to you – and even agree with you – if you don’t sound like a raving fanatic.
For the record, I am not gay, but I am an atheist who has had an abortion. But I’m a gun-carrying Independent, so maybe you should rethink your radical political judgment.
You never voted Democratic. You were a bigot the day you were born.
Again, let’s keep this constructive.
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The author is expressing her own experiences very honestly. She is also sharing her opinions. She is not stupid or ignorant for having a different opinion than you. Attacking and judging her and the entire Democratic Party is close-minded and ignorant to me.
well said!! i agree with you completely! the dem party is all about destruction! they are a sick perverted greedy & rich scum that want nothing but to take everything from the working class. we are unable to make it from paycheck to paycheck because of them. we are better off with a conservative in office. we need tax cuts, support for the working class & the lazy needs to be taken off government assistance & go back to work like the rest of us.
Some would rationally argue based on the evidence that the entire two-party establishment is bought by big money. It would be hard to argue the opposite based on what has become obvious over the years.
Still, there are differences between the parties. Data shows that inequality increases, unemployment grows, recessions happen more often and last longer, and suicide and homicide rates increase under Republican administrations. If one was to rationally choose between the two main parties, the Democrats are the lesser evil.
But I think lesser evil voting is pointless, as the two parties end up playing the good cop/bad cop routine with the voting public. With lesser evilism, fundamental problems are never solved and much needed reform never happens. The lesser evil makes the greater evil possible, the sugar that helps the poison go down.
such a simplistic worldview. the “lazy” can’t get a job if those jobs have been shipped offshore by the very ones who have had decades of tax cuts, extra profit that has gone to their bottom line and pockets and not the creation of jobs as they have lied about.
your comment is almost funny, none of the actions you accuse democrats of being / doing have a darn thing to do with your low pay and high cost of living , your loss of retirement, your un / under employment!!!!! take that foolishness to your rabi / preist/ shaman etc but vote progressive!!!
I am speechless and in complete shock still…after reading the remarks by one comment that accuses the Democratic party of ruining his/her life! HA!!! That could not be further from the truth! This only serves to highlight just what you were trying to point out in your essay! This was the most articulate and honest approach to this phenomenon in America! Thank you and I hope that you write more for us to enjoy and learn! I read your piece to my husband because it was so enlightening and captured truth! Keep up the good fight sister!
God has been redefined and restructured in every age. It doesn’t matter if God exists, we don’t need him. Christians use every weird scriptural passage to justify their hate, racism, homophobia and misogyny. But our future leaders, the millenials, are decidedly secular, materialistic, pro-choice and find religion annoying. Technology, reason, knowledge are all we need.
Ignorant = Not knowing
Dumb = Not knowing even when explained
Stupid = Knowing, but not accepting
Idiot = Knowing, not accepting, AND spewing the converse…..(tv)
Wow, what an amazing insightfully made point.
Gawd, I hate it when comment sections are added to articles!
Stir is a great name for this site, because, to make an equally insightful intellectual point: Dog CRAP doesn’t always stink until you walk up and STIR it! Lots of crap here.
The whole point of this site is to start conversations. Some are better than others. We have one moderator right now. If you’ve seen something in this comments section you don’t like, I apologize. We’re sorry to see you go.
A fifth scenario described at the link you provided – i.e. “supplantive learning” – may be the most relevant to this discussion: http://www.doceo.co.uk/original/learnloss_1.htm
If all someone has is their guns and religion/cultural viewpoints because all else has been taken away (and they’re not sure exactly why), then whoever agrees with them about their guns and religion/cultural viewpoints can’t be all bad. Unbeknownst to the underclass, it’s the same people who have taken away everything else.
No, they’re not stupid at all.
They simply hate liberal paternalism and condescension more than conservative neglect.
It’s pretty much the exact same reason why educated urban women tolerate liberal cads, but loathe “family values” social conservatives.
If you think conservatives aren’t paternalistic, you haven’t been paying attention. The entire culture wars that have driven the political right for decades is the most paternalistic expression of politics around. Most liberals want to increase opportunities and resources for people to improve their own lives, the complete opposite of paternalism.
Conservatives are paternalistic with their support of a strong militarized police state and neocon state building. It’s just conservative paternalism often is about punishment in order to maintain the social order, although conservatives also show majority support for the welfare state as well, such as supporting social security and medicare.
As for white conservatives, more whites are on welfare, both as total number and as a percentage. It’s strange that so few note that poor blacks actually represent a smaller percentage of welfare recipients, even though there is a higher percentage of poor blacks.
You really don’t get it, do you?
It’s not that conservatives can’t be paternalistic (I said as much in the parent post), but that they aren’t anywhere near as paternalistic toward poor whites, especially poor white men, as liberals.
The target of conservative paternalism in both a militarized police state AND neoconservative nation building isn’t “poor white trash”, but some sort of “other”. As a result, the “poor white trash” are totally unconcerned about this sort of paternalism. It’s not their problem and they don’t care.
The culture war issue is a bit more complex, but keep in mind that many of these people are members of very conservative religious groups. “So what if a conservative candidate wants to ban abortion?” they would say “It’s not right and you shouldn’t be doing that anyway.” Many educated urban women would find this exact same attitude horrifyingly paternalistic, even if she would never have an abortion herself. The difference is the cultural frame of reference. Urban, liberal culture is the dominant culture, so urban liberals don’t need to know anything about white rural culture, and often don’t.
This is not only true for political issues. What do you and your liberal friends think about NASCAR, country music, and pro-wrestling? They know what Donald Trump thinks: He jumped right in the ring!
Most liberals would be horrified if conservatives said to Muslims what liberals say to conservative Christians without hesitation. Yet they are totally oblivious to how they are perceived or why their message is not well-received. Likewise, just like the people who are leading the fight against ISIS are Muslims, the people standing up to the actual Klan are the ones described in this article, but neither gets any credit for it from people thousands of miles away who have no idea what is going on.
Bill Clinton was a man with a foot in both worlds, much like the political version of Sam Walton or Don Tyson. He was the local boy who made good. But the people he won over so easily turned on him, not because of economic issues, but for violating cultural norms. (Cheating on his wife, lying about it, then pretending nothing happened.)
You’ve hit a great deal of it square on the head.
I will also add that it was Bill Clinton’s impeachment that divided America.
In “Blue America”, Bill Clinton’s adultery was a private matter between him and Hillary. It was nobody’s business but theirs and how dare the Republicans—most of whom had mistresses themselves—drag a married couple’s dirty laundry into public view! (This seems to be what Hillary herself thought.)
In “Red America”, Bill Clinton’s adultery was a very public matter. It showed that he could not be trusted. Nor did he do sufficient public penance for it to show that he knew he had messed up. (It generally involves crying, apologizing, and invoking Jesus.) That Hillary didn’t kick his lyin’ cheatin’ ass to the curb is truly incomprehensible. (Alternatively, a very public reconciliation involving Bill crying, apologizing, and invoking Jesus would have worked too.) In this culture, the only explanations for Hillary’s behavior would be that she must be a lesbian, frigid, power obsessed, or has her own thing on the side. Thus the bizarre theories about Hillary.
The stained blue dress was a cultural Rorsharch test (How dare they!/How dare he!)
@Jim – “You really don’t get it, do you?”
It would be helpful if you showed me what I don’t get.
“It’s not that conservatives can’t be paternalistic (I said as much in the parent post), but that they aren’t anywhere near as paternalistic toward poor whites, especially poor white men, as liberals.”
As I said, no one paying attention could say this. Paternalism is the very heart of the conservative social order. Conservatism is first and foremost about social control, about maintaining the perceived moral hierarchy. Corey Robin explains this well about the reactionary mind.
“The target of conservative paternalism in both a militarized police state AND neoconservative nation building isn’t “poor white trash”, but some sort of “other”.”
You must not read as many conservatives as I do. I regularly come across conservative pundits and authors offering condescension to poor whites. There have been a number of articles I’ve seen lately with conservative authors expressing this attitude. One example is Charles Murray who seems to think that poor whites are inherently inferior and that there isn’t much to be done about it. Even though he claims to be a libertarian, he has supported a basic income to take care of these poor whites who can’t help themselves.
“The culture war issue is a bit more complex, but keep in mind that many of these people are members of very conservative religious groups.”
There is nothing complex about it, not essentially. The culture wars are what conservatism is all about. It’s the heart of conservatism, such as the paternalistic attitude toward women.
“Urban, liberal culture is the dominant culture, so urban liberals don’t need to know anything about white rural culture, and often don’t.”
You’re assuming that these are entirely separate populations. Many urban liberals were raised in rural and suburban conservative communities. I live in a farming state and the younger generation have left the rural areas for the bigger cities. Indeed, the younger generation is more liberal, but not because they’ve never experienced conservatism.
“What do you and your liberal friends think about NASCAR, country music, and pro-wrestling?”
I was raised by conservative parents. My mother’s family are working class whites. And I spent a large part of my life in the Deep South growing up. I’ve been to stock car races, listened to country music, and watched pro-wrestling. Actually, data I’ve seen shows that pro-wrestling is popular among liberals.
“Most liberals would be horrified if conservatives said to Muslims what liberals say to conservative Christians without hesitation.”
Plenty of liberals are Christians. In fact, most liberals are Christians. Most liberals aren’t critical of conservative Christians for their religion, but for their reactionary attitudes. Also, plenty of liberals are equally critical of fundamentalism in other religions. Liberals don’t mind fair-minded criticism of liberalism, just as long as it isn’t motivated by ignorant bigotry.
“Likewise, just like the people who are leading the fight against ISIS are Muslims, the people standing up to the actual Klan are the ones described in this article, but neither gets any credit for it from people thousands of miles away who have no idea what is going on.”
Liberals are usually the ones pointing out that “leading the fight against ISIS are Muslims,” something most conservatives refuse to acknowledge. As far the Klan, the people opposing it have been diverse. The Klan, specifically the Second Klan, didn’t mainly exist in poor communities. It actually was found largely in urban areas and its membership was mostly the middle-to-upper class. The Klan didn’t only exist thousands of miles away from the Democratic states where liberals live. The Second Klan was mostly found in the more liberal North, not the South.
“Bill Clinton was a man with a foot in both worlds, much like the political version of Sam Walton or Don Tyson. He was the local boy who made good. But the people he won over so easily turned on him, not because of economic issues, but for violating cultural norms.”
I honestly don’t know if that is true or not. I’ve never seen data that shows the people he won over turned on him. Sure, right-wingers and reactionaries turned on him, but they never liked him in the first place.
I still don’t know what you think I don’t get.
While some or even most of what you write could be credible to some extent trying to group as “conservative” or “liberal” is a total fail.
@Jim – “While some or even most of what you write could be credible to some extent trying to group as “conservative” or “liberal” is a total fail.”
You still haven’t explained what I “really don’t get it.” And with your latest comment, you don’t precisely explain what “is a total fail.”
I can’t read your mind. I’ll take honest criticisms. It’s possible I’m wrong. Just tell me why you think I’m wrong. Give me specifics and back it up with data or at least examples.
I’m genuinely curious about what groupings you think make sense. I’m basing my own views on demographic and public opinion data, including data on how people identify themselves. It’s a fascinating topic and it is complex. There are many ways to try to make sense of it all. I won’t claim to have it all figured out.
Still, I can’t respond to your criticisms when it isn’t even clear what you’re criticizing.
Jim, you wrote: “It’s not that conservatives can’t be paternalistic (I said as much in the parent post), but that they aren’t anywhere near as paternalistic toward poor whites, especially poor white men, as liberals.”
While BDSteele has attempted to enlighten you with his comments, I think the fundamental problem here is a lack of understanding of what paternalism is: “the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates’ supposed best interest.”
I would argue that liberals’ attitude toward poor whites or poor white men is closer to neutral or pity or empathy. That’s much different than patronizing. Please enlighten us with specifics to make your case that liberals are patronizing toward poor whites. Please. I really want to understand how liberals’ actions that are motivated by wanting to help are instead interpreted as being patronizing and insulting instead and, incredulously you say, more patronizing than conservatives. Just please be specific. Thank you.
BDS, you are proof of what George Will succinctly stated last month on television: “You cannot reason a person out of a position that they were not reasoned into.” The same can probably be said to folks on both sides of the political spectrum. Two shining examples of the idiocy produced by visceral thinking are primary leaders D. Trump and H. Clinton. Trump’s boisterous and outlandish talk is pushing buttons on a large population of people who see him as an answer to the problem in DC. They think that his reality show and his “style” somehow make him better than the current establishment, all the while ignoring the fact that he has many ties and in-roads to the current powers. Clinton’s supporters are willing to overlook her violations of US Code and her non-disclosure agreement in regards to classified material, as if they were somehow a Stepford wive’s club of mindless sychophants, and STILL VOTE FOR HER! Lunacy on both sides. Sander’s followers are equally as compelled by selfishness, laziness, and frustration at their perception of an un-level playing field. While the field may indeed be unfair, voting in a hard core socialist will do nothing but bankrupt people on all levels with huge tax increases. I grew up in Germany, and their system is now suffering at the hands of countless refugees and immigrants that are milking the system for all it’s worth. America may soon be in that same predicament if Bernie becomes POTUS.
@Mark – That is a bizarre comment.
I wrote numerous comments here describing in great detail my reasons. These are reasons that I’ve come to over my life. They aren’t where I began. I have indeed reasoned myself into these positions.
I suppose you’re one of those people who assumes anyone who disagrees with you must be unreasonable, maybe even ignorant and stupid. How dare they have different opinions based on different reasons! LOL
You don’t seem to have much insight about anything. You’re just angry and cynical. A lot of sound and fury, but not much sense, as far as I can tell.
I don’t care about partisan politics or dogmatic ideologies. Nothing you said in your comment applies to me, that is for sure. Actually, I don’t even really know what your comment is about.
Anyway, anyone who knows American history and knows socialism would know that Sanders is what used to be considered a moderate liberal and old school progressive. He is no where near as far left as FDR.
Sanders is only socialist in the old sense of the word as a social reformer, although more accurately he is what is known as a social democrat. If you want to know the closest example of actual socialism he might be akin to, you’d have to look to the sewer socialists who successfully governed Milwaukee for about a half century.
None of this is worth getting an aneurysm over. Just calm down. The Soviets aren’t invading.
Sorry Mark, I have to side with BDS on this – he has repeatedly asked you to clarify the basis of your criticism and you responded with something akin to “I just can’t explain it to someone as dumb as you.”
Kudos to BDs for not taking the bait.
I am very much enjoying this debate and appreciating the critical thinking.
I disagree that Sanders’ followers are “compelled by selfishness [and] laziness.” Frustration, yes. But my understanding of his politics is the opposite of selfishness. And laziness is not party- or candidate-specific.
There is not a candidate on any ticket who appeals to me. It seems to be coming down to the buffoon or the equivocator, and I’m half inclined to write in Christopher Walken at this point, because yes, I’m frustrated, and I feel powerless to change anything, and I have no hope that there will ever be a regular person in office who understands what it’s like to struggle to pay rent, or to have to just suck it up because an uninsured and unemployed driver totaled one’s car, or to tolerate a barrage of racism and sexism because a certain candidate does it and that suddenly makes it okay.
Not sure what you mean when you say that BDS has been asking me to explain, as I have only just begun to post to this forum. Other than the one post I originally wrote to him, I have never responded to him, so there may be another “Mark” out there to whom you are referring.
That being said, I stand by the quote from George Will. It is impossible to believe that anyone came by their political stance out of sheer logic. We are human and prone to emotion. I guess I have to remember when pointing at someone that there are three fingers pointing back at me.
Mark wrote: “That being said, I stand by the quote from George Will. It is impossible to believe that anyone came by their political stance out of sheer logic. We are human and prone to emotion. I guess I have to remember when pointing at someone that there are three fingers pointing back at me.”
Shame on you if you are unwilling to apply that George Will quote to your own political position, but only to people who disagree with you. And shame on you if you are unwilling to admit that the reason you employed it was because you thought the opinions of the person to whom you were responding were not worthy of consideration. It had nothing to do with wanting us all — together — to admit that emotions play a role in the formation of our political opinions. You clearly sought to exclude yourself from that, as you clearly believe that your political opinions were arrived at solely through reason.
And yet you can look at an article like this, which even gives you the data that shows how radically different income growth has been distributed during economic expansions over the last sixty years, and just repeat tired tropes about the poor being selfish and lazy. The fact that you can call supporters of Clinton “a Stepford wive’s club of mindless sychophants” and “[lunatics]” — for not whole-heartedly buying into conservative talking points about her use of a private e-mail server — and yet not consider that your own political opinions might have been arrived at a good deal more through emotion than reason, is astounding.
And in actuality, when you consider the history of the federal income tax in the United States, Sanders is no where near a “hard core socialist.” The economy roared in the 50s, when we had marginal tax brackets in the 70+ percents (90+ in the immediate years following WWII), to foot the recovery bill for wartime spending (including the massive redistribution of wealth known as the GI Bill). Of course, back then we had tax brackets that went up into the millions of dollars (before accounting for inflation!). Now, our top bracket caps out at <$500k — ask yourself, why is that?
Clinton’s Welfare Reform has shifted those percentages quite a bit because urban Democrats were able to carve out exceptions for their constituents while Republicans who represented rural districts would have loved to have seen the entire system scrapped. Not surprisingly, rural whites were the most likely to be kicked off those systems.
What do find funny about the original author’s premise that politicians had to create the specter of the “welfare queen”. No they just tapped into the resentment of those who have some knowledge about the system. For example, a relative of mine is a social worker in Louisiana. She originally got into that line of work because she wanted to make a difference and help people. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the time she is dealing with scammers, many of whom do drive better vehicles than the staff (paid for by the ‘baby daddy’- some of which may have worked offshore, some had legally questionable means of employment). She is now jaded and tells of people who have been in this situation for generations. They do not want to better themselves. They want to keep whatever freebies they have coming just like their parents and grandparents did. In the South, it seems as if it’s almost like a way of life. Several co-workers personally know people that are abusing the welfare and/or disability system (one guy said all three of his brothers are on disability. Their ailment according to him: “they’re lazy”. Another has a friend who “is on disability, but does construction on the side and races cars on the weekend”. Another’s wife said she’s the only one on her side of the family that’s not on assistance. Years ago when I was working a night shift, one co-worker was giving another one a hard time: “hey, man…what’s the deal with you black guys..you always seem to have a bunch of kids with your girlfriend(s) and then get married. That’s ass backwards.” “No, man…that’s how you have kids for free” was the response. So, yeah…the politicians didn’t have create anything. They just shined a light on the problem.
I know many on the right don’t like people who have immigrated illegally to the US (or anywhere really…go to Aussie web forums and they bitch about the same stuff..just a different group of illegal immigrants). I don’t like it that they have violated our laws and bypassed the legal channels (my immigrant friends from Canada and AU loathe them even more than the most rabid Trump supporter and the Mexicans who are here legally don’t like associating with them, but that may be a class thing). However, they’ve traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles, busted their asses working long hard hours for crappy pay, and still save up money to send home or to build a business of their own. I admire them greatly for that. If the poor white or black trash Americans put in half as much effort as the illegals do day in and day out, this place would be much better off.
@Drgrad68 – I wrote you a long comment. I also had a bunch of links. So, to keep the moderator happy, I posted it as a comment at my blog. I offer you the link, if you so desire to see my response:
You can call me Laurel, BDS. And up to three links is fine. 🙂
Nice to meet ya, Laurel. I’m a link happy guy. I love info and I want to spread it far and wide. But I’ll try to control myself.
As an educated (semi-urban) woman, I loathe “family values” social conservatives because they are the ones who tell me that the education I have invested years of time and energy in obtaining has no value, and that a desire to do anything with my life other than serve in solitary house arrest as their personal nanny-cook-housekeeper slave is the epitome of a selfish and lazy character. Actually, loathe is a strong word for me. I’m not a hateful sort. It’s more a mix of blazing red flags, avoidance-for-self-preservation and pity. These are also the sort of people who tend to be extremely controlling in relationships and more likely to physically or psychologically abuse women.
@B. Wren, have you met many “family values” social conservative? I am genuinely curious. I know many from my own family, from the colleges I attended for my BA and MA, from various jobs and from my church. I know social conservatives who are rich, poor, from rural areas and urban areas, from the U.S. and immigrants, who are white, hispanic, middle-eastern, asian, etc. etc. All have encouraged me in my education and encouraged and supported my full-time career (and yes, I’m married with children). I am wondering if your prejudice springs from a bad experience with one or two bad apples (there are nasty folks from all parts of the political spectrum!)
I used to vote Democratic, but I finally matured and grew up and grew out of my ignorance of believing rich Liberals! I am still poor and White, but I respect character and values more than, as the liberals and people commenting on here say, “voting against my interests”! No, I am truly voting for my interests, values, and morals! The DemocRAT Party offers none of those!
What is it that your party offer you being on the low social economic ladder? What is it that offer you in terms of hope that your situation will get better
Such a stunning, sweeping, urgent piece of commentary, written in a language accessible to any poor white motherfucker. Thank you so much for writing this, Jonna! Also reminded me of what an enduring tragedy it was, beyond MLK and Bobby’s deaths, that the Poor People’s Campaign and Resurrection City ended in the way they did. Perhaps we need to return to that moment from our national past– a moment of great possibility snuffed out before it could thrive– for clues for how to help the “99 percent” better understand and move from within our commonalities-in-difference.
JFK, RFK, MLK, all fell victim to right wing propaganda, backed by the wealthy elite.
The wealthy elite, and their stooges, the Republicans, have assassinated all those of influence who were committed to economic equality.
“JFK, RFK, MLK, all fell victim to right wing propaganda, backed by the wealthy elite.”
I thought they fell victim to a communist, a Palestinian [activist|terrorist], and a white supremacist who all had guns, respectively.
Really they all fell victim to a communist, a Palestinian, and racist?, it’s just a massive coincidence that at a time of increasing political instability, a president who had taken money from the same military industrial complex warned of by his predecessor, then attempted to withdraw from Vietnam undermining their profits was assassinated, and his brother running for president and a massively popular civil rights activist were then both assassinated within weeks of initiating a campaign of national working class unity and anti-war agitation. It seems if you study history, guns are just a tool, the people behind them and their motives are what actually matter. For instance if their is another such “poor people’s campaign”, those organized on factory floors, retail outlets, ports, hospitals, and all workplaces will need guns to defend themselves against the capitalist state’s violence which will surely be mobilized against them. Case in point, the last civil war was won by oppressed people with guns, thus their use of guns is the reason for the abolition of slavery and the enforcement of subsequent civil rights for freed blacks
You are right on Desmond. The USA is long overdue for the PEOPLE to take back THEIR government (“…by and of the people..”).
You are right on Desmond. The USA is long overdue for the PEOPLE to take back THEIR government (“…by and of the people..”). Articles like this get us communicating and thinking seriously about change and what we can do.
John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, a communist sympathizer who, most likely, acted alone. JFK was a staunch anti-communist, who, contrary to Oliver Stone’s myth, was escalating the War in Vietnam.
Robert F. Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian who was angry about RFK’s stance toward Israel.
Martin Luther King was shot by James Earl Ray, a petty criminal with a long rap sheet who was known to strongly dislike black people.
These are the guys who fired the guns. These were all political acts, but all evidence was that they were the acts of a single person. Each had sufficient motivation and ability to pull the trigger without any greater conspiracy.
It’s not implausible that a single person would decide to shoot the President: Gerald Ford was shot at twice by two unassociated unstable women, and Ronald Reagan was wounded by a mentally disturbed man who wanted to impress Jodie Foster. Going farther back, President Garfield was shot by an mentally ill man who believed that the Vice President would reward him with a civil service job. All it takes is one person with a gun to assassinate somebody. I’m not one for black helicopters and conspiracy theories.
Even taking your argument at face value, you’re leaving out some critical information: https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/select-committee-report/
Don’t forget that little trial that implicated the government in Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
This the dumbest thing I’ve ever read! I going to say the party i support is the American People, Please Im begging you just admit you are racist. No offense, Im from Virginia (Where The Slaves Are From Literally) so I really don’t care about feelings. History; not the one you read in the class rooms of modern day Schools. Tell history in a way that its not offensive. Our country was founded on, how can i say this … On the backs of people, was stolen from people, denied and continue to be denied to others. So a few Greedy people can profit. So I agree with this article, because I’ve witness this first hand. (No I wasn’t alive during slavery but i was directly affected by it) Have you ever heard of Willie Lynch? For some one to talk about sin, I must ask this question. Sir are you with out Sin, If so continue to throw stones. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated not murdered! John F. Kennedy was assassinated not murdered! I’m going to leave Malcom X out of this conversation. These people where considered a threat not to a poor white man who disliked people of color or a terrorist. They was a threat to the people who wanted to keep the average American Male and Female from seeing the truth! When a person gains knowledge they are no longer ignorant they become aware. You should know this because I’m going jump out on a limb and say you consider your self educated. Correct! Book Smarts do not equal out to common sense, which is not really common any more. Some things you can’t learn from a book! You learn by sitting back and watching people, I do apologize for calling you a Racist but your remarks are in line to what this article is talking about that sense of being superior to others. Just rhanting is what you doing. I Honestly don’t know who I’m voting for. I know its not Dump. We have bigger issues in America than kicking Muslims out of our country and Mexicans and what ever type of people he uses to gain favor. Just look at all the HATE surrounding his campaign. Nothing good ever comes out of negativity. We as a country need to come together. Whats so different between the Poor and the Wealthy. We all Bleed the same color, We will all leave this earth when our time is up. I dare you to care about others, kindness is the biggest weapon of all. For you to feel the way you do I believe this article offended you. But what do I Know im just a poor motherfucker from a Slave State.
Ps. Sorry Moderator
Excellent article, really hits the nail on the head in terms of the situation in America today. I have an interesting perspective to contribute, if I may.
My father was much like one of the white underclass you mention. He used to call Mexicans in Pueblo, CO (where I grew up) “wetbacks” who were lazy and good-for-nothings. It was odd he even met and dated my mother (Hispanic) in the first place, but perhaps beauty got the better of him. Even then, there was strong tension between the two in a very dysfunctional relationship whereby my father didn’t respect my Hispanic side and my mom was bitter at my white side for it.
My dad was an honest mechanic, and perhaps because of that he was always broke. He made enough to keep the shop afloat (which he built with his own hands, practically alone) but not enough for much else.
I spent my childhood in a rather strange dichotomy. One side was my Hispanic family (who were well respected among the community) in a poor, primarily Hispanic neighborhood, in a rather comfortable house with a large yard that was always bustling with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. It was a comfortable life but money was never spent unless on something needed. The other side was my white family, consisting of my father, and my grandparents (divorced, separated, and in different homes, yet who still hung around each other a lot for the sake of me and their sons). My grandma lived in a four bedroom middle-class house in a nice area of town. For a brief period my mom and father lived in the house with her, along with my half-brother (on my mother’s side) but tensions quickly caused that to fall apart. Despite the seeming appearance of wealth and security on my father’s side, it was illusory. Money couldn’t be frivolously spent by either of my families, and my dad’s reckless spending habits (he never considered money important, and would blow all of his spare income making him and his friends happy because that’s what mattered more to him – good times with good people).
When my dad had enough of trying to scrape by with his mechanic shop, he let his best friend have his property to reconstitute it as a concrete company that my dad’s best friend had inherited from his father. My father, being uneducated (barely finished high school), was unaware of the legal agreements ramifications. He basically handed everything over without any sort of guarantee that he would be entitled to its wealth or earnings later on. At first things were good, as my dad worked for his best friend at his right-hand man, making comfortable amounts of money. It was during this time that he came into close contact with a primarily Mexican labor force. This changed my father’s opinion as he came to relate more with the poor Mexicans doing very hard concrete and construction work. He developed a deep respect for their everyday struggle because he knew it was the same as his.
When the recession hit, my dad’s best friend was building a million+ dollar home among the other wealthy elites of Pueblo, CO. Construction on his million dollar home didn’t end, instead he started laying off Mexicans and cutting my dad’s paycheck. This led to significant tension as my dad saw it as a betrayal. It was his property he had given up, and it was him who kept the business afloat by fixing machines when they broke, drilling foundation holes, keeping the other workers organized and directed. He was truly a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-all type guy.
Realizing it was a futile battle, he abandoned it all and walked away. He sold what he could, made his peace with me (I didn’t get a long with him very well most of my life, he used to hit my mother and treat me harshly as well), and moved to Florida where my uncles mortgage business was on the rebound. He met an immigrant wife from Moldova who made him very happy in his final years (his relationship with my mom was completely finished sometime during my high school years). He lived in a house in Gulf Breeze, FL, that was bought and paid for by my uncle (also an airline pilot on the side). If not for that comfort he’d have likely died homeless. He had not a penny to his name when cancer took him in the spring of 2015.
The thing that is most interesting to me is that, every time I can remember him talking about anything political, it was usually in favor of Republican candidates. I don’t know if he voted, I remember hearing him say favorable things about McCain. I think it was more about the narrative of the right vs. the left, that those on the right value hard work and determination and those on the left are lazy and want everything handed to them. He watched news, but he wasn’t very critical or discerning. He would watch CNN or Fox or CBS or MSNBC. He didn’t have the education or desire to try and look at the biases of each station, or see one or the other as right and left. It had to be the narrative about hard work that so easily lulled him in to voting for Republicans. Working class people don’t have the time to read economics books, or history books related to the economic changes that have taken place over the past few decades. They have to rely on narratives, imagery, vague statements and promises to figure out who the “best” candidate is.
I never got a chance to gain insight into my father’s political views in his final days. They likely hadn’t changed much, because they were hardly there to begin with. All he knew was that he worked hard his whole life and was never rewarded for it. He told me how much he regretted screwing things up with me and not doing more to help me succeed (I’m a successful senior, graduating in a few weeks and going on to graduate school for astronomy). By the end of his life he seemed just so sick of it all. All he cared about in those final days was using the knowledge he had from 40+ years of working with cars, machinery, tools, to help the people in his community, and to help his friends, free of charge. He just walked around meeting and talking with people, enjoying life for the small things. No one had to pay him to help the homeless man down by bay fix the boat he would sleep in. No one paid him to take a look at their car and fix the problem if he could.
I like to think that because he understood this concept of selfless giving, of helping all of those people who were down on their luck (including the homeless man), then he could understand the concept of why we need an economic and political system that works for us all. I know he probably still would have voted for conservative candidates had he survived to this election, perhaps I could have easily changed his mind with a 30 minute discussion where I talk about some of the things mentioned in this article. I know he would be able to relate because he pulled a complete 180 on his views on Mexicans. I even saw a certain sadness in his eyes when he talked about my mom, as if he finally realized how petty all of those tensions that made their relationship dysfunctional were.
I’m tired of it all too. I’m tired of this needless hate between poor people of all backgrounds. I’m tired of the greed and selfishness that gives rise to a government and economy that only benefits those who have so much that they could scarcely even comprehend what it would be like to have even more. I’m tired of people fighting against the biggest changes Bernie Sanders is trying to make – campaign finance reform, getting big money out of politics, holding corporations accountable. All of the other problems – racism, sexism, whatever it is – stem from the same rotten root of income and wealth inequality and unequal representation in government, and people have become so accustomed to this disgusting system that they won’t even listen to a candidate like Bernie when he comes along and points it out.
I’ve been dedicating hours and hours to phonebanking for his campaign. The weekend before New York’s primary I’m traveling there to join the march for Bernie in Foley Square (I hope it ends on Wall Street) and to canvass the rest of my time. Its a long, hard road ahead for our campaign, but I’m not going to quit until we are beaten, and even then, I hope that what Sanders has done in terms of his political revolution gets carried into House and Senate elections. Nevertheless, I fear for what it means, in terms of the minds of the American people, if we pass up Sanders.
Gah! Sorry for the typos, I didn’t proofread before I posted and I cannot edit the comment.
I forgot to end this paragraph:
“…Money couldn’t be frivolously spent by either of my families, and my dad’s reckless spending habits (he never considered money important, and would blow all of his spare income making him and his friends happy because that’s what mattered more to him – good times with good people).”
It should end as:
Money couldn’t be frivolously spent by either of my families, and my dad’s reckless spending habits (he never considered money important, and would blow all of his spare income making him and his friends happy because that’s what mattered more to him – good times with good people) often earned him the scorn of his family.
My question still remains, where is the money going to come from to finance Bernie’s programs??? We’re broke already. Hang in there, Matt
PS I voted for him today (LOL). Hang in there, Matt
Thank you, Colton, for sharing your story. You have given a perfect first person account of what I was speaking to when I wrote this piece. I have known so many men and women like your father and what you said is so dead right.
“Working class people don’t have the time to read economics books, or history books related to the economic changes that have taken place over the past few decades. They have to rely on narratives, imagery, vague statements and promises to figure out who the “best” candidate is.”
The political system has become so complicated, so twisted and corrupt that many people simply don’t have the time to research the truth. It triples the difficulty when the media (who is supposed to tell the truth) is part of the complicated machine.
It did bring a smile to my face to read that near the end of your father’s life, he was able to be of service to others. I imagine that brought him some comfort and peace.
Thank you for the work you are doing in New York. I’m tired too, but like you, will not quit!
Your story is deeply resonant with my own life experience, growing up in a tiny town halfway between Tulsa and Little Rock. What a great read – tremendous stuff.
Jonna, I value your essay quite a lot–it updates Thomas Frank’s *Whats the Matter with Kansas* but with much more empathy and first-person perspective. With Colson’s comment following, both shed light in straightforward, relatable prose that speaks directly to working class people’s anger and fears.
Thank you so much! I will teach both in my “Writing for Social Change” course and will hope to learn, Jonna, that you’re preparing to publish this with a press (Anchor? Seven Stories? Verso? Several others would be interested for sure).
I’m a first generation college student who fought through to a tenured professorship, always on the outside. If we’ll just tell our stories, the possibility of joining together has a chance.
I do worry that many decades of racism and misogyny are now entrenched, despite the solidarity the guys in your Arkansas bar showed you. Could have gone either way, right?
Anyway, much gratitude for your thoughtful analysis of the problem, your effort to unify folks, and for the eloquent pride that whatever your working class roots some effective English teacher(s) or others passed along to you!
Stay strong; not to sound paranoid, but if you can be paid off to behave and fall silent, you can bet they’ll do it.
Every happiness –
I am sure many of our politicians, especially Bernie Sanders probably are aware of the information in which you speak in your article. My small town has been drastically affected by the wealthy bringing in immigrants and forcing poor white workers to look for work and it has destroyed our town. Drugs are rampant, businesses closed, and all people see are immigrants form Mexico and Guatemala who have taken their jobs, and who have 6-8 children living off the system. This is not a myth this is a reality, so many people see a man who has promised to give them back their jobs, bring back the old ways, when jobs were plentiful and times were great. Why has Bernie not shared with the people of these areas his views on how he will help them work again, and share what you have written, why are politicians afraid to share this information. Your reference to wealthy Americans like Tyson bringing in workers during the recession was spot on that is exactly what happened in this small town, and there have been massive ripple affects. I truly believe that bringing people together for a cause is the answer, but we need to speak in a language that all can unite under, we need someone who can speak to the progressive and the conservative and until we can find a happy medium we always have pitted sides. Great piece, I am a 28 year Army Veteran who likes Trump, and I do agree he is a Wealthy all for him Billionaire, but I also believe that we need to enact regulatory policies, rules and actions that enable our tax dollars to be used properly. I like both Bernie and Trump, I think they both stand for true change, but I also believe that we will not see either of them on the podium during the coming elections.
“It triples the difficulty when the media (who is supposed to tell the truth) is part of the complicated machine.”
Please be careful; we all need to be more careful about how we talk about “the media.” Because, you know, you and this article are part of “the media” and when you say “the media,” what exactly are you talking about that is not actually specifically defined there — newspapers? Magazines? Television? Radio? Break it down further — on TV, talk shows vs. news broadcasts? There is a lot of misconceptions about “the media” that are harmful and perpetuated by vague comments like that. People go to one source and think they’re going to get all the same information from every outlet and that’s simply not true. Nor is the length and depth going to be the same; you won’t get out of a 30-second sound bite on TV what you would get from a 40-inch newspaper story. If you mean TV specifically, or better yet specific news organizations, please say so! That is much more useful and much less misleading than saying “the media.” Thank you.
I was about to thank Colton as well. For opening a window to one’s soul. Remarkable. There’s no quit in you, my friend. None at all. Nor in your father. He understood in the end, right? Good to give back, even better when no strings are attached. And author Jonna Ivin is one in a million.. Heck, even that would be selling you short. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m sure most readers found this insightful! And anyone slinging mud here needs to find a friend. I’d suggest a good dog. They’re loyal even when you may not be worth befriending. I have one lol. But two things I’d like to take issue with. First – LBJ being a ‘greater ally’ than JFK is arguably subjective. Second – Regardless of your skin color or net worth, I offer this rebuttal. You’re not trash, Jonna, but a National Treasure. And you should wear the title ‘Motherfucker’ like the badge of honor it is while inserting the word ‘Tough’ in front. Sorry for swearing. And last but not least, meet one more of the many people who do care about you. You will have many more to come…but just haven’t met them yet. That will happen when #BernieWinsTheWhiteHouse. Peace
Thank you for sharing your deeply insightful and personal story, Colton. I was about to share this article on Facebook, but have been struggling to adequately summarize the totality of the message and to do so in a manner that is also succinct enough to encourage as many people as possible to read it. Then I read your remarks. Would you mind if I quoted your second-to-last paragraph (with proper citation, of course) as the header to my FB share of this article?
Thank you so much for your story…it is amazingly thoughtful and educational at the same time! I am with you all the way brother! I know that Bernie is our only chance to correct this awful mess that we are all in! I, too, am scared that they are going to screw this up! I am trying to find Bernie signs to put up here in Nunda, NY! This is a small, rural community and they vote Republican! It is always the have-nots who are the staunchest republicans and makes me shake my head! What is this March that you speak of? I would like to go!
This was well-written and a powerful story, Colton. I’m sorry for the loss of your father. Even with the mixed emotions you had with him, I’m sure it was still difficult.
I firmly believe that education, income inequality, and a corrupt political system are all tied together. I’ve had only rudimentary economics taught to me but I know that trickle down doesn’t work. I know that the nature of capitalism is to put profit first – that’s why we can’t have privatized social security. I know that having a strong middle class with disposable income will boost the economy: when more people spend money, more profit is made.
The United States is probably the wealthiest state on the Earth in the history of mankind. It is incredibly frustrating to me that the slavery narrative, that the rugged individualism narrative, that the free-loader narrative continue to be perpetuated by the top — and then believed by the poor. With proper education, that can be changed.
That’s why I’m voting for Sanders. He is not more of the same. Hillary says she’ll be more like Obama; that’s not what we need. None of the Republican candidates are suitable. Trump doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, Cruz wants to Christianize the US, and Kasich doesn’t believe women are people.
The US can really be a great country, a true champion of democracy, but we’ve got to make some serious changes. Sanders is what this country needs.
My heart goes out to you! An inspiration piece of writing deep from the soul. Thank you.
The premise that Trump is wealthy and therefore is going to be like a slave master and not care about others is a false equivalency. He’s the only candidate who has not been working in Washington his whole life. More importantly the premise that forms the basis of the conclusion (Bernie is more economically like the majority he therefore must care about us) was refuted by Sanders himself.
He quite clearly endorsed refuted that when he said whites don’t know what its like to be poor. See for yourself the most racist thing said by a candidate so far : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCHfH0WABTY aka endorsing the myth of white privilege (there are plenty of white people), but to Bernie they don’t exist as they have institutional privilege. If you’re white and want Bernie you’re a cuck.
You were doing alright until “cuck” confirmed you actually are an idiot
“If you’re white and want Bernie you’re a cuck.”
Ah, ‘cuck’. The bizarre, unnecessarily sexualised and highly racially-charged slur useful mainly for identifying people whose views can immediately be disregarded.
The most racist thing said by a candidate so far? You must be ignoring the “Mexicans are rapists” or “I’m going to build a great wall, the best wall” or “we should ban all Muslims from our country”. But, you seem to think it’s only racist if it’s against white people. You would fit right in with the KKK.
he never said Ban all Muslims that is false..He said a temporary Ban in order to create a better system to ensure safety..This has been done in the past by Banning people of other countries on a temporary basis. This is not Racist, it is common sense. No one wants to put a complete stop to immigration, how is a wall racist? A wall is for security. If you read the article you will note that the Wealthy Americans purposely brought illegal immigrants to this country for their own financial gain, to exploit them. Had they been legal citizens they would know their rights!
“he never said Ban all Muslims that is false..He said a temporary Ban in order to create a better system to ensure safety..This has been done in the past by Banning people of other countries on a temporary basis.”
Yes, it was done in the past and it was done for racist, ethnocentric, and xenophobic reasons. The problem with such bigotry is that it pretends it’s not bigotry.
When compared to non-Arab and non-Islamic Americans, Arab and Islamic Americans have lower rates of violence and higher rates of education, wealth, and professional careers. In terms of both total numbers and per capita of each demographic, Americans are more likely to be attacked by a white Christian and then have their lives saved by an Arab-American Muslim.
This is because the kinds of Arabs that immigrate to the US tend to upper class professionals, not poor refugees. This is the kind of fact that Trump ignores in his race-baiting.
“No one wants to put a complete stop to immigration, how is a wall racist? A wall is for security.”
His proposal of a wall is a distraction. No one is going to build a wall. Anyone who knows anything realizes it’s empty rhetoric.
The Chinese built a wall and yet it didn’t stop the Huns from crossing it. All the Huns had to do was to bribe the border guards. A border wall would be as pointless and destructive as the drug wars.
Besides, building a wall would be a near impossible project that would be one of the most costly projects in US history. And only a complete idiot thinks the Mexican government is going to pay for it.
Anyway, undocumented immigration is at its lowest point in a long time. The US economy is bad even for undocumented immigrants.
The only major wave of undocumented immigrants in recent history was those who were escaping the Honduran violence that the US government promoted by helping to overthrow a government. They actually were refugees and ironically refugees of US policy that destroyed their country.
If you want to stop such people ending up at the US border, the first thing to do is to stop promoting foreign policies that create political and economic refugees in the first place. Instead of attacking the victims of our own policies, maybe we should change our policies. We have met the enemy and he is us.
Trump conveniently doesn’t talk about any of this.
“Wealthy Americans purposely brought illegal immigrants to this country for their own financial gain, to exploit them. Had they been legal citizens they would know their rights!’
And wealthy Americans like Trump and many others love to scapegoat immigrants. It’s useful rhetoric to distract the public from the real issues. Trump doesn’t care about immigrants. It’s just something to rile up crowds.
Here are a few articles to better inform you on these important issues:
“Heritage said the U.S. economy as a whole would take a hit if immigrant workers disappeared. Immigrants make up large portions of the workforce on numerous industries, including agriculture and construction. Immigration opponents have long argued that immigrants are taking jobs that would otherwise be filled by Americans who are out of work, but numerous studies have found the contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy to be positive rather than negative.
“Gallup poll released last week found that 65 percent of American support a path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Among them, 50 percent of Republicans support a path to citizenship for those already residing in the U.S., a statistic that sharply clashes with Trump’s stance that those in the U.S. illegally must leave the country before being considered for citizenship. […]
“Another issue that critics raise with the premise for Trump’s proposals is that immigration from Mexico is actually declining. A Pew study released in 2012 found that the figure had actually reached net zero, and possibly less. This means that any Mexican immigrants arriving in the U.S. are offset by those returning home, due to a number of factors. Those factors included the weakened U.S. job market at the time and a rise in deportations, as well as decreasing birth rates in Mexico that led fewer people to cross the border in the first place.
“Instead, many of those entering the U.S. in recent years are coming from Central America. Last summer’s flood of migrants pushed immigration and border security to the fore, with almost 69,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the border in fiscal 2014. That was an increase from 39,000 in 2013 and 24,000 in 2012. Of those apprehended, 15,634 were Mexican. The most came from Honduras, at 18,244, followed by Guatemala with 17,057 and El Salvador at 16,404.
“Capps says fewer young people in Mexico are in a position to migrate, and additional U.S. resources dedicated to securing the border make it riskier to attempt the journey even if better economic opportunity lies on the other side.”
The rate at which Mexicans are moving to the US has been negative since 2008 in large part due to the economic conditions in both nations. With the continued expansion of manufacturing in México, it much easier for those individuals to find work at home. Yes, some of this is due to NAFTA*, but it is also due to trade agreements that México has with other nations. For example, Audi can build a SUV in México, ship it to Europe, and save $6000 in tariffs compared to if that same SUV was built in the US. That’s not even including the wage & benefits savings ($8/hr vs $30-60/hr in the US). Trump’s supporters are angry about that and want those jobs back, but let’s be honest. Low margin manufacturing requiring lots of manual labor is an endangered species in US and Europe alike. That is why those manufacturers are concentrating on high margin products and/or investing in more and more automation. IMHO, if things are to be outsourced, keep it on the same continent. It makes logistics, planning, and a host of other issues much simpler as well as strengthening immediate neighbors. * – it has been a net positive for all three countries despite the rhetoric by politicians in the US & Canada.
Trump’s rhetoric about building a wall is just a distraction. That won’t do a thing to prevent those that are driving or walking right through the existing official border crossings 24/7 right now. But claiming that he would make those crossings efficient, consistent, and meticulous as well as improving highway checkpoints away from the border isn’t flashy and not as appealing to his fans. Construction of it would be tied up in legal battles long after he was out of office anyway.
IMHO, his entire campaign is a distraction to keep any viable GOP candidate from emerging to face Clinton in the fall.
The only person Trump cares about is Trump. Just because he appeals to your racist/sexists views, doesn’t mean he’ll do anything in Washington to help you. He’ll be the next puppet of the GOP like Reagan and Dubya were if he gets elected (which any reasonable person is hoping won’t happen)
Perhaps the truth is that Americans, collectively, are not very bright? They have allowed a solid and extensive middle class to be plunged into economic insecurity by policies that favor the rich, they continually vote people into government who don’t want to do any actual governing (which is their job), and they harbor ludicrous fantasies about the rest of the world (e.g. that there’s more ‘freedom’ in the U.S. than in Europe, for example) that come from never knowing anything about anywhere else. Maybe a nation gets just the pizza it has ordered.
I would say “ignorant” rather than “not very bright”.
the worst are still the clinton supporters they think they are not supporting a republican
Thorough and insightful (though long!). If those who vote for Superman Trump or other lyin’ Republicans grasped this Kryptonite, the US might stand a better chance of becoming a fairer, more compassionate, genuine democracy.
Your story is very informative enjoyed it a lot. It got me thinking of all the different ways we keep each other down doing the work for the upper class. We have a system in place of keeping us occupied with constant bickering and never solving anything of importance (mostly equality in pay)! We fight over guns, marriage, health care, abortion, Democrat vs Republican, rich vs poor, But so seldom do we agree on anything. Which is ludicrous so many issues should be so easy. Should a person working 40 hours at Mcdonalds be able to pay rent and eat? Should a person working 40 hours have health care? Should every man woman and child have the same rights as others? How can any person on any side of the isle not say yes to all of the above? But people fight over these issues. Why?
As long as we are busy fighting with each other. Wal-Mart, Mcdonalds, and every other employer gets to keep doing business the way they like! And every politician keeps pushing the same old arguments while doing nothing for the people and getting his re-election money from the big company’s. And nobody notices!
But what about what happened in the 1920s? In 1924, Congress passed a law essentially halting all immigration – with Samuel Gompers, the George Washington of the American labor-union movement, leading the campaign to have it passed. Gompers wanted to create labor shortages that would drive up wages and give unions more bargaining power.
What happened? By 1926, unemployment was 1.9% – an all-time record low in peacetime – and everyone ran out and bought cars and radios, and wired up their homes with electricity and telephone service. And even when the Great Depression hit three years later, the lack of immigration prevented the economic carnage that would follow from being a lot worse than it actually was.
Donald Trump is reminiscent of Samuel Gompers: In all things economic, he is a Malthusian, not a Social Darwinist like Ronald Reagan – or Ted Cruz, whose goal of eliminating the IRS would necessarily lead to the income tax being replaced by a “head tax” in which everyone pays the identical dollar amount: The worker at Tyson’s pays $7,000 a year, Bill Gates pays $7,000 a year – the amount it would need to be in order to be revenue-neutral. Even a flat tax with no standard deduction or personal exemption would still need a discrete agency to administer it; Pennsylvania, which has such a state income tax, is living proof of this. Therefore the head tax is the far-right Republicans’ ultimate goal; by stark contrast, Donald Trump wants to lower the income tax rate to zero for all singles making less than $25,000 a year, and married couples making less than $50,000.
Thus Donald Trump is indeed a different breed of cat – so let him scratch out the eyes of the Ayn Rand crowd and win the GOP nomination. If you then don’t want to vote for him in November, fine. But the “damage” will have already been done.
The article would make some sense if Trump was drawing his support almost exclusively from poor white males, but that’s not the case. His polled support is extraordinarily broad — he draws almost equally from all demographics. This is one of the reasons why he has had so much success — one cannot assemble a racial/ethnic/gender coalition against him. His wide demographic spread does not support the author’s thesis.
I think that his broad support comes from his nationalism. Nationalism is a bad word on the left, but it shouldn’t be. His positions stand in sharp contrast to the rest of the Presidential field, all of whom are globalists. To avoid confusion, let me provide working definitions. A globalist is someone who seeks to balance the interests of their own country with the interests of the rest of the world. A nationalist is someone who seeks to put the interests of their own country ahead of the interests of the rest of the world. In many cases, advancing the interests of the rest of the world advances the interests of the United States as well, but the nationalist sees helping the rest of the world as a means to an end — advancing the interests of their own country.
Donald Trump is clearly a nationalist. That’s the primary source of his appeal.
His supporters know that companies are sending manufacturing jobs overseas, bringing in cheap imported foreign labor legally to replace them in the domestic workforce, and standing by while floods of illegal aliens self-import themselves to undercut their job opportunities. Trump promises to oppose all that and try to reverse it. Maybe that’s impossible, but maybe that isn’t. Trump says that our trade agreements are one-sided against us and are fueling the exodus of American jobs. His followers believe him, and he gains a lot of support from his promises to renegotiate our trade agreements to improve the value of American labor by American citizens in America.
Trump spends a lot of talk promising to build a wall. Yet if you read his policy papers he also talks about mandatory instant employment verification to make it virtually impossible for illegal aliens to get jobs with fraudulent paperwork. The latter would be a hundred times more effective than the wall, but doubling down on the wall is a sign of commitment to his supporters. He’s essentially promising to do something about illegal aliens financially undercutting the citizen labor force, and continuing to support the wall is how he signals to his supporters that he is serious about addressing the problem.
There are a few other key issues in which Trump clearly differentiates himself from the rest of the field. Opposition to TPP, opposition to Common Core, his call to defeat and destroy ISIS.
But to return to the article itself, this may be hard to accept, but no one cares about class in America except for leftists. America is full of people who see themselves not as members of a poor/working class. They see themselves instead as middle class people who are currently struggling. They hope to do better some day. They don’t hate rich people and don’t care to demonize them. They understand that in a free market rich people can become poor and poor people can become rich. They understand that it is Socialism that cements people into those classes. Socialism is all about keeping the rich people rich and keeping the poor people firmly in their place, while ostentatiously showering them with benefits and handouts that really came out of their own pockets.
The Trump phenomenon is really a throwback to the old-school American dream as opposed to the thin gruel of a compromise offered by the modern welfare state, where all the jobs disappear but you get a welfare check instead. Heck, what’s the difference? A check is a check? Trump’s supporters are the people who care about the difference, and that turns out to be a whole lot of people. People the author clearly doesn’t understand.
>>His positions stand in sharp contrast to the rest of the Presidential field, all of whom are globalists. << I don't see how you can possibly defend that statement in the case of Bernie Sanders. (Or are you referring only to the Republican hopefuls?)
What does your comment even mean? Sanders is the strongest critic of any candidate about neoliberal corporatist ‘free’ trade agreements and neocon war hawk military adventurism and the military-industrial complex.
What MY comment means is that I don’t see how it’s possible for the commenter to lump Bernie Sanders in with “the rest of the Presidential field [other than Trump], all of whom are globalists”.
I think I see what you mean now. I was confused when I first read your comment. Thanks for the clarification! It is so easy to misunderstand on the internet.
I mostly meant the Republicans, but since you brought up Bernie Sanders, I think that he would be such a weak President that he would be a functional globalist. To me, the defining moment of his candidacy was when two young BLM activists took the microphone away from him, he stepped away in confusion and a few days later his platform was bristling with BLM talking points. He was rolled so easily! If he can’t stand up to the bullies in his own party, how well could he stand up to the globalist Washington establishment?
Bernie Sanders is all about the economic equality aspect of socialism; He has nothing to offer poor whites but more welfare.
That’s another aspect that the author misses. Most the things that the author takes pride in — economic security, educational accomplishment — aren’t available to them. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have things they take pride in. One of the big things poor white people take pride in — when they can — is staying off welfare. Welfare is viewed as sort of like economic heroin. Once you’re on it, you’ll never get off, and you’ll spend the rest of your life doing nothing but waiting for the next fix. Welfare is considered a moral failure. Of course a lot of poor whites are on welfare, but they want a paycheck, not a welfare check. Sanders is a welfare pusher, and he doesn’t have their votes.
@sevenwheel – The racism in a comment like this just amazing. This is what keeps Americans divided.
“To me, the defining moment of his candidacy was when two young BLM activists took the microphone away from him, he stepped away in confusion and a few days later his platform was bristling with BLM talking points. He was rolled so easily! If he can’t stand up to the bullies in his own party, how well could he stand up to the globalist Washington establishment?”
The underlying distaste you feel is that Sanders, a white politician, chose to listen to rather than shut down the voices of blacks. What he did is what democracy is about. Politicians are supposed to represent us. You see the world in terms of power. Either a politician is bullied by others or he becomes a bully himself, which I assume is probably why you support Trump who is the ultimate bully. But you must realize not everyone sees the world that way.
“Bernie Sanders is all about the economic equality aspect of socialism; He has nothing to offer poor whites but more welfare.”
Sanders isn’t really a socialist in how most socialists mean it. He is only a socialist in the oldest sense of the word, as a social reformer. He isn’t as far left as FDR New Deal Progressivism or Milwaukee Sewer Socialism, much less authoritarian communism. His politics are rather moderate in comparison. He is a standard moderate liberal and only seems radical because the political spectrum has shifted so far right.
If you look at Sanders’ political record and his campaign platform, you’d know that he is concerned about far more than welfare.
He talks about many of the same things as Trump, such as the problems of ‘free’ trade agreements. Sanders is also a supporter of gun rights and, in a debate with Clinton, even defended corporations that make guns—as I said, not exactly what most people mean by ‘socialism’. He wants to help get the economy back to where it creates opportunities for all Americans, such that they don’t need welfare.
Even on immigration, he is a moderate. He has no desire to simply open the borders, as he has voiced concern that immigration can be used as a way of driving down wages. But neither is he one to use immigrants as scapegoats for problems of American capitalism.
“Most the things that the author takes pride in — economic security, educational accomplishment — aren’t available to them. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have things they take pride in.”
You act like this is only about white people.
I’m sure the author realizes what is available to her and not others. As she explained, she has been on the low end of the income scale before. She knows what it’s like. She also knows that poor blacks deal with the same problems as poor whites, only worse than poor whites.
Generations of racism and white affirmative action have taken their toll on the black community, which sadly too few whites understand. Even so, just because blacks experience far worse poverty than even poor whites, it doesn’t mean “they don’t have things they take pride in.”
“One of the big things poor white people take pride in — when they can — is staying off welfare.”
One of the big things poor black people take pride in—when they can—is staying off welfare. Only a racist would think that this is a trait limited to whites.
Even if we are to make it racial, your argument is proven false. Explain why most welfare recipients are white. And explain why a greater percentage of poor whites are on welfare than the percentage of poor blacks. If poor white people take so much pride in staying off welfare, why are they more prone to being on welfare than almost any other demographic?
“Welfare is viewed as sort of like economic heroin. Once you’re on it, you’ll never get off, and you’ll spend the rest of your life doing nothing but waiting for the next fix.”
This is severely uninformed and misinformed. There are two basic facts about welfare recipients. Most of them are employed, not unemployed. And most of them are only on welfare temporarily. Few people need welfare permanently. Even for those who do need welfare permanently, our laws are set up to make it hard for many people to maintain long-term benefits.
“Welfare is considered a moral failure. Of course a lot of poor whites are on welfare, but they want a paycheck, not a welfare check.”
Almost everyone of all races wants the respect of supporting themselves and their families. But in many communities, there simply are few jobs available. And many jobs available don’t pay a living wage. The conundrum we have created is that so many jobs don’t pay enough to allow someone to pay their bills, buy food, keep a roof over their head, and maybe maintain a car. And if they take a job, they might not be able to get welfare benefits. People have to be desperately poor before welfare kicks in.
“Sanders is a welfare pusher, and he doesn’t have their votes.”
That is false. Sanders is the candidate that gets the strongest support from low income people.
Even Trump doesn’t get as strong of support, as his supporters are disproportionately lower middle class. The fact of the matter is most poor people, including poor whites, don’t feel like the political system represents them. They aren’t any more duped by Trump than they are by Clinton.
This is why so many of them have turned to Sanders.
“Writing for In These Times, author Jack Metzgar notes that the basis for this assumed white working-class support for Trump is his popularity among Republican voters who lack a college degree, who have indeed preferred him to the other Republicans in the race. “Among all adult whites,” however, “nearly 70 percent do not have bachelor’s degrees,” the definition of working class used by pundits. One recent survey found that 55 percent of this group support Trump, meaning “the white working-class is under-represented among Trump supporters,” Metzgar observes, which means “his supporters are disproportionately college-educated whites.”
“This becomes clear when one takes a step back from the tiny weird world of the U.S. right and looks at the electorate as a whole. In a general election, polls Sanders would not only beat Trump but destroy him: Reuters currently has him up by nearly 10 per cent overall, and that with far less media coverage. Among white voters in particular, Sanders’ margin of victory in the most recent poll does drop to just under 5 per cent — but among white voters who make less than US$25,000 a year, his margin of victory actually grows to 15 per cent. Among unemployed white voters, that number rises to 16 per cent. Practically no one who isn’t white is voting for Donald Trump.
“Commentators are right, then, to believe the Trump phenomenon is a white people problem — it’s just the data shows it’s not working-class whites who are the heart of this problem. […]
“Writing in the New York Times last November, ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis cited data from the Pew Research Center showing that a majority of “likely nonvoters,” the majority of whom are white, are both less wealthy and more liberal than voters, thinking “aid to the poor” does more good than bad, for instance, while the average voter thinks the opposite.
“That non-voters are non-voters speaks to the fact that the U.S. political system of representative democracy does not represent a good number of the people ostensibly being represented. The encouraging news is that most of these people have not turned to Donald Trump’s brand of revanchist proto-fascism; the question is whether, beyond pandering, there will come a time when the U.S.’s two-party democracy offers 120-some million U.S. citizens an option more enticing than a night in.
“In the meantime, solace: The ugly, dumb xenophobes and actual Nazis supporting Trump are older than the U.S. population as a whole — the demographic threat, in other words, will soon take care of itself. By 2045 mega-racist whites will, one hopes, be a minority of what for sure will no longer be the racial majority in the United States, border wall or not. May we all live to see it.”
The article is not called “I Know the Reason Each And Every Trump Supporter Supports Him.”
The author is answering a question many people have raised in the past as well as now. Why are so many poor white people supporting a political party and candidate who doesn’t have any interest in policies that would truly lift them out of poverty?
She never purported to understand ALL the idiots supporting him.
Bea M – maybe it’s because they don’t like handouts or socialism given to individuals (or corporations and don’t start telling me that infrastructure is socialism, that’s not what I’m talking about). Maybe they want opportunities brought in by more and better paying jobs instead of free stuff, which is just keeping them down.
There are more poor whites than poor blacks. There are more whites than blacks receiving welfare. In fact, a larger percentage of whites than blacks receive welfare. Poor whites also defend social security and medicare. They just don’t see all of these government benefits as “free stuff,” except when it goes to people that don’t look like them in which case it’s “socialism.” Most everyone would rather have a good job than welfare, but when you have no other choice (i.e., employment rates are high) poor whites like any other poor person will gladly take a handout and a help up.
Social Security in particular is considered to be an exception. You pay into that. Even though most people’s benefits far outstrip their pay-ins, they paid in with every paycheck so it isn’t considered free stuff.
@sevenwheel – “Social Security in particular is considered to be an exception.”
I agree that Social Security is an exception. But what about Medicare and welfare? Even Tea Partiers and Trump supporters defend Medicare. And, as I pointed out, poor whites form the largest group of welfare recipients—both in terms of total number and percentage.
“You pay into that. Even though most people’s benefits far outstrip their pay-ins, they paid in with every paycheck so it isn’t considered free stuff.”
That demonstrates that, for most people, Social Security acts as a form of welfare. For those who get more out of it than they put into it, that extra amount they are getting is “free stuff.” We should have the honesty to admit that.
It doesn’t bother me that those who need help get the help they need. But apparently others have a problem with this, at least when it is helping others who are different than them. I see that as problematic, not to mention hypocritical.
What a beautful, thoughtful piece of writing. Thank you. I found it on FB as a recommended read to this one: http://www.salon.com/2016/04/01/uh_oh_where_does_all_the_white_rage_go_when_donald_trump_loses/
I wonder what will happen.
This is the best piece I have ever read on the issues of class and politics. Very well done.
Jonna…thank you for an exceptional perspective on how we are divided by class and how it developed. Your experience is a Southern one…I grew up in the North and the bogeymen were a bit different (the Irish..the Italians…the Jews…whatever). In reading the comments, it seems to me that Lee Atwater and Rush Limbaugh have been successful….we cannot seem able to view issues in any other context that Liberal vs. Conservative. And as long as that’s the case, we’ll fall for each diversion that’s tossed our way (e.g. same sex marriage)
Since the first English colony, Jamestown, was not founded until 1607, there was hardly time before the first Africans were brought over in 1619 for wealthy plantation owners who used indentured servants to exist. If you read enough about Jamestown in its first years, it was more a hard scramble for survival, not Miss Scarlett with her iced tea on the veranda of Tara.
There is so much I want to write, to say, but I think you pretty much captured what it’s like. This is how I grew up, and sadly how I’ve lived most of my life (due to a number of issues that would take pages). Thank you. I only wish that more would read this.
The article is worded in such a way to make the reader think that the Jamestown settlement was well-established by 1619, when in fact even ‘fledgling’ would be optimistic. It was African slave labor which enabled the colony to actually take hold. Only then were the colonist in a position to bring over indentured servants.
Indentured Servants were at the bottom of the class system, remnants of which persist in the South to this day. They are the forebears of ‘po white trash’. First there was the wealthy land-owner class, beneath them the slaves, and at the bottom the indentured servants. They were for the most part criminals given a choice between the gallows and deportation, the original Eurotrash. If you’re a land-owner who are you going to treat better: the slave for whom you paid 20 gold guineas (a fortune) and who own outright, or the servant who you owned only for the period of indenture (usually 7 or 10 years)? Most did not survive the term of their indenture.
Actually, slaves were rare in early Virginia. And, because a slaves were expensive, they were probably most often kept as personal servants—not general laborers. Most labor was done by indentured servants for the simple reason it was the only common form of worker around.
Even most blacks would have been indentured servants at first. Slavery wasn’t initially seen as racialized institution. It was only after a rebellion of white and black indentured servants that the ruling elite decided to separate the races in order to divide them and so prevent another rebellion.
It’s true that earliest indentured servants didn’t tend to live long. But then again no one in early Virginia tended to live long. It was a violent place where disease and starvation were common.
Later on when the colony was better established, indentured servants did live long enough to see freedom. Indentured servitude was considered a respectable way of getting trained in a trade. Benjamin Franklin was indentured as a child in order to learn printing.
By the way, it is hard to argue that most poor whites were treated worse than slaves. There were laws that protected and gave rights to poor whites. A slave owner could beat a slave to death, if they wanted to, and no one would think twice about it. Many slaves were horribly tortured. You can cause great harm to a person (brutal whipping, hobbling, or chopping off minor body parts) while leaving them still able to do manual labor.
That isn’t to say poor whites had easy lives. But, come on, have some perspective. No rational person would choose slavery over poverty.
So far the comments and the article have been rather good. This one, however, I had to reply to.
So much of the “whites had it better” has been ignoring a large chunk of American history–yes, the slaves had it terrible and no reasonably intelligent person will even begin to argue that–but the entire narrative loses credibility when it forgets the horrible, inhumane, and torturous treatment of the Irish and Chinese immigrants who were forced into slavery on the railroads.
And that’s precisely what it was. There was promise of a better life, but the workers on the railroads were often not paid–not even allowed to bury their dead because it would slow progress–far from the romanticized version of history shown in drama, novels, or television shows such as Hell on Wheels. And there was no governmental oversight. Execution was legitimized with thinly veiled “crimes”, disease and starvation were rampant, and it was all acceptable to the elite because until the middle of the 20th century, Asians and Irish folk were considered “abhuman”–there’s a particularly hateful flyer from the early 1900s titled “The Albino Nigger”, which extolled the horrible nature of the Irish immigrant.
The point is, no movement involving the subjugation of the poor can call itself credible unless it points out the hurts caused to ALL of those historically involved. And this holds true for both sides–the “ethnic violence” crowd has no leg to stand on when referencing only the minority community either (for that matter, using the term minority loses its value when it only applies to skin pigment, but that’s another rant for another time). My people, Irish Americans, were involved in just as many “terrible criminal acts” for -quite- some time; but the elite don’t give a damn because it doesn’t support their efforts to divide the American citizenry.
The sad part is that the self-centric view (not self-centered, though the line blurs frequently) of the American citizen makes it far easier to instill an Us vs. Them mindset than in many other cultures; and this runs the spectrum from skin tone to sexuality and even leisure activities.
I honestly don’t understand the point you’re getting at, in relation to my comment. I assume you’re criticizing what I wrote, but it leaves me a bit confused. Are you interpreting my comment as somehow divisive or inaccurate? That certainly wasn’t my intention.
As far as I can tell, I agree with your basic message. I doubt you’re saying anything that most people don’t already know, although it’s possible there is more lack of knowledge on this topic than I realize. Anyhow, being poor has always sucked no matter one’s race or ethnicity. Most people probably have some basic understanding of that, not to say there aren’t plenty of middle-to-upper class people who have no idea what poverty is like.
I’ve never argued that being a white indentured servant or Chinese railroad worker was a life of luxury. My only point was that it was better than slavery. It’s a simple factual point, but important. Anyway, it’s not as if suffering is a contest about who suffered more. Still, any sane and rational person given a choice between indentured service and slavery wouldn’t likely choose the latter.
I’d make clear one issue. There was great diversity in the history of indentured servants. It changed greatly over the centuries. After feudalism ended and British imperialism came to power, there was a period when the fate of indentured servants was often horrific. But in the following centuries, it became a more normal part of society and the treatment of indentured servants improved vastly. It wasn’t unusual for parents to indenture their kids to learn a trade and in most cases such as these the children lived to know freedom in which to work the trade they learned.
The problem of ethnic conflict is a different issue. Being a poor Irish-American or Chinese-American in past centuries was challenging, to say the least. Then again, being a poor Anglo-American wasn’t necessarily better. Class often trumped all else. The English and Anglo-American ruling elite had no problem sentencing to death, imprisoning, and indenturing large numbers of the poor English population.
Most of my ancestors were early ethnic immigrants. Quite a few of them were poor. My mom’s family has been part of the working poor for as far back as I can figure, based on genealogical research. My mom raised me with working class values. I wouldn’t exactly consider myself poor these days. But I have at times in the past lived below the poverty line. And I’m still not that far above poverty. It would only take one major economic problem and life could get very tough for me. I’m far from being a comfortable middle class white liberal. I don’t even have a college degree.
In various comments here, I’ve mentioned some of this. I’ve said I hold nothing against poor whites. I think I even pointed out that, compared to all other candidates, Sanders has the strongest support among low income Americans. More poor whites support Sanders than Trump. I’ve never been for divisive politics. That is why I despise partisan politics. The only reason I support Sanders is to help change the narrative.
I get the sense that you were assuming I was a well off white liberal who knows nothing about poverty. But you have to understand that many liberals aren’t particularly wealthy. And even many liberals who do manage to do better in life didn’t necessarily start that way. There is a large part of the population that is the first generation to go to college, having grown up in working class towns and farming communities.
It’s best not to generalize too much about groups of people. The economy has been hitting hard across many demographics. I have friends with college degrees who have working class jobs (bus driver, baker, etc) or who are unemployed. Lower income Americans these days don’t necessarily fit the stereotype of working poor.
Honestly, you fell victim to a tactical nuclear rant.
Lately I’ve been fielding a lot of white privilege rants from well-to-do college kids in the college town who know nothing about me or my family history–most of my family didn’t even come over from Europe until the 20th century and started off under the shadow of Irish hate–and I let go. The same kids actually do not know the history of persecution against the poor of any race–certainly they were unfamiliar with the lynchings that occurred against the Asian and Irish communities at the time–and chant “racist bigot” when you mention anything that goes against their worldviews.
I’ve had less than positive experiences with welfare, when I was married I made little enough that we were stuck on SNAP, and they made it hell to keep the benefits (a disadvantage of living in a red state)–and we didn’t qualify for health care. My ex wife has thyroid cancer, survivable but it really brings in medical bills like nobody’s business; most of my income went towards medication and doctor’s appointments.
“Well you have a computer so you must be well off!” No, not really. My computer was cobbled together from second hand parts given to me by friends who had money to build their own systems. I remember being proud when I was finally able to buy my monitor after saving up what I could–it was on sale–and yet it went towards the image that I was somehow gaming the system.
You just managed to catch the brunt of a couple years of being shit on by kids who have never known what it’s like to skip meals while working a shitty job. I apologize for the snappish response.
That’s fine. I didn’t take it personal. I just was confused about what bothered you. But now I understand where you’re coming from.
I don’t deny there are plenty of uninformed and misinformed people. I’ve been known to complain about the pervasive ignorance in the world. And ignorance isn’t necessarily an issue of lacking formal higher education.
I’m sorry for your life’s troubles. I’ve been fortunate in many ways. I struggle with depression. Even though it sucks big time, it doesn’t come with the massive medical bills of many health conditions. I get by.
I’ve never been on welfare myself. It’s not out of principle or anything. It’s just that I live alone and have always managed to stay employed, even if I wasn’t always making much. I do know what it’s like, though, to skip meals when money runs low. There was a period of my life where I was starting to look a bit gaunt.
I worry about the problems we all face in this society. I worry it might get far worse before it gets better. Thinking about it doesn’t help lift me out of depression, that is for sure.
“We all get the bigger oligarchic threat, that there is this group of people out there who really don’t give a shit about us. The longer we stay ‘left’ or ‘right,’ and fail to recognize that we need each other, the longer we’ll stay peasants.” – Tim Slekar
This is one of the best and most cogent articles I have ever read. Thank you so much for writing it. I particularly appreciate you having represented the perspective of a working class white person. We too often don’t get to hear that perspective except in trite sound bites about government being the enemy or “takers” and “moochers” ruining America. I have often yearned for an intelligent white working class perspective on how the Republican and Democratic elites are killing the middle and working classes. Your piece is so powerful and factual. I wonder whether working class whites will read it. There is another set of data that I want to offer you in addition to the incredible Martin Gilens data. You may already be aware but I feel that it aligns perfectly with your argument. Angus Deaton and Anne Case, also of Princeton have published white working class mortality data showing a dramatic increase in death rates for poorly educated white Americans. The causes of death are still being explored but it appears that many of these deaths are being driven by drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. The root causes may be a profound despair that has overtaken white working class America as they recognize that the American Dream has become unattainable. Raj Chetty’s data (Stanford) shows that social mobility in America is quite low and has been low for some time. He argues that if you want the American Dream you are better off moving to Canada (twice the social mobility of the U.S.). Finally, the Washington Post published data on the Republican primary that shows that those counties with the highest white working class mortality had the highest support for Trump.
Something is happening in white America that seems quite unprecedented. Perhaps due to the lack of well-honed critical thinking skills, white working class frustration has identified Undocumented immigrants, Muslims and blacks as their enemies and thus are looking to Trump as their spokesperson rather than Bernie despite Bernie’s offer of clear and relevant policy solutions. Your article brilliantly portrayed their reality with the Tyson chicken story and perhaps the fervent anti-Muslim sentiment comes from having their sons and brothers sent to seemingly endless wars in the Middle East where Muslims have been enemies (and allies). They blindly blame Muslims for the deaths, maimings, brain injuries, and PTSD of their family members rather than being able to critically assess US war policy.
Anyhow, please keep writing! Yours is a coherent, empathetic, cogent, and timely voice in this nation’s public discourse. Your piece is the best thing I have read in years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Our daughters and sisters are also being sent to wars…please don’t forget about their sacrifices as well!
Terrific reply, Tony – I’m so excited to have found an article like Jonna Ivin’s and thoughtful responses in the thread! We can hope, right?
“Something is happening in white America that seems quite unprecedented. ”
Not unprecedented at all. What’s going on in white America is something which has been prevalent for decades, if not centuries.
Today it’s undocumented immigrants (almost exclusively ones which are of a different racial or ethnic background than the white majority), Muslims, and blacks that are being branded the enemies of the white working class (and, somehow, by extension, all of America). Yet it wasn’t all that long ago that it was Communism that was the big boogeyman. Tens of thousands of middle and lower class white men died in Vietnam and Korea as a result. Before that there were many other groups which wealthy conservatives used to distract and scare the masses, like less desirable white immigrants (not just the undocumented ones) such as the Jews, Italians, and Irish. Before that it was Mexico, Native Americans, Mormons, and Catholics. All the way back to our first national boogeyman, the British Empire. And blacks have been a consistent one for most of our history.
All of it is from the exact same playbook, the one rich white conservatives in America have always used to guard and augment their power and wealth – they keep everybody else busy and distracted by pointing at an outside threat, an “other.” Meanwhile they grow in power and profit on the conflict which inevitably ensues. It’s basically their trademark – after all, what’s a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives? When facing national problems, liberals ask: What is wrong with “us?” Conservatives ask: What is wrong with “them?”
By “unprecedented” I was referring to the sudden increase in white working class mortality rates. Between 1990 and 2012 there has been a steady increase in white death rates among people with a high school education or less. This is happening while black and Latino death rates are decreasing. The causes of death are suicide, alcohol-related liver disease, and overdose, among others. This is unprecedented. See the work of Anne Case and Angus Deaton, also Steven Woolf’s 2013 Institute of Medicine report “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health”. What is happening to white health in this country is unprecedented and seems to correlate with the rise of Trumpism- See Washington Post bi variate county-level correlations between Trump primary support and white mortality.
Thank you for a wonderful article.
I do think the plug for Sanders at the end was unnecessary and kind put me off and will ultimately date this essay which should be timeless. Still think it’s well done.
JFK, RFK, MLK, all fell victim to right wing propaganda, backed by the wealthy elite.
The wealthy elite, and their stooges, the Republicans, have assassinated all those of influence who were committed to economic equality.
Brilliant piece. You should not feel so self-conscious about your lack of a formal education. You write very well. I have a formal education, so I’m not just talking out my ass.
Thought Obama was taking care of all this past stuff! that is how this fool was elected people wanted more and more stuff from the working class. Take all the elites money and you people will still not be rich.
People want to be done right by. Is that so bad?
You are either unable to digest and internalize the data provided in this article, have not read it or prefer to remain ignorant in the face of facts that counter your current belief system. No one is asking for ‘free stuff’. We are simply asking that we no longer allow the rich (who in many cases got that way from getting ‘free stuff’) to divide the poor and turn them on each other in an overt attempt to keep them from looking for the root cause of their suffering – the moneyed organized few expending every available resource to maintain power and wealth. If you think the wealth of the middle class is going to the needy you are ignoring practical mountains of data showing that as patently false. The tax policies from Reagan forward (Clinton managed to push the pendulum backwards a bit but W undid (and Obama perpetuated) all of that) have overtly moved the middle class wealth upwards (don’t worry it will trickle down someday) to the elite 1% (in fact recent data notes that even the 1% are now complaining about getting screwed by the .01%).
As a person from poor white roots, I struggle when I hear poor shaming poor and then turning around and kau tau to their oppressors. I strain to find compassion for those who kick down and kiss up. Please wake up to the fact that those on your own economic rung do not cause your fiscal suffering! They have no motivation (and no power) to keep you down.
This mentality is reminiscent of that of fascist Eastern Europeans. Envious, angry, arrogant and spiteful. The Nazis rolled in and found plenty of collaborators. The Communist hypocrites killed most of them, probably one of their better actions actually.
Anyways… There is an old joke about these people and a magic genie. A genie appears and tells the Slovak communist and fascist they will each get a wish, but the other will get twice as much. The communist wishes for 100 bars of gold. The fascist wishes for one of his eyes to be taken. The same might as well apply here.
Jonna – awesome piece. Thank you! Having grown up in Texas in a solidly middle class family that was just a couple generations removed from share-croppers. Again, really great writing, story, and thesis.
It also really got me thinking about how this election can become a significant inflection point, rather than just a couple sentences in a future history book. Isn’t there a portion of Trump’s base that Sander’s “vision” should appeal to, and how does Sanders connect with that group? What’s the story Sanders should be delivering to that demographic now, and how can he reach them? Seems like there is a huge opportunity here to reshape politics and break the back of the odious Republican dog whistle scam that’s gone on for too long.
I don’t think Sanders necessarily has to do anything to reach many of them. I’ve heard many Trump supporters say that, if Trump doesn’t get nominated and Sanders does, they’ll vote for Sanders. Most of the main issues of Trump, such as free trade, are also the main issues of Sanders. Trump isn’t appealing to stalwart Republicans. This isn’t the Republican base and so they have no loyalty to the party. The same goes for Sanders and the Democratic party. Everything is up in the air and partisan politics for once isn’t dominating.
Jonna…..a very well written, well researched article. But one thing is missing: you never truly spoke Blue Collar. It is a linguistically different language from Middle Class Bourgeois American English. It is a culture within a culture, a place with its own mores and loyalties. You kind of missed, and somewhat misinterpreted these things as you explained all the social, cultural, economic and political factors that have impacted the Blue Collar Class for the past, oh, what is, it, 150 plus years. It’s simply because you, and so many others who’ve written analyses to explain what’s going on with Trump supporters, don’t speak the language to really understand, deeply and in your heart, what’s going on with the Blue Collar folks who support Trump. No one look it at it from above can know it, truly, because you simply do not live there.
“No one look it at it from above can know it, truly, because you simply do not live there.”
That is a strange comment. The author explained that she did live there. She was speaking from experience. If you don’t trust her, you could read Joe Bageant. He said similar things about the people in his own hometown.
Very good article but it falls apart at the end when you bring up Bernie Sanders. You did such as great job of talking about the history of the great racial divide between Blacks and poor whites but you seem to almost give Bernie a pass on this. He speaks to poor whites but at the expense of talking about racial justice and unity. He needs to real talk poor whites and help them understand Blacks will no longer carry the water for them. You want income equality we want racial equality….after all everyone moving up the ladder still keeps those that look like me on the bottom rung….Bernie’s revolution needs to involve how white privilege will be dismantled…then maybe more PoC will be interested in his revolution.
Bernie has a far longer and more beneficial history with people of color than Hillary Clinton. He protested racial segregation on his college campus by chaining himself to a black woman so they could not be separated, and was arrested for it. This was in 1962. In 1964 Hillary Clinton campaigned for Senator Barry Goldwater whose platform included repealing the Civil Rights Act. That is enough to dismiss her as a better candidate on minority issues.
Likewise, Bernie heavily criticized the Violent Crime bill passed under President Clinton, even though he voted for it because his own constituents demanded he vote for it because of the Violence Against Women provision that helped women’s groups protect women from domestic violence. Despite this he heavily criticized the bill and called out all of the negative effects, including that it would provide a financial incentive to arrest people of color and drum up ridiculous drug possession charges.
Bernie’s platform includes ending prisons for profit (which donate to the Clinton campaign) as well as investing money back into inner cities that only exist because of racist housing policies. He believes that even poor black/minority communities should have schools that are as funded as schools in richer neighborhoods. He believes in investing in a youth jobs program to help young blacks/minorities who face unemployment not have to turn to crime in order to take care of themselves and their families. He believes in decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level so that blacks/minorities who are disproportionately effected by the drug law regarding marijuana won’t have to worry about gaining a federal record for having it.
Free tuition at public colleges and universities would help members of black/minority communities break free from a cycle of poverty and begin a journey toward the middle class.
His platform and goals are far better for racial equality than any other candidate. He has the most detailed and humane plan for fixing this issue. I would urge you to support him.
Bernie Sanders has a longer history, period. He’s five years older than Hillary Clinton.
When Bernie Sanders was arrested protesting for civil rights in 1963, Hillary Rodham was a senior in high school. Barack Obama was still in diapers.
Hillary was an 18 year old college freshman when she supported Goldwater in 1964 (she was too young to actually vote for him). She had grown up in a Republican family in the northern suburbs of Chicago and this was what she saw as civic involvement. By 1968, when she was 22—the same age Bernie Sanders was when he was arrested—she had become a Democrat and supported Eugene McCarthy.
It’s not just that he is older. He really isn’t that much older than Clinton, just a few years. The actual difference is what they both have done over that period of time. Sanders has a great political record and Clinton doesn’t, even if you eliminate the few years before Clinton got into politics.
I’m not sure I understand your point. Because Bernie has been in politics longer means he’s more qualified to be president? Hillary’s youthful political leanings have nothing whatsoever to do with her long-standing record as a committed Democrat. As far as her résumé’, some would argue she is the most intellectually qualified candidate since, well, her hubby. Certainly the most scrutinized. I have to wonder how many people could withstand such microscopic personal scrutiny over such a sustainable time. I’m not excusing her personal indiscretions and political missteps, but she has been treated like a criminal since 1992. And creating a lot of smoke is what republicans do best.
It’s not a matter just of having been in politics a long time. The point is that creates a long political record upon which to judge a candidate. Sanders has a proven record. He doesn’t just talk but has lived by his principles, both in his actions as a private citizen and as a politician. Someone like Clinton can’t claim to have done much that is principled in her entire life, and she too has a long enough political record to demonstrate this. It goes far beyond a few missteps, as anyone knows who has looked at her political record and its consequences.
Mr. Steele, your incessant need to lecture almost even respondent notwithstanding, I am very aware Hilary’s long record. For you to say, “Someone like Clinton can’t claim to have done much that is principled in her entire life,” is just a ridiculously simplified dig and just flat wrong. For someone who works very hard their entire life for democratic ideals, and who might be just a little too moderate for your taste, I think you know that was an over the top remark. I’m not sure how many times she has apologized for the Iraq vote, but it is clear that she was certainly stuck between a rock and hard spot being the actual senator from the actual center of all the attention, NYC. In the context of the time, it would’ve been political suicide for the good senator from NYC to vote against the war in Iraq. Much more of a different story for an independent from Vermont, isn’t it? Especially for a populist who tends to feel the overall numbers of the people’s opinions do matter.
Having said that, I do agree with most of your posts, and I like you. You are usually spot on with your comments and I enjoy your posts. But please don’t let your fervent support for Bernie and the need to jump on every post override some basic point like I was making, which was really about her intelligence and qualifications. Far more than the last two POTUS’ to be sure.
And I like Bernie, a lot. But it is certain I will vote for the democrat. I would hope you feel the same, that either would be a far cry better than any of the feckless blowhards on the Rep. side.
I am sorry sir, but in this case you are simply wrong. Hillary is very much a moderate, and her record and rhetoric reflects that.
I can see however, you are one of those people that will argue the point forever with pages of commentary and if I were younger and more energetic I’d argue those points. But I’ve grown weary of this kind of agreeing to disagree over what amounts to basically political minutia. I suppose my point is that those that mostly agree with you on the main points, vote in a like-minded way, don’t always require a detailed dissenting opinion that basically causes a wider devide which does nothing but separate you from the other, rather than coming together for the betterment of us all. This is why the democrats struggle to get together, arguing minute details over points they really tend to agree on.
You’ve done a lot of answering and correcting on this thread and that is your right I suppose. I just wish you’d direct your attention to the people who largely disagree with you and focus more energy on the strong opposing opinions. That is where your light shines the brightest. Not on scoring small little points with those with which you may agree more than dissent.
That is more like trolling than just responding in kind.
@Rand – Clinton isn’t moderate. Sanders is a moderate or what used to go for a moderate before the Clinton New Democrats helped pushed the spectrum so far right. What Clinton is is a corporatist neoliberal and tough-on-crime, war hawk neocon. I don’t consider that moderate nor do most Americans. It isn’t just about a single vote, such as on the Iraq War. It has been a long history of supporting policies like that, policies that have harmed millions of people at home and abroad. I’m actually not a fervent Sanders supporter any more than I’m a partisan Democrat. I’m way more of an independent than is Sanders. I support him because, as a progressive liberal, Sanders is the only major candidate who is a progressive liberal. It really is that simple. But otherwise he is too moderate for my taste, as he still is a professional politician. Sanders wouldn’t be able or willing to challenge the status quo to the degree a genuine political outsider could do. Still, he can help to stop the rightward shift of the entire political spectrum, which would be no small achievement. More than anything, I support that Sanders is opening up debate, even so much as to force Clinton to have to talk about issues she’d rather ignore, even if almost everything she spews is spin and lies.
@Rand- “I am sorry sir, but in this case you are simply wrong. Hillary is very much a moderate, and her record and rhetoric reflects that.”
I’d be open to you backing that argument with evidence, if you can.
I have looked at her record in a fair amount of detail. In the past or present, she has been involved in or supported: cutting welfare, resistant to raising the minimum wage, tough-on-crime policies, mass incarceration, private prisons, wars of aggression, toppling governments, corporatist ‘free’ trade deals, corporate subsidies, bank bailouts, big money in politics, being against same sex marriage, etc.
Of course, she changes her opinion and rhetoric with the changing winds. She’ll eventually come around to many positions, if you give her enough time, even though it might take decades
Is that ‘moderate’? If so, moderate compared to what? Do you mean moderate compared to other DC professional politicians, monied elite, and those in the mainstream media?
Certainly, she isn’t moderate compared to most Americans, as shown by vast amounts of polling and survey data. On a wide variety of major issues, most Americans are somewhere between moderately liberal to surprisingly far left.
“I can see however, you are one of those people that will argue the point forever with pages of commentary and if I were younger and more energetic I’d argue those points. But I’ve grown weary of this kind of agreeing to disagree over what amounts to basically political minutia.”
This isn’t political minutia. It’s an important fact that majority opinion in our society is silenced in mainstream media and goes unrepresented in mainstream politics. Furthermore, it is sad and frustrating that most Americans don’t even realize any of this. But it’s understandable. Most major politicians and pundits aren’t going to inform them.
“I suppose my point is that those that mostly agree with you on the main points, vote in a like-minded way, don’t always require a detailed dissenting opinion that basically causes a wider devide which does nothing but separate you from the other, rather than coming together for the betterment of us all. This is why the democrats struggle to get together, arguing minute details over points they really tend to agree on.”
The problem is the data shows that the Democratic party, like the Republican party, is disconnected from the American public. Research has shown that money determines what politicians do, not Americans coming together in noble compromise.
“You’ve done a lot of answering and correcting on this thread and that is your right I suppose. I just wish you’d direct your attention to the people who largely disagree with you and focus more energy on the strong opposing opinions. That is where your light shines the brightest. Not on scoring small little points with those with which you may agree more than dissent.”
I don’t care about scoring little points. What you call little, I see as the hinge of our entire democracy. If we fail on this account, we continue down the road of a banana republic.
“That is more like trolling than just responding in kind.”
I realize that many people find these issues challenging and uncomfortable. It means our problems are larger than just the next election. These are systemic and structural problems. I understand the response of dismissing the messenger, instead of listening to the message.
But if you would like to learn more about this, there are a number of books you could read:
Listen, Liberal by Thomas Frank
Disconnect by Morris P. Fiorina & Samuel J. Abrams
Culture War? by Morris P. Fiorina & Samuel J. Abrams
Affluence and Influence by Martin Gilens
Why Americans Hate Welfare by Martin Gilens
Winner-Take-All Politics by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson
Unequal Democracy by Larry M. Bartels
Representing the Advantaged by Daniel M. Butler
White-Collar Government by Nicholas Carnes
Who Governs? by James N. Druckman & Lawrence R. Jacobs
The Unheavenly Chorus by Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, & Henry E. Brady
Plutocrats United by Richard L. Hasen
Nation on the Take by Wendell Potter
Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer & Nick Penniman
The Impression of Influence by Justin Grimmer, Sean J. Westwood & Solomon Messing
The Age of Acquiescence by Steve Fraser
How Partisan Media Polarize America by Matthew Levendusky
I’ve written about some of these topics over the years and also about public opinion:
“I can see however, you are one of those people that will argue the point forever with pages of commentary and if I were younger and more energetic I’d argue those points. But I’ve grown weary of this kind of agreeing to disagree over what amounts to basically political minutia.”
Your honor, I rest my case.
@Rand – “Your honor, I rest my case.”
You seem to be stuck in a particular combative, polarized frame. There is no judge here to declare one of us the winner and the other the loser. This isn’t a trial and there is no case to be rested.
Let me share some examples of your earlier statements. And I’ll respond to them.
“But please don’t let your fervent support for Bernie and the need to jump on every post override some basic point like I was making”
I don’t have fervent support for Sanders. I’ve never been that way about either candidates or parties. I don’t care about either Sanders or Clinton as people. I particularly don’t care that they both happen to be running as Democrats. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not on team Democrat. I don’t blindly follow partisan groupthink in a lockstep manner.
What I care about is truth, democracy, justice, etc. I don’t have a team I’m fighting for other than the team that is my own country. I don’t consider as enemies to be defeated those who are conservatives, Republicans, poor whites, or anyone who isn’t like me. I’m a liberal, but I was raised by conservatives and spent part of my youth in the conservative Deep South. I’m not a dirt poor rural white person, but I have known poverty and struggle.
The people who support Trump aren’t my enemy. They are Americans like me who are trying to navigate a political and economic system that is rigged against them. I have no interest in joining your team to ensure the Democrats win no matter what. I don’t confuse being an American with being the member of a particular party.
“I suppose my point is that those that mostly agree with you on the main points, vote in a like-minded way, don’t always require a detailed dissenting opinion that basically causes a wider devide which does nothing but separate you from the other, rather than coming together for the betterment of us all. This is why the democrats struggle to get together, arguing minute details over points they really tend to agree on.”
The point is you don’t agree with me on the main points. The serious issue of democracy you consider mere minutia. The political establishment, including the DNC, and the partisan mainstream media have shown themselves to be dismissive of democracy. They don’t represent me. Nor do they represent most other Americans. I take that seriously and so should all Americans.
“I just wish you’d direct your attention to the people who largely disagree with you and focus more energy on the strong opposing opinions”
I am directing my attention to the people who largely disagree with me. That happens to be you at the moment. If you don’t share my concern for democracy, you aren’t on my side and I’m not on yours. It doesn’t matter to me which candidate wins if in the process democracy loses. In a free society, democracy must come before all else.
An essential part of democracy is public debate. That is what we are doing here. If you disagree with me, then give compelling reasons. And then, in response to my criticisms, defend your own position. Let’s have a dialogue. Don’t just dismiss me because I’m presenting evidence that is inconvenient to your beliefs. If you presented evidence and someone dismissed it, you wouldn’t take kindly to that.
I’m an equal opportunity critic. It would be hypocrisy for me to not criticize the political left for the same reasons I’d criticize the political right. I’m a strong liberal, but I want to make sure that the liberalism I hold to is worth defending. It’s about principles and about real world results, not team sports.
I think you’re missing my point entirely, and of course going on and on as I predicted you would. My sarcastic statement, “I rest my case,” was all that meant. Brevity is not your strong suit.
And in case you didn’t hear me the first time, I largely agree with most of your rhetoric. But you are a right-fighter and you will find an argument in almost every post, as you have so clearly demonstrated.
I’m no longer interested in long-winded debates over minutia, especially with someone I “mostly” agree with. And that was my point.
Besides, it would appear by your way of thinking, I need not bother since the vast majority won’t understand it anyway.
Have a good one Mr. Steele, and keep fighting the good fight. ::sigh::
@Rand – “I think you’re missing my point entirely, and of course going on and on as I predicted you would. My sarcastic statement, “I rest my case,” was all that meant.”
I might be missing your point. Then again, you might be missing my point. You have yet to acknowledge the issues I bring up. All you’ve done is dismiss them and then you’re irritated because I explain the importance of what you are dismissing, only to have you dismiss it again.
“Brevity is not your strong suit.”
Some of my comments are longer and some shorter. I write only as long as a comment needs to be to explain something. You aren’t interested in explaining anything. You just want me to be on your team and be a good team player by attacking the other team. I’m simply not interested in that game.
“And in case you didn’t hear me the first time, I largely agree with most of your rhetoric. But you are a right-fighter and you will find an argument in almost every post, as you have so clearly demonstrated.”
But in case you din’t hear me the first time, you largely (or maybe entirely) disagree with the most important point I brought up.
“I’m no longer interested in long-winded debates over minutia, especially with someone I “mostly” agree with. And that was my point.”
In that case, you obviously did miss my point. The failure of democracy, including Clinton’s corruption and bad political record, is not minutia. That is central to everything I’ve written here. I’ll criticize Republicans and Democrats alike for not dealing with the problems we all face as a society. This isn’t about partisan politics, as you seem to assume.
Since I’m still in bed with my iPad, I’ll bother to respond.
You couldn’t help yourself as I pointed out, could you?
What part of, “I am too weary to go on pages and pages with someone like you to defend everything I said,” don’t you understand? If I had to, I’d be glad to go over and over Hilary’s record and compare and debate, yada yada and I can quite aptly defend my position. I just don’t want to. In fact I cannot believe I am even responding now. Thirty years ago I was just like you Mr, Steele, but I no longer feel the need to argue incessantly point-counterpoint every single fact and minute detail yada yada? I am just too tired of it, sir.
But go on, break it down again.
@Rand – “You couldn’t help yourself as I pointed out, could you?”
You couldn’t help yourself as I pointed out, could you? You still have to go on being dismissive, instead of offering an honest answer.
“What part of, “I am too weary to go on pages and pages with someone like you to defend everything I said,” don’t you understand?”
What part of, “You are free to go away whenever you want,” don’t you understand? I’m not forcing you to come back here, read everything I write, and respond. You have to take responsibility for your own actions.
“If I had to, I’d be glad to go over and over Hilary’s record and compare and debate, yada yada and I can quite aptly defend my position. I just don’t want to.”
You either defend your positions or you don’t. You’ve shown no evidence you are capable of doing so. What is the point of making such empty claims? In the time you’ve wasted in dismissing me, you could have presented evidence and made an argument. But you chose not to.
“Thirty years ago I was just like you Mr, Steele, but I no longer feel the need to argue incessantly point-counterpoint every single fact and minute detail yada yada? I am just too tired of it, sir.”
I doubt you were ever like me. And I doubt I will ever become like you.
What do you hope to gain by dismissing me? It isn’t respectful. You should at least acknowledge that my viewpoint is reasonable based on the known evidence. There are many others like me who don’t see Hillary Clinton as a moderate.
If you’re being honest, you have to admit that she is a neocon and neoliberal. So, maybe at best you could claim she is a moderate neocon and moderate neoliberal, moderate within the neocon and neoliberal establishment. But my point is she isn’t moderate compared to the general public, a point that I know you can’t refute and so you dismiss.
If you share Hillary Clinton’s views, don’t be ashamed of her actual political positions. She is a war hawk, tough-on-crime neocon. And she is a big money corporatist neoliberal. All of that has already been proven beyond a doubt. But if you don’t share these views, that is problematic. You are culpable for the actions of the politicians you vote for.
I am British, but so much of what you wrote rings true in my country as well. Wouldn’t it be great if Jeremy Corbyn wins here in 2020 with a victorious Sanders in the Whitehouse? Many of our issues mirror those of the USA and the enemy of our people are the same. You write eloquently – I wish you success in life.
yah they’re racist, but they’re poor!
as if that makes it any better
It doesn’t excuse racism, but it puts it into a proper context for understanding its roots and how to fix it.
If we are going to move forward, we need to acknowledge that racists are human beings whose minds can be changed. If we forego that idea then we will never make progress.
You’d be surprised at how simple an experience can make a racist into a non-racist. Sometimes all it takes is a down-to-earth conversation with someone they are racist against to change their mind.
I’d say that many of them aren’t even really racist, xenophobic, etc. It’s just the only language they know to voice their frustration. No one has ever taught them how to understand their problems according to class and historical analysis.
They are lucky if they got much of an education at all, and in the US poor people tend to go to underfunded public schools. And if they watch mainstream media (including mainstream right-wing talk radio) to get their news, they are being further misinformed and disinformed.
Research has shown that, as conservatives become more informed from watching news (e.g., Fox Nes), they simultaneously become more misinformed. Basically, they can’t tell the difference between what is true and what is false, because the news sources they see purposely mislead their viewers.
This is changing with younger generations, though. Most of Trump’s support comes from older whites, not younger whites.
“Having grown up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, I have been nagged by the question, “Why do people here continuously vote against their self interest ?” This article gives a reasonable explanation.
Excellent piece. Your overarching point is nicely summarized by a quote from the 19th Century robber baron Jay Gould: “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
There is a couple of things this article misses.
In high inequality states, the poor tend to identify as Democratic. But they are also the least likely to vote. If everyone voted in supposed Republican states, they’d be Democratic states.
Trump actually gets disproportionately fewer poor whites and disproportionately more middle class whites. It is the middle class whites who fear falling into poverty and so Trump’s populism appeals to them.
You first have to have your facts straight before you try to explain them.
As someone who grew up dirt poor in Republican-dominated southern Kentucky, so I definitely understand everything you said. The case could’ve been made without turning it into a political screed for one particular presidential candidate. Sanders has made quite a case for how working-class white males like myself should support him, but he has been tone-deaf for how this relates to systemic racism and sexism and making opportunity equal for everyone. Until or unless he makes that connection, his pleas will fall on deaf ears. Right now all it sounds like is he’s calling out the pitchforks to take on the 1% … because that’s really all he’s got. And that won’t do anything to help any of us, because it’ll just burn the country down.
You may not be “traditionally” or “formally” educated, but this is the most educated thing I have read in a long time. Thank you to all of the people in your life who have educated you more than many who have traditional and formal degrees. Thanks to your bar patrons, your family, your trailer park neighbors, and for all of the education that you have given yourself. Bravo and thank you!
Thank you for your kinds words. They moved me.
I am a poor white man. Up until my experience at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago I was really rooting for Sanders. I even bought Robert Reich’s book Saving Capitalism For the many not the few. I read a couple of chapters and followed him on Facebook. So I get it. The things he says seems to make sense. When I heard Reich say what would it be like if people protested wealthy affairs like pep rallies or even conventions I thought it was kind of hinky but it may be funny. Living through the riots in Chicago in 1967 and 1968 I was only a small boy but I remember the main issue that has stuck with me all these years. The issue is the military industrial complex and all these protracted extended wars no one is calling a war. That while both of these guys are well read and seem smart they ignore the influence of the military industrial complex and the history of the Democratic Party and it’s propensity for war. That while offering lip service on social issues the very same boogie men they create are actually funding their Party. Reich sits there and rails against Trump calling him a Nazi when Move on.org is being funded by George Soros a known Nazi collaborator. He actually is old enough enough to have lived through WWII. Then Sanders says at a rally in Michigan that white people do not know what it is like to be poor. I am not sure what you were reading or hearing about Trump but he says no cuts to social programs. He wants to cut the military aid to all these foreign countries. Try suggesting cutting the billions of dollars in military aid to Israel a wealthy country that can afford their own defense to help rebuilding our economy and infrastructure and see what the liberals tell you AND the alleged conservatives. Then and only then will you understand why we are going for this guy who seems to be a troll. It would be like holding up a Crucifix in front of a vampire. It is common sense to say what Trump is saying and something I have talked about for years. You got money for billions in military aid to Iran but you have to put Veterans on a five year waiting list because you don’t have enough money? Something is wrong with this picture. Who exactly are the welfare Queens the poor white/black man or the Chancellor of Germany?
Bernie Sanders isn’t a huge supporter of Israel or war either. In fact, Jewish Super PACs are supporting Hillary over him because she of course panders to them (like she does to everyone else) while Bernie has called out Israel for numerous attacks on civilians in “self-defense” and the ridiculous amount of money we pour into Israel for some reason.
Trump (like Hillary) is just telling his base what they want to hear and will carry on our nation’s shameless legacy of continuing to support the rich and no one else.
You’re taking that Sanders quote out of context. He meant white people don’t know what its like to be poor and in a ghetto that only exists because of racial segregation in housing laws.
Being poor and in Appalachia is different than being poor in Compton or Detroit. They both have their hardships associated, neither one is worse or better, but they have their own unique problems.
Sanders was specifically talking about poor black people in ghettos in that moment. He knows very well that there are poor white people all over the country too.
I’m also a poor white man. It’s true that I’m slightly above the poverty line, although not by much. I’ve always had working class wage jobs. And I only have a high school degree. But I’ve also always been a liberal, despite having been raised by conservatives.
People like me get ignored by almost everyone in the mainstream, even by populists like Trump. I don’t hate or fear those who are different from me. I’m for civic rights for all: minorities, immigrants, LGBT, Muslims, atheists, etc. I’m pro-union and in fact I’m a union member. I see our economic and political system as a corporatist banana republic.
I may not have much formal education. But I do read a lot. My conservative parents taught me to value education, self-education most of all. I know how to look up info on the web. The political records and personal histories of the candidates is easily found. It’s on this basis that I disagree with you. I’d suggest you might want to rethink your reasons.
“The issue is the military industrial complex and all these protracted extended wars no one is calling a war. That while both of these guys are well read and seem smart they ignore the influence of the military industrial complex and the history of the Democratic Party and it’s propensity for war. That while offering lip service on social issues the very same boogie men they create are actually funding their Party.”
Sanders actually isn’t a Democrat, except in order to run as a candidate. That is simply because third party candidates have no chance of winning. Trump used to be a Democrat and was one for a long time, before running as a Republican. Sanders, on the other hand, spent decades as an independent and worked with people in both parties.
I’d point out that Sanders has been railing against the military-industrial complex for all those decades he was an independent, and has brought up the issue of massive fraud in the defense industry. He is no ideological pacifist. But he has always opposed pointless wars, especially wars of aggression, from Vietnam War to Iraq War. He has also opposed increased military spending and done so for a very long time. He even criticizes Israel and supports a two-state solution.
“Reich sits there and rails against Trump calling him a Nazi when Move on.org is being funded by George Soros a known Nazi collaborator. He actually is old enough enough to have lived through WWII.”
Soros was a young teenager when WWII began. As a Jew, he was being held in secret by a guy who was a Nazi. His family had left him with that guy. What was a 14 year old supposed to do in a situation like that? It wasn’t as if there was anywhere he could have escaped to, as he was in Nazi-occupied territory. If anyone found out he was a Jew, he would have been killed. It is demented and morally depraved to call him a Nazi collaborator.
Anyway, it certainly has nothing to do with Sanders. His campaign has gotten no donations from Soros. In fact, Soros has donated to Clinton.
“Then Sanders says at a rally in Michigan that white people do not know what it is like to be poor.”
That is being dishonest. There was a context to his comment.
He was talking explicitly about racism. He was arguing that whites don’t understand poor black communities. It is very different being a poor black from being a poor white. Besides pervasive racism, blacks experience high rates than whites of severe poverty, long-term poverty, and economic segregation. Those are facts.
Sanders has never argued that whites don’t experience poverty as well. He never stated whites don’t understand poverty. He was simply pointing out that race makes a big difference in being poor. Why would you have a problem with him pointing out the obvious? Why is his stating an inconvenient truth a reason to not support him?
Awesome post, Rich. I hear you and agree 100% MoveOn, Soros and Alinsky tactics are the things that really kill it for me with the Bernie crowd. Poor and middle class people of all races who despise handouts and socialism given to individuals see the solution being more jobs for citizens, and Trump is telling them the things he wants to do to make that happen. Bernie is just offering free stuff, more theft of income from those that earn it to be given for those that want free stuff, and the old envy and envy avoiding message of take it from the rich and give it to the poor (pitchforks).
Soros supports and donates to Clinton, not Sanders. You are just throwing out words. You couldn’t give an example of an Alinsky tactic that Sanders has used. It’s just empty right-wing rhetoric.
Anyway, Sanders isn’t actually a ‘socialist’. Not in the way actual socialists use the word. He is just an ordinary social democrat, a moderate liberal and an old school New Deal progressive. He isn’t even as far left as was FDR. The kinds of policies he suggests are what even Republicans used to support, earlier last century.
If you like arguments for more and better jobs, Sanders is your man. He has regularly talked about that issue on the campaign. His complaints about free trade agreements are similar to that of what Trump says. If anything, Sanders takes even further his criticisms of our plutocracy and corporatocracy, including the military-industrial complex and defense industry fraud.
For all the reasons you support Trump, rationally and morally you should be supporting Sanders. Or if you want an even harder hitting criticism of the problems that Trump and Sanders campaign on, you should support Jill Stein of the Green Party. She is the greatest threat to the establishment of any candidate running right now.
If Soros paid protestors where the hell is my money?? Which protestors did he pay?? There were 6 groups (and I know everyone loves to blame Bernie for the BLM even though they protested his rally before Trumps) One small group of Bernie supporters were there inside and with the old nazi salute lady. Two of them Trump supporters stalked their jobs, called and left death threats and some very sick voicemails all the while they were laughing about it in thier Trump Fb group. (I have lots of screen shots that I sent to the pd) There is also been us Native Americans. I know people temd to forget ua but Trump has a history of smearing hate and fear for money in court, tv, radio and newspapers against Natives. So a overwhelming majority dislike this man. We have protested in Chicago, KC, Florida and Arizona (there were two other groups there, we weren’t the crazy people tied to cars they were Clinton supporters) As for Israel you are right but Sanders is fighting military spending and wars which both lead to Israel as well as these greedy corporations.. and the media black out all lead to Israel. Overthrowing Syria’s leader is a plot for Israel if you read Clinton’s emails. Bernie has also written more legislation for Vets in the last 30 yrs than any other politician. My family of Vets all support him and my disabled Vet father has beem waiting for heart surgery. Did you miss who dropped the ball on that?? Republicans have voted out every bill for Vets except for a fee that they padded for profits for them.
George Soros donated generously to Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, etc.
demonstrators. There was an ad on craigslist offering #16.00/hr. for demonstrators.
Ms. Clinton’s did extensive research on Bill Ayres, a mentor.
There is extensive poverty in large cities. Which party controls them? Kickbacks.
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” -LBJ
What I was thinking pretty much the entire time I was reading this article. It’s as true now as it was then, and it’s ridiculous that Trump supporters (and supporters of almost any GOP politician) don’t see it
Which is why only LBJ could have passed Civil Rights.
Had JFK not been assassinated, I believe a lot of Civil Rights legislation and much of the Great Society would have died on the Senate floor.
Eloquent and so insightful. Thank you for sharing as this is beautifully written and educational for me. I appreciate you sharing.
This is a wonderful, insightful article. Thank you. It makes me think of the old story about how lobsters in a pot could escape, but they always pull each other down in the process, so instead they all boil. There’s a silly song about it.
Sorry but that was way too long and the historical tidbits didn’t strengthen your theory which I could sum in one word: marginalized.
That is one bizarre article, I felt for sure Jonna Ivin was going to tell us Bernie was the reincarnation of “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” before it was over, but Bernie is a Democrat and Democrats were Vampires in the Movie, in real life they were the KKK. So Socialism will help us all live a prosperous and happy life; it must be so…. because that’s why so many poor displaced Americans swim the Florida straights to enter Cuba; and the VISA lines to permanently relocate to Russia are so long at their Embassies; Yes comrade, in Bernie’s World its just one “Big Rock Candy Mountain” One man,One vote, one time; and See you in Siberia if you complain… Do svidaniya Comrade Citizen
That’s one bizarre post. There’s a stereotype of the foolishly ignorant American rightwinger that is constantly being trotted out. You might want to look up the definition of democratic socialism before you post again so that you don’t confirm that stereotype quite so perfectly.
Sanders isn’t a Democrat. He is an independent who for this election is running as a Democrat. Otherwise, he has spent about half century in politics as an independent who has worked with politicians from both parties.
As for Abraham Lincoln, he was a Republican. It is true that Lincoln had left-wing radicals in his administration, including a Marxist. Then again, he also had conservatives in his administration as well.
That was back when the GOP was a big tent party with both a right-wing and a left-wing. It wasn’t until the Southern Strategy that the political left abandoned the Republican Party.
Jonna, brilliant, articulate and well researched piece. I really enjoyed reading it. However, you plug for Sanders at the end kinda takes away from its integrity.
Ivin’s article here has become something like a genre piece amongst liberals. You can even find such writing is Salon if you look hard enough and relegate your searching to pieces published after major elections. The paradigmatic example of this genre is Thomals Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”, and its definitive motif is that of a writer reciting every platitude in the Democratic Party’s cliché manual while at the same time giving himself or herself a pat on the back for being so bold as to suggest that Poor Whites might not all come from central casting on “Deliverance”. Forgive me if I’m underwhelmed.
The central contention here, that poor whites vote Republican because they are manipulated by cynical politicians who strategically use racism to stir their racial vanity while keeping them poor, is never even stated clearly, let alone argued, though it underpins the entire piece. While this seems obviously true on some level, Ivin, in accordance with the conventions of the genre, puts this up as a prop through which she purports to explain all that she finds perplexing about the Poor White Vote. Sadly, a moment’s reflection should make clear that the dynamics of the voting behaviors of various poor white communities (unfortunately for Ivin’s thesis, there is no such thing as *the* White Trash Vote) cannot be explained in a single unreferenced, unresearched autobiographical essay that unfailingly flatters liberal sensibilities (hence the predictable ovations from predictable audiences). The only fitting response, so far as the central conceit of this article goes, is *No*, you *don’t* “know” why poor whites “chant”, “Trump, Trump, Trump”. And as several on this thread above have demonstrated, you seem to have no idea about the broadness of Trump’s base of support or the real sources behind that support. What Ivins does have is conventional liberal stereotypes applied roughly and readily, barely varnished with a compassionate mode of rhetoric that (as is again, typical of the genre) makes an earnest attempt to rise beyond the standard liberal pose of abject condescension, but largely fails, mainly because it fails to transcend the conceit of liberal self-congratulation.
This article is simply one of a million that will fail to draw more than an eyeroll (and perhaps, amongst more charitable readers, a genuine “At least she tried”) from anyone who does not already share all the author’s views. In particular, the conflation of government programs allegedly designed to help the poor with the actual helping of the poor will lead to more than a few sprained eyeballs. You don’t have to believe in trickle-down economics to be skeptical of the good intentions of outrageous charlatans like Lyndon Johnson. You don’t have to be a poor white, desperately clinging to his social status (presumably along with his guns and religion) to take a dim view of the prospects of truly bettering the condition of the poor through an ever more expansive cadre of well-meaning government workers.
And of course, no mention was made of the deeply hostile cultural politics that the Left has engaged in since the later sixties, while it largely abandoned economic issues. While Nixon was deploying his Southern Strategy, a Coastal Elitist Left was emerging as a contemptuous adversarial culture, hostile to the resistance of the masses to its self-perceived progressive goodness. It would be a gross oversimplification to pretend that the masses shout, ‘Trump. Trump, Trump” because the Elite Left fell out of touch with the larger society, and in fact, largely defined itself through the escape of that larger society’s ‘provincialism’, but it would be no more gross than the oversimplifications Ivin indulges in at length.
Thomas Frank is an insightful writer. If more conservatives read him than just complained about him, we might be better prepared to deal with these problems. I’d also suggest reading Joe Bageant, a left-winger who wrote about the poor white Appalachians he grew up with. You could check out Joan Walsh while you’re at it.
What makes these authors interesting is that they are writing about the people they know, having grown up in these places. They aren’t writing from distant big cities on the Left Coast.
BTW Thomas Frank most recently wrote a book criticizing the liberal class, by which he means the professional class. He doesn’t discuss working class liberals, partly because working class liberals like me don’t hold political positions nor work in the MSM. One of the most ignored groups in the US are working class liberals. Still, his criticisms of the so-called liberal class is important, just as important as his criticisms of many of the people living in his home state.
I agree with much of what you say about “*the* White Trash Vote.”
Poor whites in the South aren’t the same as poor whites across the country. Poor whites in some areas tend to vote Democratic, not Republican. Being a poor white doesn’t inevitably make one a reactionary, for it depends on local politics and culture. Poverty means different things depending where one lives. Poor whites in Democratic states have lower than average social problems and this effects their lives in fundamental ways, and so influences how they vote.
Also, generation plays a big difference. The younger generations, including poor whites, are becoming increasingly liberal. One of the interesting things about Trump’s populism is how much it draws from the rhetoric and issues of concern from the political left. Trump sometimes makes statements that are more left-wing than Sanders.
I’d have to agree with your last point as well, when you write that much of the political left has “largely abandoned economic issues.” That is part of what left-wingers and left-liberals criticize about the liberal class, the topic of Thomas Frank’s newest book. As a liberal, I see economic issues as central. That is why younger liberals and leftists support Sanders. It’s why the younger generation are increasingly moving to the political left. Sanders is the only candidate speaking to the youngest generation, not just the young on the political left but across the spectrum. Trump doesn’t speak to the young to the same extent.
If you think that the author falls into oversimplifications, that is all the more reason you should avoid them in your own stated opinions. Many on the political left don’t fit into your stereotypes of the political left. Maybe we should all try to be more understanding and sympathetic to those who are different from us and not assume we have others figured out.
I am an independent, raised by a “poor white man” and my “leftwing lesbian aunt’s”. I loved what you had to say and value your thesis and the obvious passion you can feel while reading this article. I’m also a single mother, who only has a high school diploma and is unable to work due to injuries and non-military PTSD. I can tell you that I have paid attention to all of the candidates, I will not be voting for Trump, or Clinton, but have actually been considering Sanders. But… and this is a big but, as one of the “poor uneducated whites” I was deeply saddened upon reading through the responses to your article. Joanna took the time to write such a insightful and passionate article and share it with anyone that wanted to read it sharing a part of herself. And I feel that a good handful of you missed one of her biggest points! We all need to be united and stand together for a way out of poverty. It doesn’t matter if you are white or black, yellow or purple, gay, straight, bi, asexual or into fish tanks. None of that is what matters!! Coming together united by our shared poverty and struggles is what all of us as Americans need, stop seeing each other as one color or creed or affiliation and realize that for better or worse WE ARE ALL AMERICANS! We all deserve better, need better, want better, yet even in these comments we are separating each other in to group’s when the only “group” that matters is our shared country. We are all people. We are all one race, human.
And in case you didn’t catch it, fantastic article Joanna, I certainly hope to read more from you.
Divide & Conquer- the oldest & most effective trick in the book…
The article actually argues for trump when you consider the wealthy establishment is against trump. All the bush Cruz kashic money is to keep the current power structure. In fact, the gop would rather have hillary then loose their power with trump in the long run. If trump turns out to be a good president the establishment is done for good.
I’m also critical of our plutocracy. For this reason, I want to support the greatest challenger to plutocracy. The problem with Trump is that he was born into plutocracy and spent his entire life as a plutocrat. He has been hobnobbing with the political establishment and economic elite his entire life, including with the likes of the Clintons. Some of the rich may prefer Trump to Clinton, but I bet most of the rich would prefer Trump to Sanders. So, if you really want to send and ‘eff you’ vote to the rich, you should support Sanders.
Yes, Jean-Marc I made a mistake thank you for catching that. Sorry Jonna I accidentally added an A, simply because one of my aunt’s is Joanna and it’s habit.
Excellent, excellent piece. So many truths spoken to power. Great job.
No one has a monopoly on the truth, some of us do hold a bigger piece of it. It’s up to the rest of us to fill it in with our own piece of it to arrive at a greater truth than any one of us or any one group could do alone.
Joanna, thanks for filling in one of the bigger missing pieces, now the rest of us have to contribute our truth.
Insightful, deep, meaningful, wonderfully written piece. I thank you for this spot on commentary. Brilliant!
This article needs it’s sources sited. It sounds great and all, but where’s the proof?
Have to agree. Eye-opening, but I’d at the very least like to read more.
As someone older who has lived through most of the events she sites in her narrative I can vouch for everything as true starting with Roosevelt all the way through Kennedy JOhnson, MLK and the rest. Looking for sources? Start reading American history books.
@Jack – I’m not quite old enough to remember some of the earlier history. But I’m old enough to have seen firsthand plenty of the changes our society and political system.
I totally agree about reading American history books. Too many people have had bad experience from history classes. I’m one of those people. But as an adult, I learned the joy of reading about history. I wish more Americans could realize how interesting history can be, when you get the right books that make it compelling.
The piece was thoroughly fact checked. If you have a specific question, I’d be happy to cite the source.
As all academics know, you must list all of your sources so others can look through everything themselves. Can you compile a list so that the readers can see where all information was obtained from please?
This isn’t an academic dissertation. It is an article. Even in major newspapers, journalists rarely compile a list of all their sources. That said, it’s nice when someone does offer such a list. But it’s not as if it is standard to do so, as it requires a lot of effort.
This isn’t just an article or opinion piece, it makes numerous very bold accusations and claims about the history of the country and people in it that need to be cited if they’re to be taken seriously. Someone making these kinds of claims can’t really say “trust me” and that be sufficient. If you’re to go through this much effort researching and writing a piece this long, the sources should with a doubt accompany it. It gives it credibility.
Excuse me Kelly, but are you kidding? Have you read many articles? This is an article, not a novel or academic paper. You do not site long lists of sources when you are doing an article for a newspaper. I am old enough to have lived through most of what she sights here and it is quite accurate. I am also a life-long student of history and do not see anything in the article that is untrue or imagined. Someone here was gracious enough to offer to provide you with sources if you want them and asked you to sight what you felt wasn’t true. If that isn’t good enough for you, go to the library or use your wonderful piece of science called a computer to read more about American history.
Read “Why Nations Fail” by by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. Its analysis of southern history is so close to this one that I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Jonna learned it. Also they provide zillions of references & footnotes, which you obviously would relish. And you will learn about it in the context of world history, not just American provincialism. Hope this helps.
@Flaco Delgado – Thanks for the book recommendation. That isn’t a book I’ve read. But it is the kind of book I like to read. The topic is important and, with so many factors involved, hard to wrap one’s mind around. There is a lot of historical data to be analyzed and many theories have been proposed to explain it all.
Laurel, thank you! I’d like to read more on the indentured servant whites and black slave relationships and the subsequent laws that were passed to dissolve what was seen as a potentially dangerous group.
They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America Paperback – 1993
by Michael Hoffman
The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue 1997
by Lawrence R. Tenzer
Here’s a raw list of sources. We’re trying to move away from hyperlinks, because they’re distracting, but haven’t yet found a decent plugin for footnotes. I’ll also add a link to a resources page that is a bit more polished.
Perfect! Thank you!
Now that you have your citations I’d be curious to know whether you still think that the “numerous very bold accusations and claims about the country and its people” should be taken seriously?
Wow! Not very many moderators (at all) would have gotten the links for a piece. I hope your readership knows how much work that is.
Thanks, but I had them in a Word doc so it wasn’t much work. 🙂
While I applaud your thoughtfulness and evident big-heartedness, I take issue with your central point, which is, if I may reduce it: poor whites have been manipulated into supporting Trump because they feel that here, finally, is a politician with their interests at heart and that underneath it all is a kind of generational racism, slimed onto them by generations of wealthy elites, that causes them to scapegoat the “other.” Well, okay. But I can’t help thinking about cigarettes. When I was growing up in the 50’s, there were still doctors on TV commercials attesting to the health benefits (!) of smoking. When I first smoked at age 11, it was frowned upon because I was so young, but that was about it. I didn’t know any better and there wasn’t really widely disseminated information about the insane risk to my health. But by the 80’s when I finally gave up that filthy habit, there was massive knowledge about it. No one could start smoking and claim that s/he didn’t know any better. And that’s the weakness with your explanation of poor white racism. It’s not the 50’s anymore. There’s no lack of info about what racism is and our culture is saturated with condemnations of it. THERE’S NO LONGER ANY EXCUSE! Maybe one reason racist, anti-intellectual, selfish poor whites are flocking to Trump is because he’s pretending that there IS an excuse, that it’s okay to think & act like a 50’s Bircher. For 70 years or so, poor whites have been scammed by the greedhead country-clubbers into goosestepping into the polls to vote for leaders “who don’t care” about them, and now they’ve wised up and kicked the fuckers in the ass. And then what do they do? Line up behind A GREEDHEAD COUNTRY-CLUBBER who assures them that they can call their racism “political correctness” and gives them permission to have no shame about it. No, my liberal bleeding heart notwithstanding, I can’t find grounds to sympathize with poor white Trumpers who feel left out and forgotten. They’re like beginning-smokers in the 80’s: there’s no excuse.
Thank you for writing this piece. It is very helpful for those of us who have a hard time articulating what we know. And, also what we don’t know or have a hard time understanding. Us dumb asses who have not been sufficiently educated in our own history. I’ve shared it on social media and wish the history part had been really taught in high schools. Thanks again.
Such an insightful, honest piece that provides insight into why instead of mocking the supporters of Donald Trump we need to understand why they support his ideology. Thank you!
WOW!! Thank you for the insight. Powerful stuff and so true.
If you’re really so against the ‘wealthy elite’ then why do you keep voting for policies that benefit only them? Who is it that gains from open boarder policies? The wealthy elite! They want to import cheaper and cheaper labor so they can go buy another yacht. Do be so smug thinking you’re college educated so it can’t happen to you because they just signed a bill to bring over college educated Indians to do the all IT and tech jobs, and compete against American workers to get paid Indian wages. Soon the college educated American’s job will be filled with an Indian, or he’ll be working for lower and lower Indian wages.
Another strange comment. Just because someone has a different view of how to help all Americans, including the lower classes, it doesn’t mean that therefore they are for the rich.
Open borders don’t necessarily help the rich more than they help anyone else. It depends on what one means by open borders, as few people are advocating an unregulated immigrant free-for-all. By the way, the data shows that immigrants don’t just take jobs for they also have high rates of starting businesses. Immigrants often are more motivated to take risks because they have incentives to want to believe in the American Dream.
Also, don’t assume everyone with a different view is college-educated intellectual elite. I have no college and am an anti-isolationist liberal, whereas my college-educated parents (my father having been a professor) are conservatives who are for more stringent controls on immigration.
The world is more complicated than talking points.
While I can’t refute any of the individual points made, I’m not sure that the conclusion is entirely sound. That is, the thesis statement being one of racism is wielded by a moneyed class to divide voters, and resulting in Donald Trump being popular.
All manner of things are used to divide the electorate. Racism is certainly one example. Music, clothes, manner of speech, etc are all included. I don’t think that any of those things, individually or collectively, are the impetus of Trump’s popularity with lower class white men. I feel that it’s much more simple than that.
I grew up poor in a tiny rural town in the economically repressed Douglas county of Oregon. The 2000 census showed that per capita income was $16,581, and that over 13% of the population lived in poverty. The region is also about 94% white. There weren’t any minorities to blame. So the government and ‘hippies’ were blamed for hampering the timber industry. I now live in Portland and look back on that time as almost a different life, but I keenly remember the socio-economic stratification. It doesn’t take much to see the difference when you have fewer than twenty class-mates, who’s parents still have jobs, and for that to create clear demarcation lines between who you can or cannot relate to.
People like authoritative confidence. People who lack power like it when someone speaks out against those they perceive as powerful. Italy in the mid 1920’s through the 30’s had none of the cultural or ethnic divisions we have in the US, but had eerily similar class stratification. Mussolini got started as a populist leading marches and invoking class conflict, and successfully morphed a populist agenda into a fascist takeover, supported by the masses of the poor and uneducated. Cut to today and the backlash against the ‘political establishment’. I agree that Trump is playing up the message of xenophobia, but I don’t believe that that’s the core reason people are supporting him.
All that said, I feel like you’ve written a very compelling story, and a fine argument. But I don’t entirely agree with your conclusions.
Good points. But it is important to realize in the US that class and race have never been separate. Even between whites, the class divide has included race. Many present whites came from ethnic immigrants who weren’t considered white. Italian-Americans, for example, were sometimes called the ‘N’ word. Even in an all white place like Oregon, the absent minorities can be used as a tool of division, with the allegation that white liberals care more about minorities elsewhere than the poor whites living right there. You also have to recall that Oregon didn’t become so white on accident, as it was the only sundown state in the country.
I’m quite aware of Oregon history. It was actually considered, early on, as a ‘whites only’ settlement. The original state constitution forbade African Americans from even living here. Yet the class divisions remain, sans the race element. All I’m saying is that the popularity of Trump can be put in a larger historical context than just the US. There are plenty of examples of similar movements outside the relatively narrow history of the United States. We may have a peculiar history in terms of race, but we’re hardly unique in the grand scheme of things.
@Richie – You do make a good point. But I still think racial thinking has taken many forms in the past.
The English hated the Irish partly because of class reasons. The Irish were seen as extremely impoverished permanent underclass. But also they were early on seen as a separate race. The English would call them such things as white gorillas and compare them to Africans and Native Americans.
People have an amazing ability to categorize each other as different, such as the division between southern and northern Italians. Similarly, a division in early America that led to the Civil War was the North and South seeing each other as separate peoples, based on old divisions of the English Civil War (Roundheads and Cavaliers), and at times that regional division played into class issues.
Still, you are right that not everything can be blamed on racism/ethnocentrism. It’s just an important factor to always keep in mind.
Anyone who votes for open boarders is in the back-pocket of the wealthy elite. They want the cheap labor. Who it is that benefits from cutting American wages? The wealthy corporation! Follow the money. They manipulate these silly liberals by telling them “Vote so we can import cheap labor from the 3rd world, or else you’re being racist.” Then they laugh all the way to the bank.
I was with you until you threw the Bernie card. No thanks.
Wow, what a tremendous piece of journalism. Well done, kudos, congratulations!!
From my experience in rural America, poor whites do not see the ‘welfare’ they receive (SSI, farm subsidies, EITC, Obamacare) in the same light as minorities who receive some of the same benefits. They seem to believe they have somehow earned these benefits and that they do not rely on the ‘government’ whereas minorities and others do not. This is a point of view I have never been able to understand.
It’s similar to why these kind of people are often less critical of subsidies to big biz and big ag, bailouts to big banks, and foreign aid to countries like Israel. It’s about who they think deserves government largesse. But it isn’t against government largesse on principle. In the conservative moral order, some people deserve funds, resources, and opportunities while other people don’t.
My experience is just the opposite. I live in one of the poorest counties of the state. It’s totally rural. Most do not take anything from the government. They try to live off the land as much as possible. Vegetable gardens everywhere. The local towns even have plots for people who don’t have land. They also hunt and fish. They’re embarrassed when they do accept SNAP or some other assistance. It’s not a question of earning it, they see it as a direct result of their failure to support their family. One new friend, knowing I came from the city, asked me why land wasn’t provided in the city for growing food plots.
@goddess – “My experience is just the opposite.”
Anecdotal evidence isn’t that helpful. The data shows that poor whites, including in rural areas, have higher rates of welfare than blacks. They may not like to talk about their being on welfare because they feel ashamed about it or they might not even think of it as welfare, as in their mind it is only welfare when those other undeserving people get government help. Anyway, someone can hunt and garden while being on welfare. In most cases, welfare only offers very basic financial assistance. In fact, most people on welfare are employed but don’t make enough money to pay for basic necessities. I’d note, by the way, that there is a growing movement in poor communities in cities to have community gardens—but is challenging because open land is a rare commodity in an urban area and because so much of the soil in cities is heavily polluted and dangerous to eat any food grown there, which requires expensive soil testing before starting a garden. This is the type of thing that people usually only understand when they’ve been poor in a city.
@goddess – I’d add another point. These issues often get simplistically racialized.
A high percentage of poor whites live in urban areas. And a high percentage of poor blacks live in rural areas. Actually, blacks were majority rural until about a half century ago, whereas whites weren’t majority rural since around the end of the 19th century.
Still, there are racial differences that matter. There is a higher percentage of poor whites than poor blacks who live in wealthier communities. Poor blacks experience not only more multi-generational severe poverty but also more economic segregation, based on a long and continuing history of systemic and structural racism.
Many blacks used to own their own land in the past. But KKK activities, sundown towns, etc led to the stealing of land from so many blacks. That is how so many blacks ended up concentrated in inner cities. The blacks left in rural areas were able to do so by isolating themselves in mostly black areas.
It’s important to know this kind of informationg.
Terrific piece. Shared it on G+. Speaking as an invisible minority (mixed race, passing as white), it is all true.
I found this article in the middle of comments on a FB post supporting Bernie. It captured me right from the start. I have had many conversations (and more than one argument) about the world of the GOP. I have had far too many online arguments about “the poor don’t deserve $15/hr minimum wage” by other upper-poor people. They want to throw everyone off the boat with no life saver – they want the boat of success to only hold certain people.
In Washington state, where I live, Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15/hr a few years ago. What struck me as a “WTH” moment was when fellow upper-poor neighbors were screaming it was dumb to raise the minimum wage. So, I sat down to try and examine the reason poor, upper-poor, and lower middle class citizens were against that rate.
During one Facebook argument, an acquaintance was telling me, “You must be on drugs.” “You can’t be this ignorant (to support the wage hike).” “Minimum wage is not a living wage!” Blah Blah Blah.
What I realized during this online, public debate was he kept pointing out that uneducated people (such as himself, who is a gravel truck driver in a logging community making $22/hr) don’t have the right to make a descent wage. “They don’t have an education and aren’t worthy of the higher wages.” Wait…what? I pointed out he didn’t have an education and he was living fairly well. His reply: HE had taken truck driving courses and HE had taken classes thru work and that HE had 14 yrs in his field. Another FB person chimed in and said, “That isn’t the higher education you just said was mandatory for anyone to get a living wage.” He shut up…on FB. Privately, he texted me some of the most vile comments I’ve ever read. This guy is 30 yrs younger than me and talking to me like I was a toddler.
What I can glean about the lower-lowest classes is they WANT or NEED to keep fellow poor people poor so they themselves aren’t at the bottom of the heap. They’re terrified to look into the mirror and see the reflection looking back saying, “You are poor – You are one of them.” If I make $18/hr and the minimum wage goes up to $15, well, then the working poor are waaaaay to close to my world than is safe. They are getting a ‘free ride’ while I worked my butt off and still got nowhere. They, of course, don’t ‘get’ that if min wage is $15/hr, they have a little bit of an argument to their employers that they, too, deserve a wage hike.
So, as this article so excellently and thoroughly points out: The people who should all be in the boat together are tossing each other out so they can sleep well at night on calm seas.
Yes, it comes down to cost of living. Labour is a significant percentage of the cost of all products and services so if you increase the cost of labour you also increase the cost of products and services. That means that everyone finds that their cost of living goes up, but unless they’re in that group whose income was previously between the previous minimum wage, and the new minimum wage, their income hasn’t. Consequently they have greater financial pressure, and are effectively worse off. One of the myths put around by the “raise minimum wage” groups is that the increased minimum wage is paid for by the employer. It isn’t. It’s paid for by everyone else. If someone is getting by on $18 an hour when the minimum wage is $8 an hour, they probably won’t be if the minimum wage goes up to $15 an hour.
The man earning $22 an hour driving gravel trucks is making that because that is what the job is worth to his employer. The person whose work was previously worth $8 an hour to their employer may not be worth $15 an hour for the same work. When wages are forced up by government fiat, the usual response from employers (even though many try to hang onto their staff) is to cut extra costs where they can, for example enforcing break times that they were previously lenient about, asking workers to do more than they did before, not replacing staff as they leave, and cutting overtime except when absolutely necessary. Government benefits provide another restriction where employees who are receiving benefits ask for their hours to be cut so that they don’t exceed an income threshold for benefit entitlement.
And nobody “deserves” a wage rise unless their work is significantly more valuable than someone else doing the same job for the same money.
What exactly do you think happens to all the “undeserved” income received by people at the bottom of the wage scale when there is an increase in the minimum wage? Do you believe they stash it offshore, use it to stimulate the local economy, or do something else with it? My guess is the second option, which would be a “win-win” situation in my book.
@Jason – “Yes, it comes down to cost of living. Labour is a significant percentage of the cost of all products and services so if you increase the cost of labour you also increase the cost of products and services. That means that everyone finds that their cost of living goes up, but unless they’re in that group whose income was previously between the previous minimum wage, and the new minimum wage, their income hasn’t. Consequently they have greater financial pressure, and are effectively worse off. One of the myths put around by the “raise minimum wage” groups is that the increased minimum wage is paid for by the employer. It isn’t. It’s paid for by everyone else.”
Read The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen. The author dissects views such as yours to show why they don’t really explain anything.
Very thought provoking piece, I just wish the title was different, something that wouldn’t immediately turn off most of those people chanting Trump, Trump, Trump. It’s really those people who would most benefit from reading such a well thought out article, and I’ve shared it on social media that with the hope that it might educate some Trump supporters I know. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure none of them will even consider clicking on it due to the title. Very sad state of affairs when people don’t want to read anything that has the possibility of changing their minds.
Really terrific article, I only wish that her readers, which I presume to be liberal/radical, would just get over the incessant need to put people like Shaneen Allen in prison.
It’s always presented as “common sense” but all it is, is a police state.
Liberals/ Democrats would rather lose elections rather than accept the plain language of the 2nd Amendment.
@Chris Johnson – I somehow doubt most radicals and liberals want to put people like Shaneen Allen in prison. Is there a reason you make this assumption? Have you seen polling data that supports this?
I’d say the police state has grown because people across the political spectrum have allowed it to grow. It’s not just the fault of the political left. Certainly, it’s not the fault of radicals who are the strongest critics of it.
As for the 2nd Amendment, polls show that most liberals and Democrats support it. Recent Pew data shows that a large percentage of liberals state having guns in their homes. Most Americans, left and right, simultaneously support gun rights and stronger gun regulation. Even most NRA members support stronger gun regulation.
It’s the mainstream media that tries to portray these issues as politically divided. But the fact of the matter is most Americans agree on the issue.
a very long article which is, unfortunately, preaching to the choir. While it is important to enlighten those on the left not to stereotype poor Southern (or other poor) whites and to understand the history of racism and how it continues to be used effectively to divide and conquer, her conclusions seem to be directed at poor racist white Republicans and other Trump supporters. Does she really think any of them will being to read this article, let alone read the whole long thing?
Yeah sure, they won’t read it so don’t write it?
The title is all wrong.
I think many people just like to bitch, even when they like something.
Damn. Holy damn. No one has pulled the thoughts out of my jumbled brain, organized them into something coherent, and published them like you just did. Thank you.
A question for the author (and I apologize if you’ve covered it elsewhere).
At one point, when describing your first experience in Vancouver, you recount the sorting of the room:
“‘I’ve graduated with a degree in higher education.’ I stayed in my place as all but one woman crossed to the other side. The woman stood next to me and held my arm, and I immediately sized her up: older, well-dressed, probably married right out of high school. Privileged.”
Later on you self-describe as “I am a poor, uneducated, white woman.”
I was unclear on whether you had graduated with a degree in higher education; if the decision to stay in Vancouver was out of a sort of sympathy or because you had a higher degree.
I’ll field that one. The exercise asked volunteers to cross the room only if the statement applied to them. The author hasn’t been to college, so she stayed put.
Thank you for your prompt response!
So the older, well-dressed woman had not gone to college either? I had inferred that she had from the “privileged” comment. But then again, reading comprehension may not be my strong suite.
Correct. I believe the author thought the older woman was “privileged” because she appeared to be middle class without having gone to college. As she explained, it was an assumption that she later regretted.
Ok, gotcha. Thanks for clearing up.
I had read privileged = college, and ‘married right out of high school’ = not privileged, so I was having a hard time squaring all this. Thanks for your patience.
Just a heads up: you reference “military generals with 20 years experience,” which is likely the lowest item on the general officer pay scale, but as an example for argument it sounds very fishy to service members — it’s *extremely* rare to see a general officer with less than 30 years of active-duty experience. Most military officers are at the rank of O-5 at the twenty year mark, not O-7 (the lowest general officer rank). It’s a nitpick, but it’s a worthwhile detail to correct in an otherwise spectacular and timely piece.
Why do I have a feeling the author will be voting for Hillary when/if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination thus perpetuating the system.
To me, this article is an achievement in writing, personal story, research and thinking. I enjoyed it and learned that you know what? “We the good people are more”. Thanks.
You had me right up until this line ” . . .unlike the fictional tale of welfare recipients driving luxury cars and eating lobster every night.”
Go bag groceries for a few weeks. The world is not as black and white as your article paints it.
Thank you for sharing! I was in a similar situation years ago in Seattle living off unemployment, living in studio in South Seattle and food stamps do to recession with a masters in design. Sometimes you have to just hang on because you are over qualified for low paying jobs.
Overqualified to you, or to your potential employer, because my father always said that no job was beneath you, provided you did it well.
I have not read all the commentary, but I did read all of the article. I would just like to add that my grandparents were poor, white sharecroppers in Louisiana. They did not own their house – they worked the land and were “allowed” to live there. They worked hard, and insisted that their children go to college. Because of their support and the work of my parents, the education lifted that generation out of poverty. Not to an elite status by any means because my parents were teachers making a very low salary, but they continued on to get a Masters and a Doctorate degree providing them with raises over time. They had only one child in order to support the family in the best way they could, and subsequently taught me the value of education. I was able to obtain a Masters as well, and with luck and many office hours, I earned enough and invested savings that allowed me to comfortably retire at age 40. I’m just saying – you can apply yourself and pull you and your future generations out of poverty. It is possible. I am NOT disagreeing with this article or saying that there are people who are poor and are not blaming the right group for their situation. Education is the key to get out of poverty – even if you have to take out loans, work part time jobs, take a decade to finish your degree, etc. – get an education. You may never be a Rockefeller, but you know – I wouldn’t want to be them anyway.
The younger generations understand how much the world has changed. Unemployment has increased along with job security for those who are employed. Wages have stagnated or even decreased, good benefits have been lost, and buying power has fallen. Education has become more costly and the value of it has become less, as even those coming out of college these days are struggling to find work. What worked in the past no longer works, partly because the government used to ensure a middle class lifestyle was accessible to more by heavily funding college, offering generous housing loans, etc. Kids these days have to work harder for less gain. Many older people don’t understand the world has changed.
“When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car,” – Bernie Sanders
This is one of the reasons poor whites don’t like the Democrats: they say stuff like this. I know it’s a slip of the tongue and he later corrected himself, but this is what makes them think it’s OK to shittalk “rednecks” and “white trash”, as you also pointed out yourself. There is race-baiting on both sides of the political spectrum, and it should not be like that. Anyway, I’ll still vote Sanders, considering he seems quite honest.
@George – You seem to be arguing that poor whites don’t like the Democrats because political independents like Sanders state the obvious. First, many poor whites vote Democratic and many others don’t like Republicans any more than they like Democrats. There is no single poor white demographic, just as there is no single poor demographic, which is the argument Sanders made. Being poor while white is different being poor while black, which is similar to being poor in a Democratic state is different than being poor in a Republican state, as the data shows. Anyway, I’m glad to see that you’re able to look past racial divisions to the bigger problems of economics. I also support Sanders.
I wouldn’t say “white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor” to be “stating the obvious”. I get what he wanted to say, but you must at least admit it was very poorly worded.
My point is, using race in politics should be at the minimum. Looking at the bigger picture, the wealth gap causes most of the issues we see regarding crime, lack of education etc. and making that a racial issue only encourages divisiveness in people, no matter if conscious or unconscious. I hope you’re getting what I’m trying to say.
There are issues where race plays an important factor, like higher imprisonment among black people for drug-related crimes, even though blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rate. But poverty, it’s an all-encompassing problem that affects everyone.
What is obvious is that poor whites don’t understand what it is like to be a poor black. Knowing the data, this refers to the fact that blacks experience higher rates than whites of severe poverty, multi-generational poverty, economic segregation, ghettoization, and legacies of redlining, racist housing loan practices, etc. Most poor whites don’t know about any of this.
These are simply facts. In the US, it is impossible to separate race and class issues. Race effects everything in this country. To ignore that is to ignore reality itself. If acknowledging reality causes divisiveness, then we have much bigger problems than mere poverty.
Well done! This is such an important article I wish everyone would read. Sadly, people think ignorance is bliss and they’ll rather not face themselves. They will fight the truth even at the cost of their livelihood. Human beings are too prideful to change. It would take a lot of us to make that change, I fear we will not have the numbers anytime soon because people are too prideful, and hatred is too ingrained in us. Hate is the most powerful tool. I think the future generations may have a chance. I see how schools are trying to be more integrated. The future generations growing up alongside each other, knowing other cultures and seeing how the same we are all at the end of the day, I believe that will be the base for that change. I say what we can do now, is to raise better people than us. Expose our children to everyone and everything, talk to them and educate them, maybe through food, travel, or even a black doll to a little white girl, anything that’s just everyday life but it’ll make a difference in the long run. I know it’ll be hard to teach by example because it has become nature to us to be the way we are or act certain ways but try anyway. That will ensure a better future for all mankind not just Americans.
Thank you for this article. The painstaking detail and ability to make this entirely readable, while factual, is amazing.
I think want I could add has already been mentioned in the comments. That said I certainly wish more people would question why did this get wrote? Why are things ‘just the way they are’ in America. That might lead them to read articles like yours; today far too few people seem to want to even question the status quo. Ever if some may disagree i think that’s better than the emptyness.
Thanks for the wake-up article. Hopefully many, many people will read it and gather in groups to change the fubar political structure of the great nation..
This is a brilliant article. Thanks for writing. I am extremely impressed by both it and you, the author. The history lesson alone (indentured servants VS slaves) made it worth the read. The rest was just icing on top of icing on top of a wonderful cake.
I’ll be sharing on my Represent.Maryland FB page for all to read.
That was possibly the most bullsh*t article I have ever read! What a horrible “poor me” diatribe! And to celebrate Democratic Socialism?? My God! You don’t deserve to be an American if this is your idea of a a future! Sorry, sounds like a whining crybaby who was lazy and never worked hard or felt they needed to! Just give you free stuff others earned and that will be the bliss filled “Revolution”! People need to actually work hard and make things better for themselves! I’d rather stay poor if this is your idea of the country getting better! I served my country in the Air Force and not one person I ever met was a Liberal or DemocRAT! They had deep values and morals and didn’t worship an idea of being rich unless they worked hard and made it on their own! I am ready to barf after wasting my time reading this poor me bull for a lot longer than I should have! What a load of crap!
You might want to read some American history before telling others who is deserving of calling themselves Americans. There has been a long tradition of American socialism going back to the 19th century. There were Marxists in Abraham Lincoln’s administration, Theodore Roosevelt argued that mainstream politics should take the concerns of socialists seriously, agrarian socialists were all over the Midwest, and sewer socialist governed Milwaukee for about a half century. Socialism was always about working hard and making sure that the people benefited from the work they did instead of the benefit mostly going to the already rich.
Mr Benjamin David Steele I think I just found a new hero in you Sir. I’ve read all your comments up till now. Thank You
I sometimes find comments sections frustrating. But the level of dialogue here has been above average. I like trying to raise that level of dialogue a bit, to get at the important issues that need to debated.
I’ve appreciated this campaign season because partisan politics hasn’t dominated in the way it has in the past. People on all sides are more open to question and doubt so much of what they believed and assumed was the case. More Americans are realizing we need something entirely new.
I’m not a socialist. I’m just a plain liberal. But I think it’s good that Americans are beginning to learn about socialism. Sanders isn’t a socialist in the sense that is meant by most socialists these days. When he describes himself as a socialist, he is using it in one of its earliest senses as a social reformer. That is pretty much the complete opposite of being a communist revolutionary.
Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, clarified the distinction between socialism and communism:
“Yet, when it was written, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand the adherents of the various Utopian systems: Owenites in England, Fourierists in France, both of them already reduced to the position of mere sects, and gradually dying out; on the other hand, the most multifarious social quacks who, by all manner of tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances, in both cases men outside the working-class movement, and looking rather to the “educated” classes for support. Whatever portion of the working class had become convinced of the insufficiency of mere political revolutions, and had proclaimed the necessity of total social change, called itself Communist. It was a crude, rough-hewn, purely instinctive sort of communism; still, it touched the cardinal point and was powerful enough amongst the working class to produce the Utopian communism of Cabet in France, and of Weitling in Germany. Thus, in 1847, socialism was a middle-class movement, communism a working-class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, “respectable”; communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that “the emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself,” there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must take. Moreover, we have, ever since, been far from repudiating it”
Regarding your comment, Dene, about serving in the USAF and never meeting one person that was a liberal or democrat, you were in a different AF than the one I served in! I personally went in as a southern liberal and came out four years later with even stronger liberal views reinforced by my experience. While there I found those around me to be a microcosm of U.S. social and political status and views. Of course I also understood the importance of situational awareness and would not have shared my personal views with you who, if you speak like you write, would have quickly revealed your negative conservative attitude and closed-minded “my way or the highway” views of the world. In other words, as a liberal I wouldn’t have been good enough for your AF! But then I sat through, listened and absorbed AF sensitivity training that you must have missed. Cheers!
What happened to your other comment? You wrote some thoughtful views on ancestry, culture, regionalism, and what it means to be white.
I found it. I guess it was long enough that it had to be approved.
This article is ironic. It is faulting the white people for the rise of Donald Trump. It is faulting the white people for being brainwashed enough to support Elites while embracing xenophobia, racism, etc. Okay, fair points. It was an interesting read until 80% into the article when it just became a tirade against the 1%, rich elites and a rallying cry for socialism and Bernie Sanders. That is where I started regretting the last 30 minutes digesting the article prior. Jesus Christ.
So the author is saying that Donald Trump is just like one of those plantation owners – banking on illusion of hate, racism, and bigotry to pit the “poor whites” against the “poor blacks, mexicans, muslims” and other minorities against one another. Typical CNN talking points and very inaccurate view of his actual policies and speeches. Donald Trump is far from another “Classist” using “Racism” to divide and rob the nation. That is just wrong. So wrong.
There is good data in the article to support the claim that elites have pitted the poorer classes against one another for their own gain. True. But to entirely discount the opinion held by those “poor white mf’ers” as something only planted by Rich CEOs and 1% Elite is extremely patronizing and basically, the author is calling them fools for voting against their own interests by not being democratic. They possibly couldn’t know better!! Oh they’re just like the chess pieces to the elite, they have no mind – no intelligence, they’re sheep, they’re just fools for not wanting socialized economy. There is so much right AND much more wrong with this article.
The author failed to explain how exactly how Donald Trump is like the plantation owner. Really. Donald Trump is getting endorsements from the likes of Charles Evers – try saying to him that he is voting for Trump against his own interests? I dare the author that. Try saying to him to vote democratic after he said to an MSNBC reporter trying to racebate him “What have the democrats done for us?”.
Donald Trump – has time and again – faulted THE 1%, The political elite, the lawmakers for shipping jobs out, taking the globalized thought too far and has attacked the banks as well as the Fed for facilitating the lawmakers. TRUMP is attacking the same 1% Establishment from a wider, all encompassing area than Sanders’s narrow “Wall Street -The 1%” rhetoric. TRUMP is going after the political neocons who make money from illegal wars in the Middle East (who have blessed Hillary’s pro-war foreign policies). Sanders seems clueless on Foreign Policy, and has failed to condemn the outright nation building activities of USA (he condemned Iraq but has not taking a strong stance against Hillary in Libya and USA fighting Assad in Syria today). The difference is that Bernie is more forthright by just naming the 1% directly in domestic issues at least, that’s admirable no doubt, while Trump does it in a sly, dumb rhetorical speeches as he gets the republicans themselves to agree with him on near socialized medicare (“leave no man dying in the streets” “the banks are not good people”).
But just because Trump is the billionaire here, does not mean he is wrong. And just because he is culturally not arguing for Socialism does not mean he is playing with people on classism. To imply that without taking his platform into considering is reductionist and very shortsighted.
The article talks about Tyson Food’s CEO hiring illegal workers to save costs. Consider this for a moment; What if we actually make it difficult and highly illegal for companies to get away with such a practice and not just a slap on the wrist? Not only does it help the nation’s citizens maintain JOBS – it helps them protect their WAGES. Which must be kept up with inflation and be livable – or otherwise we really have the ground work for actual Bernie Sanders type classism revolution against the elites. I really want the author to consider this – When the “Poor Whites” no longer have illegals to place the blame on – who will they go after next if they are not paid well? Other legal colored Americans of the country – or the CEO?
If she thinks the former – then she really should have more faith in the sense of humanity of the people of her own color.
Also, why is the author blaming only the CEO of Tyson Foods, and not the political spectrum that facilitated and allowed for such practice in the first place? Political loopholes which motivated him to do it should ALSO be blamed. And what is so wrong with voting those political holes get closed up so companies do not do that anymore? Why is she railing against TRUMP for wanting to enforce immigration laws? India’s Supreme Court in 2008 declared illegal Bangladeshi migrants were hurting Indian laborers, thus the current popular Prime Minister has promised to handle the issue by stopping the illegal economic crossing into India. Are Indians wrong for wanting that? Are they being misled by THEIR elites for thinking illegal workers coming en-masse’ and working at lower wages hurts them?
Lets first solve the problem of illegal workers entering the country in USA. Then lets solve the problem of blue collar jobs being shipped overseas by huge numbers and depressing the nation – which Trump has been consistently against (anti-NAFTA, anti-TPP, has consistently been on TV for over 30 years saying the same nationalist trade rhetoric). Then lets solve the problem of the Elites protecting their own – that will be the time for Bernie Sanders. The whites, blacks and other minority American Citizens will be united against the corporate lobby should their wages be unlivable. Where does the author see that Trump will stand against this, by the way? And if Trump does somehow – you have grounds for actual political revolution with classism as its main platform.
Author has attempted to entirely discount the idea of very basic economic argument of illegals (she’s politically correct – so “undocumented”) workers demonstrably hurting the wages of working Americans alongside them due to simple rules of supply/demand. Why? Does she support open borders or does she support sovereign trade laws? I HONESTLY don’t know after reading the article. Serious.
Trump is running a simple more relateable and realistic platform – he is saying go nationalistic, reverse globalist trade laws which have enabled rampant outsourcing, bring manufacturing back, stop illegal wars, seal up the border. Bernie is saying attack the 1%, raise taxes everywhere, provide healthcare and college to everybody. First of all I have not seen how even raising 90% tax on 1% would help pay for much of what he is saying, but that is besides the point. People today in USA feel threatened and alienated in their own country and NO this is not because the political elite are poisoning their mind to say it. When they feel weak borders is costing them jobs and they SEE IT for themselves – that does more to solidify such beliefs. The “poor whites” may not be so dumb and misplaced in their beliefs as the author wants them to be; and that is where her argument for Bernie falls flat and calling for a classism based political revolution is not going to happen in today’s USA where there is little social cohesiveness among people. Everybody is afraid of each other. For classism based revolution such as what happened in France 300 years ago there must be first social unity. You’re not going to achieve that by saying poor whites are racists, or being played by Elites to be racists. You will achieve that by listening to them, which Trump is doing.
And saying Trump is just another plantation owner, when he has risked then lost tens to hundreds of millions of dollar in corporate partnerships with NASCAR, Macy’s, ESPN, NBC is – let me just say – stupid. Trump has alienated his brand to liberals today, as MSM calls him racist/bigot/sexist/whatever, and liberal market is a big market. If Trump wanted to sell his business he would have run a politically correct platform populist centrist platform like Bloomberg or Sanders. I’m hesitant to entirely label him as another elite out to rob society like the author wants me to believe. I think Trump is actually very patriotic and a true nationalist, I see that in him VERY clearly. Only a patriotic and nationalist man who believes in what he says could stand in front of 30,000 people in a stadium and 5 most major news channel cameras and deliver a speech on America 1st trade laws and borders without a teleprompter.
I think he’s made his money now he wants to give back and be remembered for something before he leaves this world. Bernie’s social revolution will have to wait, we need to decide if we’re open borders or a sovereign country first. We get that under Trump.
There’s a difference between being ignorant and being a “fool”.
@Foreigner in USA – “Typical CNN talking points and very inaccurate view of his actual policies and speeches.”
Do you even watch CNN? Could you offer multiple examples showing that these are talking points repeated on CNN?
It’s interesting that you mention CNN. That is one of the mainstream media news outlets that has been ignoring and misreporting on Sanders. They even were protested about this.
“But to entirely discount the opinion held by those “poor white mf’ers” as something only planted by Rich CEOs and 1% Elite is extremely patronizing and basically, the author is calling them fools for voting against their own interests by not being democratic.”
You could read Joe Bageant. He grew up as a poor white and spent much of his life around poor whites. He has written similar things. They aren’t dismissive. It’s simply making observations.
“Try saying to him to vote democratic after he said to an MSNBC reporter trying to racebate him “What have the democrats done for us?”.”
Sanders has nothing more to do with the Democratic party than Trump has to do with the Republican party. Sanders has spent decades in politics as an independent working with politicians from both parties. Sanders is probably more well liked by Republicans in Washington than Cruz and Trump combined. I heard one Republican politician explain that he respected Sanders honesty because one always knew where he stood, even when one disagreed with him.
“Sanders seems clueless on Foreign Policy, and has failed to condemn the outright nation building activities of USA (he condemned Iraq but has not taking a strong stance against Hillary in Libya and USA fighting Assad in Syria today).”
He has taken strong positions on endless foreign policy issues and has done so for his entire adult life, going at least back to the Vietnam War. He has criticized the money we waste on military adventurism and defense industry fraud. He supports a two state solution for Palestine and Israel. He could take even stronger positions, but in terms of actually doing something about these issues he has done far more than Trump. All that Trump offers is talk. He hasn’t spent his entire adult life fighting for these kinds of issues.
“But just because Trump is the billionaire here, does not mean he is wrong. And just because he is culturally not arguing for Socialism does not mean he is playing with people on classism. To imply that without taking his platform into considering is reductionist and very shortsighted.”
It doesn’t mean he is right either. The point is that there is no evidence he means anything he says and much evidence that he doesn’t.
“I really want the author to consider this – When the “Poor Whites” no longer have illegals to place the blame on – who will they go after next if they are not paid well? Other legal colored Americans of the country – or the CEO?
If she thinks the former – then she really should have more faith in the sense of humanity of the people of her own color.”
The author simply knows historical and present realities about issues of race and racism. She has faith in being well informed and not shoving one’s head into the sand.
“Also, why is the author blaming only the CEO of Tyson Foods, and not the political spectrum that facilitated and allowed for such practice in the first place?”
It’s just a representative example. She could have pointed out thousands of other similar examples. This article wasn’t intended to be an analysis of the entire corrupt and broken system.
“Why is she railing against TRUMP for wanting to enforce immigration laws?”
Probably because she sees it as typical dog whistle politics. Undocumented immigration is at its lowest point that it’s been in a long time. The problems the US economy faces has little to do with immigration. That is a distraction from the real problems. If we can’t face the real problems, then we can’t find solutions to them.
“The whites, blacks and other minority American Citizens will be united against the corporate lobby should their wages be unlivable. Where does the author see that Trump will stand against this, by the way? And if Trump does somehow – you have grounds for actual political revolution with classism as its main platform.”
If he actually meant anything he said. But there is no evidence that he means anything he says. That is the fundamental problem. Real reform can’t be built on empty rhetoric that distracts from the actual problems.
“Trump is running a simple more relateable and realistic platform – he is saying go nationalistic, reverse globalist trade laws which have enabled rampant outsourcing, bring manufacturing back, stop illegal wars, seal up the border. Bernie is saying attack the 1%, raise taxes everywhere, provide healthcare and college to everybody. First of all I have not seen how even raising 90% tax on 1% would help pay for much of what he is saying”
Sanders takes even stronger and more genuine positions on foreign policy than does Trump. Sanders has pointed out that if we stopped wasting money on such things as the military-industrial complex and corporate subsidies we’d have more than enough money to improve the lives and opportunities of the American public. It takes someone like Sanders to point out something so obvious.
“People today in USA feel threatened and alienated in their own country and NO this is not because the political elite are poisoning their mind to say it.”
No one paying attention could say this. The political elite are a part of the same class who owns, manages, and invests in corporate media, and corporate media funds the campaigns of the political elite. Read about the propaganda model of media.
“When they feel weak borders is costing them jobs and they SEE IT for themselves – that does more to solidify such beliefs.”
No, they don’t see it for themselves. That is the entire problem. They see what the corporate media shows them and the narrative the corporate media tells.
“that is where her argument for Bernie falls flat and calling for a classism based political revolution is not going to happen in today’s USA where there is little social cohesiveness among people.”
That is where your opinions fall flat. Sanders is the only candidate with majority popular support and low negative ratings. Both Clinton and Trump don’t have majority support in polls and have negative ratings. Most Americans don’t trust and believe either Clinton or Trump.
“If Trump wanted to sell his business he would have run a politically correct platform populist centrist platform like Bloomberg or Sanders.”
Trump is so filthy rich that money means nothing to him. He could throw millions of dollars left and right and still be rich beyond imagination for several lifetimes over. His campaign won’t negatively effect any of his businesses in the long term. If anything, it just keeps him in the media and promotes his brand image. The main product Trump has always sold is himself, and that is what his campaign is about. It’s a big advertisement for Trump and it’s effective to that end.
“I think Trump is actually very patriotic and a true nationalist, I see that in him VERY clearly.”
Trump talks the talk but he doesn’t walk the walk. He hasn’t kept all his business deals and production in the US. He has gladly made business deals in other countries. In practice, Trump is a neoliberal globalist. Talk is cheap.
“Only a patriotic and nationalist man who believes in what he says could stand in front of 30,000 people in a stadium and 5 most major news channel cameras and deliver a speech on America 1st trade laws and borders without a teleprompter.”
That sounds like you’re describing Sanders, except maybe the part about major news channel cameras. The corporate media loves Trump. They don’t love Sanders, which should tell you a lot. Some of Trump’s voicemails were released and it showed how chummy he is with those working in corporate media.
“I think he’s made his money now he wants to give back and be remembered for something before he leaves this world.”
That is your belief based on no evidence. It’s a nice idea. But going by his lack of majority support it is apparent most Americans don’t see that as likely being true.
“Bernie’s social revolution will have to wait, we need to decide if we’re open borders or a sovereign country first. We get that under Trump.”
It’s not Bernie’s social revolution. It’s the social revolutions of the American public. That social revolution will come no matter what. Not even Trump can stop it at this point. Sanders is stronger than Trump on the issues you claim to be the reasons for your support of Trump. I find that odd. If you want to deal with the problems of free trade and immigration, then the only realistic candidate is Sanders.
I see a (terrifying) parallel between the rise of Trump and the support he draws from those who feel they are “voiceless” and Hugo Chavez’s rise in Venezuela two decades ago. While their politics are very different, could anyone have predicted 20 years ago that the country with the largest oil reserves in the world would be on the brink of collapse today? Many, many Venezuelans voted for and believed in Chavez back then. Not just the poor who are on the government dole today. Once Chavez had the presidency in his grip, it only got tighter.
My fear is how far Trump will take things if he wins the presidency. Who can predict where the US will be 20 years from now? Who is to say that we won’t be the next Venezuela? In Venezuela, it started with a man who made the voiceless feel they had a voice…
Never say never.
In the end, though, the important questions in life are not about politics, but about religion. Politics may determine how comfortable we are for a few years in this life, but our religion will determine how comfortable we are for the eternity of the next life.
In Christ there is neither rich nor poor, male nor female, white nor black; but we are all God’s children. Win the world for Christ and everything else will sort itself out!
Fantastic piece. Though I live in Portland and have to say I’ve never heard of Vantucky. God I hope that’s a minority piece of slang. Thank you so much for taking the time to CARE.
I am hungry for more…I had just heard a powerful sermon over the Internet given by Bishop T.D. Jakes “The Miracle of Survival” and now I came across your piece. My cup is running over because I am a political junkie. I kept seeing the current political climate being tied into the language and culture during slavery in America…Your piece has given voice to my processing of our political reality of today. Thank you! Thank you! Please keep me inform of any and all of your writing and Posting…Par Excellence in disecting our current political climate…Again thank you
Everyone has to rely on narratives, imagery, vague statements and promises to figure out who the “best” candidate is.” How does one decide on a candidate with hate and fear mongering headlines like this from corporate owned mainstream media and the dirty fighting from all political sides?
This was a well-written and interesting article, until it turned into a stump for Bernie.
As it seems most comments focus on education and religion, using it as explanation why poor white folks vote for aggressively conservative candidates; which in the eyes of urban liberal is a sign of voting against ones self interest.
In reality they do vote according to their self interest.
Te key is quoted in the text, the famous Reagan phrase about most horrifying words in the English language.
Yes, idea of “helping” government is horrifying-for most people at the poor side of town. The ideas about big government who would fight poverty through social programs means simply more bureaucrats, more limitation to do own business, more tax and same poor income.
It is pretty clear now, after numerous failed attempts of past decades, that huge government bureaucracy only increases corruption in the own end, and was/is not able to help anyone, both domestically or internationally.
Any aid or welfare program in modern history, in America or in Europe which is seen like a role model by USA liberals, would inevitably end up with ten bureaucrats being assign to monitor and control a welfare check of each single poor person. With bureaucrats receiving 99% of intended funds and poor person getting his 1%, and with the eventual tax increase to finance whole scheme.
Could be that some recent immigrants, and naive city liberals still trust the idea that Bernie Sanders will redistribute wealth for a benefit of poor, but rural, struggling class knows its not going to happen.
Even if there will be re distribution of wealth, it will be redistribution of corporate profits into the government agencies, not into the hands of actual people in need.
And member of struggling class know too well all the tricks to build Babylonian paperwork wall which is used by bureaucracy to make sure that cashflow will go bureaucratic way
On the contrary Trump is promising jobs in private sector, plain and simple.
Sorry for typos, written on a tablet.
@gabrichidze – “As it seems most comments focus on education and religion, using it as explanation why poor white folks vote for aggressively conservative candidates; which in the eyes of urban liberal is a sign of voting against ones self interest.”
You unintentionally make a good point here, at least in part.
Many of the poorest, uneducated, and most religious people in the country actually vote Democratic or else they don’t vote at all, even when they do support Democrats. That is seen in the South. Most Southerners support Democrats, but there is so much voter disfranchisement, voter suppression, and voter demoralization that few of those Democratic-supporting potential voters end up voting.
That is changing, though. A couple S0uthern states had the majority youth vote go to Obama. South Carolina was a notable example of this.
Poor people, including poor whites, are even more strongly Democratic in the Democratic states.
As for those who vote for conservatives, it’s complicated. But polls show that most Americans support liberal positions on most issues. Yet symbolic conservatism has dominated the political narrative.
Still, even more popular than conservatism is progressivism, which shows majority support across the political spectrum. Sanders is essentially an old school progressive, which is why he is the only candidate with majority popular support.
“Yes, idea of “helping” government is horrifying-for most people at the poor side of town. The ideas about big government who would fight poverty through social programs means simply more bureaucrats, more limitation to do own business, more tax and same poor income.”
Polls show that poor people don’t hate welfare. They might prefer a job instead. But with high unemployment, they aren’t naive enough to dismiss any help they can get. Most Americans, including most poor whites, support a strong social safety net.
“It is pretty clear now, after numerous failed attempts of past decades, that huge government bureaucracy only increases corruption in the own end, and was/is not able to help anyone, both domestically or internationally.”
The poor were far worse off in the past before the creation of the welfare state. That is simply a fact. The welfare state may not be the best answer, but it is the only workable solution yet found to the failures of capitalism.
“Any aid or welfare program in modern history, in America or in Europe which is seen like a role model by USA liberals, would inevitably end up with ten bureaucrats being assign to monitor and control a welfare check of each single poor person.”
People living in functioning social democracies and expansive welfare states would disagree with you. Norway, for example, has a generous social safety net and yet has a budget surplus along with low unemployment. Our cynical form of Social Darwinism isn’t an inevitable outcome.
“With bureaucrats receiving 99% of intended funds and poor person getting his 1%, and with the eventual tax increase to finance whole scheme.”
Some research has found that government programs like this are more cost efficient and have lower rates of fraud than their private equivalents.
“Could be that some recent immigrants, and naive city liberals still trust the idea that Bernie Sanders will redistribute wealth for a benefit of poor, but rural, struggling class knows its not going to happen.”
The rural, struggling class gets a disproportionate part of government largesse. Their infrastructure, schools, and high rates of welfare are mostly paid by federal funds. I’d add that it’s Republican states, not Democratic states, that receive more federal funds than they pay in federal taxes. So, those rich urban liberals are paying for the living expenses of those rural, struggling class. They might want to be a bit more grateful.
“On the contrary Trump is promising jobs in private sector, plain and simple.”
All that Trump is offering is empty rhetoric about jobs in the private sector. Republicans have been making those failed promises for decades, as the middle class shrunk and economic mobility decreased.
Ben, Norway is an extremely wealthy country, made so by its vast petroleum reserves. However it would be a mistake to describe any European country as “socialist” in the sense many in the US use it. By and large they’re heavily capitalist, free market, economies, but with attached substantial welfare states. However some are also trying to scale down their welfare states, because the cost of them is becoming prohibitive. Norway itself has a population of about 5 million, or that of a large American city, and a disinclination to take much in the way of immigration.
You’re not really comparing like with like.
@Jason – Anu Partanen also dissected the kind of argument you made here. She utterly dismantles your entire worldview, leaving a heap of rubble where it once stood. The Nordic countries earlier last year had many economic and social problems. They didn’t begin as wealthy countries. They also had entrenched ruling elites and not much democracy, whether of the political or social variety. Reforms in many of these countries preceded their becoming wealthy. It was those reforms that allowed them to become wealthy and to use their natural resources for the public good. The US is the most resource rich country in the world and yet it wastes that wealth. On top of this, those Nordic countries have higher rates per capita of rich people, more socioeconomic mobility, greater ease in starting a small business, etc. It’s their welfare state benefits that make the wealthy countries, such as ensuring a highly educated and well trained population that are able to create a better functioning economy.
Just wow. We progressives are always wringing our hands about why “they” (poor whites) are always voting against their own interests. “What’s the Matter with Kansas” etc. Because we don’t know the answer to that question, we assume that their voting patterns are as mysterious as dark matter in the universe. If their mentality is incomprehensible to us, it’s because the voices of the white working class have rarely been articulated as passionately as they have been here. In fact their voices are heard in MSM only when a candidate like Trump emerges and the rest of the country wakes up and asks ‘What the f*** is going on here?”
I find it peculiar and symptomatic, how the entire discussion on racism is not just focused on, but strictly and rigidly limited exclusively to the racism of whites. I have yet to hear a discussion, in which someone dares mention, that racism is not a phenomenon limited to the white race, that all racial groups contain individuals, who are horribly, violently and overwhelmingly racist. And furthermore, those racists from different racial groups are fueling each other, they are stoking each other’s fires.
Racism will not go away as long as it is viewed and discussed as a trait limited exclusively to white people. It will never go away, as long as it is perfectly fine for black people to call white people racial slurs, and at the same time the reverse is universally condemned.
And yes, this article has a good point, united underclasses would have been a powerful force, and those underclasses can not be united, as long as they are repelled away from each other by forces of racism. But the racism can only ever be combated after it is correctly identified and determined. As long as white people are living in fear of losing their livelihoods, verbal and physical mob assaults and worse for merely poking around a racial theme, and at the same time it is universally tolerated for blacks to keep screaming about how the white devil needs to be killed, keep calling white people the entire array or racial slurs for whites, keep blatantly discriminating against whites every single opportunity they get, racism will remain firmly rooted and will keep flourishing among all racial groups.
Divide and conquer is the strategy, that has been working for the rich elite for centuries. But to overcome that strategy, it is equally necessary for white people to realize, that blacks and latinos are not the enemy, as it is for blacks and latinos to realize, that poor and working class whites are not the enemy. Unfortunately and mutual support needs to be reciprocated, otherwise it can not exist. You can not expect poor whites to support black interests, if they are in turn blatantly discriminated against and called racial slurs, to add insult to injury.
Think of racism wholesomely. Then act against it in its entirety. Then you can start dreaming of the united underclass.
@Vojislav Novak – You make some good points. But on occasion you go a bit off the rail.
“I have yet to hear a discussion, in which someone dares mention, that racism is not a phenomenon limited to the white race, that all racial groups contain individuals, who are horribly, violently and overwhelmingly racist.”
I see discussions about that kind of thing all the time. With the internet, they aren’t hard to find.
“As long as white people are living in fear of losing their livelihoods, verbal and physical mob assaults and worse for merely poking around a racial theme, and at the same time it is universally tolerated for blacks to keep screaming about how the white devil needs to be killed, keep calling white people the entire array or racial slurs for whites, keep blatantly discriminating against whites every single opportunity they get, racism will remain firmly rooted and will keep flourishing among all racial groups.”
Do you have any evidence for those claims? Have whites been physically attacked by mobs for innocently and sincerely asking about larger issues of race? It sounds more like typical right-wing rhetoric
Tell them to vote for Bernie, and things will get better.
I feel like I am missing something here. I am curious why “Black” is capitalized throughout the piece, unless it is from a direct quote where the original author used “black”, while “white” is not. I figured someone else would have asked about this and had it answered in the comments, but everyone who commented seems either not to have noticed or understands the underlying meaning behind this juxtaposition.
That was an editorial choice. “Black” has effectively replaced “African-American,” which was always capitalized. I would capitalize “Asian,” “Hispanic,” or “Jewish,” but “white” is sort of a catch-all term that doesn’t indicate ethnicity. I’ll admit, it’s an odd construction, but STIR has chosen to err on the side of respect.
“white” is a color. Maybe albinos are “white”, but if you used “White” to describe people of European descent, you would at least be consistent with the editorial policy of the American Journal of Public Health :).
I’ve rarely been so moved by a piece of political writing. Kudos to Jonna Ivan for presenting a personal, engaging and insightful overview of the political madness presently sweeping across the US. There is hope.
Wow, my comment seems to have caused a…STIR!
I’m not disparaging you, but this story is still tough to buy. The town in Arkansas you mentioned doesn’t appear to be far from the University of Arkansas. Are you sure you weren’t just a poor college student and enlarged it to Maya Angelou-ish proportions?
And if one is truly poor, there are much lower cost-of-living places than Portland. If you needed a roof, didn’t the trailer in Arkansas provide that? Not meaning to be nosy, just trying to put it all together.
Your bio says you now live in Santa Monica. The average rent there by the beach is around $2,000, isn’t it? Do people in Santa Monica really feel like they don’t have a voice? And this article was covered in The New York Times. That’s “voiceless?”
Oh, well. Continued good luck with your site. I’m going to go paint my Corolla in shades of possibility now.
The author comes across as highly educated and well-read, a graduate of a private college and maybe even holds a Master’s degree. From California. Newsboy cap. Even moves across the country to the Portland (hipster mecca) area without trouble.
This is a well-to-do hipster who was being poor “ironically.” Living in a trailer in Arkansas was a fun bit of slumming. Watching the working class whites was like being on safari. Funny thing is, she still believes the “plantation owners were dividing and conquering” narrative from her college text books more than what the people standing right in front of her said.
“We were one generation away from poor white trash, my mother always reminded me.” Yes, and it was a very wide gap, I’m sure. But gotta put on the poor for street cred when writing your “Feel the Bern” essay!
Judge much, CO? Jeez…
The author DOES come across as well-read. However, it doesn’t take a private school graduate degree to produce a well-thought-out piece like this. It takes talent and skill, and she very likely could have gotten those skills at a public college. She could be (like me), wrapped in student loan debt, because an education is one of the few things no one can take from you. She could have read a lot. Poor people are allowed to read whatever they want.
I also lived in California as a kid. The school system there was very good. I wasn’t aware that some children are able to dictate where they are raised. You must be very lucky and privileged.
Her move to Portland could have been for any number of reasons and she never said it was trouble-free. In fact, I’m pretty sure she pointed out that she felt like an outsider there. The thing is, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
To just start aiming and shooting at someone because she doesn’t fit your narrow stereotype of what a poor person looks or sounds like is obnoxious and small.
But hey, if sniping makes you feel big and better about yourself, this is the Internet and you can be as amazing and superb as you want to be on my screen.
For what it’s worth, Jonna strikes me a kickass human being who’d be cool to hang out with for a day and wouldn’t for a millisecond make me feel like I have something better to do. You, on the other hand, come across as arrogant and tiresome, and while maybe you are neither, your commentary is.
For clarification, I don’t hold a Masters Degree. I don’t hold a Bachelors degree. I didn’t attend community college. I barely graduated from high school.
I wasn’t living in a trailer ironically. I was living in a trailer because it was what I could afford. I didn’t collect food stamps ironically and I didn’t go without eating ironically. I was able to move to Vancouver with the help of friends. Yes, I am extremely lucky that I have friends who helped me out of a bad situation. I didn’t choose Vancouver because it is the “hipster mecca,” I went there because a friend offered a roof over my head. With the choice being homeless or Vancouver – I chose Vancouver. You’ll allow me that choice, won’t you? Or should I have slept on the streets to appease your vision of poverty?
Poor people are allowed to wear hats. I don’t know what else to say about that. Apparently the hat angers people. To the Klan, it meant one thing and for you, I guess, it means something else. It’s some sort of magical hat. For me, it was a way to cover my head. If you would like to discuss the deeper meaning of the hat, you’ll have to take that up with the Klan.
Telling people they don’t appear “poor enough” for you is a way of silencing those who already feel they don’t have a voice.
@Conscientious Objector – I just wanted to respond one thing:
“Even moves across the country to the Portland (hipster mecca) area without trouble.”
I have family who live or have lived in Oregon. My brother briefly lived in Portland and he moved out there with a close friend of mine. They were both poor at the time.
Oregon has high rates of unemployment. Portland, in particular, has a large population of poor and homeless. My friend has been telling me about all of the homeless camps forming all over town. Those homeless camps aren’t filled with ironic hipsters.
Poor people live all around the country, not just in Appalachia. In fact, most poor people live in urban areas, not rural areas. This is as true for poor whites as poor blacks. Poor rural whites get a disproportionate amount of attention. It’s the poor urban whites who get ignored most of all.
The author has an interesting take on the history, and not necessarily wrong. But I think that, as usual when trying to prove a thesis like this, she’s trying to prove a level of collusion within a class that is more coincidental than designed. For example, in the Civil War and post Civil War era I’m pretty sure that
A. The rich really were incensed over the rhetoric and actions of the North and
B. Felt that the poor should share their indignation and
C. Felt that, as they were special and more important, they would bear the financial and leadership burdens, not the actual combat burden.
As in all conflicts there were enough of the wealthy fathers and sons involved to provide cover for the complaint that “all of the fighting is being done by the poor” but somehow the actual percentage in the field was minimal.
After the war, in the South you’d be hard pressed to find someone that didn’t think that white people were superior to black people. In the North, too! I don’t think you had a bunch of wealthy people working overtime to convince poor dirt farmers that they were better than blacks. The whole disaster, post-war, was dumped in the laps of abolitionists and blacks.
Where she and I agree is that the Republican Party, since the civil rights era, has made a point of going after the poor, and yes, uneducated white population pretty much everywhere. They were successfully using them on election day and ignoring them for the rest of the year, probably because they felt that they were gullible enough to put up with that. Where she veers off into Progressive dogma and misses what’s going on today is what occurred Post-Reagan. It was a group of rich, libertarian (in an COMPLETELY greed-based way), primarily rural individuals that brought this group into a position of power by financing their move into the political process, first at the local and then at the state level and then into the House and Senate. They created this group to control the Republican primary process and, therefore, which candidates got on the ticket. Then they just had to convince other conservative voters to hold their nose and vote for them, just like the mainstream Republicans in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s did to them.
Trump is not just a rich guy taking advantage of poor white people and getting them to go along with him. He has, I’m sure, not nearly enough patience to build up this base and get them to agree with him. He simply took a convenient electoral weapon away from the neoconservatives and walked away with it. I simply can’t believe that he cares at all about supporting this group or, for that matter, betraying them. By simply escalating the rhetoric that inflames them, he captured an existing group to get the nomination. The author REALLY wants a Capitalist Villian to make her story complete and instead got dealt a nihilist who probably doesn’t have any clue that all of that history even exists. My contention is that if Trump had emerged in the late 60’s he would have wiped Hubert Humphrey off the ticket for the Democrats (who, let’s face it, weren’t particularly turned off by rich people) by taking the far left rhetoric of the time and turning up the volume there. He just wants “Presidential Candidate” on his resume. He doesn’t care what he has to do to get there.
One truth I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned anywhere is that a lot of the so called ‘Trump’ supporters were raised believing that they should earn their own way, that nobody owed them anything and, if at the end of the day, their hard work gets them nothing but a little trailer and clunker car, at least they can sit in either one and be proud knowing they got it on their own rather than than having it or anything else handed to them. There’s a certain pride in that that those who insist on ‘entitlements’ will never understand. This from someone who’s had the little trailer and clunker car and has worked her way up from there to something nicer, knowing that NO ONE, government or otherwise, has paid for any of it other than me.
Also, you realize Bernie’s big plans to pay for everything the poor think they should have coming to them has to be paid for by someone, right? And don’t think that all that money is coming from people as rich as Trump. A large majority of your middle class (75,000 to 100,000 annually) who’s worked their way out of the trailer/clunker under their own sweat will be rewarded for all that hard work by paying extra taxes to ole’ Bernie. But that’s okay according to all the potential beneficiaries who are only looking out for number one.
Under Bernie, why do you automatically assume taxes will go up or go up so substantially that it would be a detriment to the middle class? Did you read the article? You have no problem then with how the Iraq war (and how many other useless wars) made small groups of already rich like Haliburton more rich? YOu have no problem with 747 loads of a billion dollars gone missing? But you have some problem with taxes going up to pay for social programs that in return benefit people, including the middle class who you think are being taken? Did you read the article?
One truth that people like you can’t admit because it would shatter your comfortable worldview of righteous, arrogant judgment of others is that most people “were raised believing that they should earn their own way, that nobody owed them anything.”
But good jobs with job security, benefits, pensions, etc have become rare. Permanent unemployment rates are so high that the government stopped recording them back under the Reagan administration. Wages have stagnated for most workers and buying power has dropped, at the same time that costs of housing and education have increased.
It costs more to try to pull oneself out of poverty than it did in the past, and unsurprisingly economic mobility has decreased far behind many other industrialized countries. Many poor people in the past had the opportunities and resources (often government funded) to pull themselves out of poverty and live a comfortable middle class lifestyle. Along with the middle class now shrinking, the US no longer has the wealthiest middle class in the world. Many in the Middle class are a single job loss or health incident from falling into poverty. Imagine how bad it is for those already poor.
I’d point out that Trump’s largest support doesn’t come from the poor but from the lower middle class. These are the people who are living in fear of losing what little has been gained. Some of these people started life as working poor or else their parents did. They aren’t that far from the bottom and they know it. But politicians and pundits for decades have been telling them that if they just worked hard that they would get what they deserved, the American Dream. Now they’re learning it’s been a lie all along.
“There’s a certain pride in that that those who insist on ‘entitlements’ will never understand. This from someone who’s had the little trailer and clunker car and has worked her way up from there to something nicer, knowing that NO ONE, government or otherwise, has paid for any of it other than me.”
This expresses such a disconnection from basic realities.
Poor whites have higher rates of welfare than do poor blacks. Most so-called “welfare queens” are white—this is true if you go by total numbers or by percentage of each race. Yet many of these poor whites only think it is entitlement when someone else gets it. They deserve this government help, while others don’t. A long history of race-baiting has created this division.
The greatest irony is that one hears your kind of opinion most strongly from those living in Republican states. It is precisely those states that receive the most federal funding—in fact more federal money than they pay in federal taxes. It is the Democratic states that pay for most of the benefits that poor whites take advantage of, especially in Republican states.
Federal funds helped pay for emergency services (police, fire departments, emergency rooms, etc), offset healthcare costs (women’s health clinics, mental health services, etc), pay for your education and the roads and bridges you use, keep gas prices and municipality costs low, and on and on. You have been helped every step of the way. That is what society is about. Go live deep in the wilderness all by yourself and see how long you last.
There is a lot of judgment of government assistance. I find that sad. None of us get through life without benefiting from a variety of things that are government-funded. As for welfare, besides most recipients being white, most recipients are employed but not earning enough to make ends meet and most recipients are only temporarily on welfare. It genuinely is a helping hand for most people.
There are many important and insightful books about issues of race and poverty. Here are a few I’d particularly recommend:
When Affirmative Action Was White
by Ira Katznelson
Three Worlds of Relief
by Cybelle Fox
The Wages of Whiteness
by David R. Roediger
That the fiscal union hypocritically favors Red states is true. But it’s just as true that welfare and such are a tool of not only the left but also the right, who prefer to pay blood money to the hardcore unemployed rather than work towards equality of opportunity. And this, too, benefits affluent leftists who live in Blue states and prefer to propose impractical solutions for complex social problems from which they isolate themselves.
Bottom line is, the fiscal union that hypocritically favors both poor and wealthy conservatives, also favors poor and wealthy leftists. The real losers are the struggling and predominately White male American lower-middle class whom the neoliberals have lost all interest in.
This was a really thought provoking piece, and I enjoyed reading your take on the situation, especially as it relates to your personal experience living in poverty and in different parts of the U.S. I think that you get a lot right in your article, but I think that there are some places where you overstate your case, which weakens your overall message.
The central premise here is that poor white people have been manipulated by rich white people into supporting policies that go against their own best interest. Similarly, they’ve been manipulated into being racist. I think that there is some truth in this, but it’s not the whole story. During the pre-Civil War era, there was plenty of racism in the Northeast, and there weren’t any wealthy plantation owners manipulating people in that part of the country. I think that racism is alive and well in a lot of the world, and there are some people who capitalize on that racism for their own gain. I think a similar thing is happening with Trump. He’s not tricking people into being angry and going crazy for him – they were already angry, and he’s figured out how to capitalize on that anger for his own gain.
Like you, I have been trying to figure out why people would support policies that, in my eyes, go against their best interest. But I also think that most people aren’t that gullible, and they don’t take on opinions just because somebody else tells them to. Leaders can manipulate a feeling that people already have, but they can’t create a feeling that isn’t already there. So where is that feeling coming from? Maybe people resent the fact that some politicians think they need entitlements? I don’t know how people in Appalachia reacted to Johnson-era programs when they were originally implemented, but maybe their reaction to Medicaid/Welfare/food benefits would help us make sense of what’s going on. Maybe people aren’t happy with the other solutions that are being provided by either of the political parties, because a lot of people seem to be equally angry at both Democrats and Republicans.
I’m not claiming to have all of the answers, just wanted to contribute to a really interesting discussion. Thanks for your work!
@Amy – I generally agree with your perspective. But I think taking a large view would help get at the source of problems You write that,
“Leaders can manipulate a feeling that people already have, but they can’t create a feeling that isn’t already there.”
I’d argue that feelings can be created.
We are talking about ideas and beliefs, rhetoric and talking points, perceptions and prejudices that have been developing over generations and even centuries at this point. Many of these feelings have been inherited from the past, having been learned in childhood from parents and grandparents, authority figures and pundits.
These are deeply-rooted attitudes and problems we are dealing with. You are correct that Trump didn’t create them. But you have to understand that many leaders before him have carefully cultivated such feelings in the public.
@Benjamin Can’t disagree with you there – I think all of your points are valid. All of this stuff has been going on for years, and if people hear things over and over again for long enough, they start to believe them.
However I maintain that while rhetoric plays a part in peoples’ opinions, people in general (rich, poor, black, white, whatever) have legitimate reasons for the things they believe. It’s a lot easier to write off a group of people as being manipulated or delusional instead of listening to them about what’s at the heart of their frustrations and trying to solve those problems. This is something that the establishment candidates aren’t doing enough of.
@Amy – We’re not really in disagreement.
I’m definitely critical of those who want to blame everything on Trump and dismiss his supporters. He is the symptom, not the disease. And his supporters are reacting to a corrupt rigged system.
There are many even on the political left who don’t want to face the problems before us. They don’t want to acknowledge that is a weak political left that has helped it to get so bad. It’s easier to scapegoat those other people.
You are too young and close-minded to understand that a major reason the Left lost credibility in the US was the crackpot dogmas it marketed during the 1960s that paralyzed the country and unleashed violent social change that middle-class families were least equipped to deal with.
Those dogmas have since become institutionalized in higher education after their most rabid supporters were unable to normalize in the following decades and instead voted themselves into university tenure.
What Amy says is right on the mark and is really the central issue of this discussion. You neatly dismiss the perspective and concerns of millions of Americans on the basis of your dogma. You don’t have the right to do that.
Jonna, you proclaim yourself as “uneducated”. I hold college degrees and education two separate hands. Perhaps to the elite you are indeed uneducated, but I have observed you to be an incredibly well read individual, extremely well versed, and thus (in the eyes of a common working class white boy going to college as an actor/a.k.a. starving artist), VERY educated. Well done, and thank you for sharing your informed work/research.
P.S. Laurel is by far the coolest Moderator I’ve ever seen. Great job!
This was a truly thought provoking article, until you turned it into a Bernie Sanders moment at the end…Trump is not the way to go…Neither is Sanders…
Growing up in rural eastern North Carolina during during the era when family farms were disappearing and replaced by textile plants soon followed by factory farming and animal processing plants I watched as what Jonna describes played out. I was one of the lucky ones who through luck, hard work, GI Bill funded education, and willingness to relocate found my way out.
But I have long been intrigued by the culture there and have spent countless hours trying to understand my own roots as well as the roots of those I grew up with and define both white and black culture in the region. My Grandmother always described our family as Scotch-Irish and our “Irish” surname supported at least the Irish part and there were at least a few Scotch ancestors. But modern DNA analysis flagged Iberian Peninsula as the major source but with almost equal amounts of Irish and British with traces of several other regions.
My research led me to early settlement in what was then Bertie County, NC along the shores of the Pasquotank River around 1700 where my Irish ancestors, and perhaps a ship-wrecked Portuguese sailor who swam ashore nearby bringing the Iberian Peninsula DNA, were likely absorbed into the emerging tri-cultural “free men” society of Irish, Native Americans and Free Blacks. The three “races” lived in harmony, inter-married, and worked as equals with united in their resistance to British rulers who controlled their lives, to some extent. There were also wealthy plantation owners with slaves and indentured servants, and I fairly certain my Great, Great Grandmother was the latter based primarily on their Marriage Bond issued in 1796.
With the Revolutionary War over, skin color began to be “seen” in the region and individuals began to leave the area migrating across the country with some choosing white and others choosing black in each case seeking better opportunity and, in some cases, escape from the shadow of slavery as addressed in Jonna’s essay. Meanwhile economic ties between southern plantation economy and northeastern industrialization grew stronger as the need for cheap labor in the northeast created opportunity for racism as a tool to “capture” the wave of low-skilled Irish coming to America to escape the great famine, and resulted in collaborative north/south political trade-offs and agreements that effectively extended the institution of slavery in the south with the full complicity of enough northern politicians to make it work and ensure both regions of the cheap labor they wanted. The book, How the Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev does a fantastic job exploring the topic and provides well researched basis for conclusions reached. For me it very effectively bridged the gap between the 1700s Bertie County melting pot and the racism I saw growing up, and still see here in North Carolina and throughout the U.S.A.
So how about the Southern Culture we so often talk about? Or for that matter our uniquely “American Culture?” Art MacDonald takes a shot at making connections and clarifying as presented at http://www.pitt.edu/~hirtle/uujec/white.html. Another very nice read that for me helped me understand that while I love my NC heritage as well as my Irish, real or adopted, roots it is far easier to explain what it is to be “Irish” than it is to explain what is means to be “White,” either American or Southern. Likewise, when I look north to my Canadian friends I see their culture much more clearly than my own. As Jonna alludes to, isn’t it time that we bring those marginalized voters Trump is pulling his support from back to a multi-cultural true American identity with our own unique national culture? That is, take our country back!
Thanks, Jonna for providing the catalyst to send me down through this thought process! Cheers!
This was the comment I was looking for earlier. I greatly appreciated it.
I share your interests in trying to make sense of where we come from. I’ve been doing genealogical research in recent years and it is fascinating. In the process, I’ve learned a lot about American history. My ancestry is a bit different than yours, but fairly similar in some ways. Many of my family lines go back to early America.
Like you, I’ve thought a lot about ethnicity and race. After having spent time in the Deep South, I traveled around the country a bit and then moved back to the Midwest where I was born. I’ve seen the contrasts and sometimes conflicts between regions and populations. This is a large, diverse country.
She sounds pretty educated to me, regardless of how many degrees she has. Great article!
Has STIR considered hiring a fact checker? The factual errors concerning Republicans and conservatives are, of course, numerous. But then there is this one concerning Democrats: “President Johnson, a greater ally to Black civil rights leaders than Kennedy had been, took over the program after Kennedy’s assassination and expanded its scope.”
As a senator, LBJ filibustered a civil rights act and then went home to Texas to brag about it. His support for the 1964 CRA and the 1965 VRA (which both passed largely because of Republicans), and the nomination of Thurgood Marshall in 1967 (again, whose confirmation relied on GOP votes) had more to do with a cynical move to get votes rather than being an ally to civil rights leaders.
And why the capitalization of “Blacks” and the lower case for “whites”? Why the typographical inequality?
I’ll ignore your patronizing tone and answer your questions, even though both have already been asked and answered.
We rigorously fact check. Here’s a list of links to sources cited:
On capitalizing “Black”: That was an editorial choice. “Black” has effectively replaced “African-American,” which was always capitalized. I would capitalize “Asian,” “Hispanic,” or “Jewish,” but “white” is sort of a catch-all term that doesn’t indicate ethnicity. I’ll admit, it’s an odd construction, but STIR has chosen to err on the side of respect.
“White” is as much an “ethnicity” as “Black”.. Actually “Black” is a much larger “catch-all term”.. even if you only include the Bantu-Congoids, they’re still a much larger group than all those listed, except asians
Accidentally posted this in the wrong place last time:
Are you sure that Johnson filibustered the 1957 Civil Rights Act? I could have sworn that when I read “Master of the Senate,” the authoritative biography of Johnson’s time as Senate Majority Leader, it described Johnson as the one who tried to push it through the Senate. I don’t have it in me to go back and re-read all 1,166 pages to confirm, but here’s an excerpt of the NYT Book Review of “Master of the Senate” if you’d like to see a citation:
“That Lyndon Johnson is also brilliantly captured by Robert A. Caro in ”Master of the Senate,” the third volume of his definitive biography. Tames took his photographs in 1957, the same year that provides the climax of Mr. Caro’s symphonic ode to Johnson’s Senate career.
It was the year that Johnson strong-armed a civil rights bill through the Senate, a remarkable feat considering that no civil rights legislation of any type had been passed by Congress since 1875.”
I remember hearing about Thurmond’s filibuster. Maybe you were thinking of that?
Kevin, what is your basis to attribute actions by one politician to cynicism, and actions by another politician to bonhomie?
The truth is that politicians of Nixon and LBJ’s generation were very wise men who had a much sharper understanding of racial issues in the US than people today give them credit for. Both were tough men who came of age through tough times and subscribed to a mix of cynicism and idealism that was characteristic of early 20th-century America.
It is a gross oversimplification to say that their views on race or varying degrees of support or opposition to civil rights legislation was motivated entirely by any one factor.
It is fair to say that, in general, Nixon and LBJ perceived the civil rights movement as a platform for demagogues who were mostly not Black and were both more cynical and less idealistic than themselves. As classic conservatives, their main objective was not ensuring the hegemony of any one group, but maintaining the stability of American society as a whole. And it’s chutzpah to say they were automatically wrong.
Jonna Ivan wrote: “Trump is railing against establishment politics not because he cares about the white underclass, but because he needs us — for now. He isn’t reaching out a hand to lift us up. He wants to stand on our shoulders so we can lift him up.”
Absolutely. Thank you for your insight here. This explains his motivations but I’m not convinced that you have correctly identified why people are voting for him, or, as in Wisconsin, switching their vote to Cruz as the better alternative, but I appreciate your attempt and perspective. Thank you for sharing this.
Are you sure that Johnson filibustered the 1957 Civil Rights Act? I could have sworn that when I read “Master of the Senate,” the authoritative biography of Johnson’s time as Senate Majority Leader, it described Johnson as the one who tried to push it through the Senate. I don’t have it in me to go back and re-read all 1,166 pages to confirm, but here’s an excerpt of the NYT Book Review of “Master of the Senate” if you’d like to see a citation:
“That Lyndon Johnson is also brilliantly captured by Robert A. Caro in ”Master of the Senate,” the third volume of his definitive biography. Tames took his photographs in 1957, the same year that provides the climax of Mr. Caro’s symphonic ode to Johnson’s Senate career.
It was the year that Johnson strong-armed a civil rights bill through the Senate, a remarkable feat considering that no civil rights legislation of any type had been passed by Congress since 1875.”
I remember hearing about Thurmond’s filibuster. Maybe you were thinking of that?
LBJ fought CRA until the levee was about to burst, then got in front of the wave.
Excellent article that is both insightful and a breath of fresh air in our current political discourse. Not surprised to see critical comments from those who identify themselves as “Conservative”. It took decades of Political and Cultural Manipulation to get the working class to vote against there own self interest. Changing that will not happen over night. Trump is “the chickens coming home to roost” for the GOP. He is simply leveraging the myths that keep the average working class American angry at all the wrong things. (Welfare Queens, Gun Confiscation, Immigration, Government Waste, Foreign Aid, Right to Life Amendment, Taxing Job Creators etc. etc.) We are finally seeing cracks in the foundations of deceit.
Amazing article. So much makes sense. I’ve been wrestling with many of the issues addressed and you gave me a context I needed. Thank you.
This article is amazing! I mean just fantastic! It encompasses everything I have argued about financial inequality in this country and about the Trump phenomena. One only needs to look at our country’s history to see how fear has been used to promote political and financial gain.
I did my master’s thesis on the anti-immigration movement of the 1830s-1850s, and found that just like Trump’s ploy against Central American illegal immigration, Whig politicians promoted fear and anger towards Irish immigration in an attempt to drive voters to the poll. It’s all a ploy for power.
I only have one problem with this article and that is the section about welfare. I agree with her that many people on welfare do not benefit from it as much as some would assume, but I cannot accept that a large minority of welfare recipients don’t abuse the system. I have known many people who have worked as grocery store clerks and they can attest to seeing the stereotypical “Welfare Queen” (for lack of a better term) loading up on steaks and lobster with the 6 kids in tow all on the taxpayers’ dollar. I have talked to multiple Social workers and even former welfare recipients who attest that they see abuses in the welfare system all of the time. The thing is, the problem with the welfare system is not that people abuse it, it’s that people become reliant on it. It’s just as much a control mechanism as the use of fear. Our current welfare is not designed to help people get out of poverty as much as it is designed to keep them there. I think this article should have gone into detail about this. I am not saying I am against welfare by any means, I just recognize that it is a broken system meant to keep poor Americans down rather than bring them up.
@Bojangles – “I have known many people who have worked as grocery store clerks and they can attest to seeing the stereotypical “Welfare Queen” (for lack of a better term) loading up on steaks and lobster with the 6 kids in tow all on the taxpayers’ dollar.”
I’ve also known people who have worked as grocery store clerks. In fact, I’ve worked as a grocery store clerk. I’ve never seen this before. The world is full of people claiming all kinds of anecdotal evidence, and most of it is meaningless or even false. Show me data.
“I have talked to multiple Social workers and even former welfare recipients who attest that they see abuses in the welfare system all of the time.”
Research has found abuses of government programs is lower than is found in the private sector. No one is denying abuse never happens, for that would be bizarre. The point is that it is amazingly low. It’s similar to when Republicans did drug testing on welfare recipients, and it turned out that they had lower rates of drug use than the general population. Scapegoating the poor isn’t helpful.
“The thing is, the problem with the welfare system is not that people abuse it, it’s that people become reliant on it. It’s just as much a control mechanism as the use of fear. Our current welfare is not designed to help people get out of poverty as much as it is designed to keep them there.”
The problem with this is that it’s blatantly false. Most people on welfare are working. And most people are only on welfare temporarily. That is exactly how welfare is designed to work. It’s not broken. But, sure, it could be improved.
@Benjamin David Steele – I am not doubting that the private sector commits more abuses. As I said before, there is a significant minority, not majority, of welfare receiptients that abuse the system.
I went a little too strong in stating that welfare is a broken system, but I think we can both agree on the fact that there is a need to improve the current system in place.
I’m a progressive. Everything can and should be improved: the social safety net, democratic self-governance, a free and fair economic system, environmental regulations, etc. The nice thing about progress is it’s never ending. The only limits that have yet been discovered are the laws of physics. Otherwise, onwards and upwards.
What a well written argument that the 99% have been strategically pitted against one another racially by the 1% since slavery in order that the 1% maintain their economic status! I was disappointed she took,what I believe was a very well organised argument and then clumsily turned it into a Sander’s argument. Clumsy because it’s as if I’m reading something that was written and then re-written to serve a slightly different purpose. I felt the reference to Bill Clinton in 94 read as a tag on – it certainly jumped out at me that the only Democrat raised in the piece in a derogatory way was he, so it was no surprise that the piece ended as an endorsement for Sanders – which would be fair enough if she hadn’t buried the lead! If she had been more transparent from the start of the piece I would just love it – but the buried agenda put me off Still – what a great theory – everyone should read!
Compassionate understanding without being condescending or condemning. Best article on the Trump/Bernie voter I’ve seen. Thank you.
Trade and employment policies are made by those with the power, for those with the power. Throughout most of recorded history, power came from the capacity to command scarce resources, typically via either money or force, and money was itself based upon a scarce resource (no , not paper). But in 1971 that last constraint on the money power was eliminated. The inequality of which we all complain took a big inflection point just then. As evidence of this, please study these two charts, presented with no further commentary.
The roots of American racism exposed as white peoples’ treatment of other whites (the poor ones). Might complicate some of the stereotypes we throw around, about ‘them’ as well as about ‘us.’
You had me wrapped around your finger, until you dismissed the “Welfare Queen” stereotype as being baseless. It may be mean-spirited, but it is not irrational. LBJ’s welfare model had the disastrous unintended consequence of destroying the traditional family structure of poor families. That fact is ideologically inconvenient for party-line feminists, but it is difficult to argue that traditional welfare didn’t economically reward single-motherhood, initiating a brand-new flavor of the cycle of poverty.
@Andreas – The problem is you don’t have anything to back up your ideological belief. The vast majority of welfare recipients are working and only on welfare temporarily. There is very little long-term, much less multi-generational, welfare. It’s not easy to stay on welfare. If it was, there wouldn’t be so many struggling families and homeless families.
Actually, the negative effects of SSI, the lack of incentive to get off it (most recipients are long-term recipients) and the need for reform have been fairly well documented in recent studies and articles. I can’t seem to find the best article that I read on it, but here is a long, but exceedingly well-researched one: http://archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/12/12/with_ssi_program_a_legacy_of_unintended_side_effects/
Anecdotally, I have lived in an impoverished rural area, and most families I knew and worked with relied on SSI as a permanent source of income for the whole family. Instead of providing financial planning services or anything that could help families get out of poverty, the government cut whole communities monthly checks.
Here’s another interesting report: http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/.
Again, anecdotally, many people were on SSI for reasons entirely preventable by diet (diabetes, etc.). And yet, the government doesn’t limit SNAP purchases to foods that won’t slowly kill you. The government doesn’t support education about healthy diet, or programs that seek to make healthy food more accessible. In rural areas, people have traded kitchen gardens for free potato chips and soda (they’re cheaper than vegetables – I get it). People were starving before, but now we have a crisis of obesity-related diseases killing people. Which is worse? (I wish I knew, statistically speaking).
@C. Atkins – I meant to respond to you right away, but I was busy. Plus, I realized that there was no simple, quick way to respond to your comment. So, I took the time to write out a thorough analysis of the issues, in case your interested:
Great article. Loved the personal approach of what you have lived. I continue to be dumbfounded at the Trump, Trump, Trump mentality of the poor often racist whites I continue to believe that most of his supporters lips move when they read!
Jonna, I live a couple counties away from Benton, and you nailed it! I appreciate you challenging the stereotype of poor whites. Many of us do read. Many of us never had a shot at formal education or “bettering” ourselves. If we’re missing some teeth, it’s because when we finally get the money up for a visit to the dentist, he sneers at us as though our poverty was willful.
I ball my hands into fists and clench my teeth in fury every time I hear someone in my small town casually describe someone as “from a good family.”
This sort of “white-on-white” discrimination is so ingrained that the perpetrators don’t even know they’re doing it!
Classism is just about as ugly as racism, and yes, they can tell just by looking at you.
And I would love to know what town those klan assholes came from, so I can be sure to stay away from there.
Ignore the critics, they haven’t been through it.
Clearly, you have.
Why is Blacks a proper, capitalized noun but whites is not?
That was an editorial choice. “Black” has effectively replaced “African-American,” which was always capitalized. I would capitalize “Asian,” “Hispanic,” or “Jewish,” but “white” is sort of a catch-all term that doesn’t indicate ethnicity. I’ll admit, it’s an odd construction, but STIR has chosen to err on the side of respect.
And your explanation is a perfect example why non-spoiled-rich Whites vote Trump.
Beyond economics, White people also demand respect from our leaders
I just heard your interview in NPR. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Don’t forget those “rich people”are the people who contribute millions of dollars to the Arts, Museums, Universities, etc that “poor” people get to enjoy as well as every other person. When a poor person works to get out of the hole there is money available to them to continue education past grade 12.
Every person in the US gets 12 years of FREE education, some just choose not to take it and yes, it can sometimes be a cultural/racial thing which they choose, so don’t blame others for their poor choices.
Playing the victim is not attractive, but it appears that many poor people like this look.
Attitude is learned, not assigned.
You may not feel the same when you have to jump through hoops to get adequate medical care because you’re poor and thus “obviously looking for a quick score”.
I don’t view myself as a victim, though I barely lived through a three year hell that left me with three major joints trashed–not even thirty and I’m forced to use a cane–a damaged spine, brain damage (some of which came from doctors pushing medications that were not fitting the symptoms because it was the pill du jour).
I worked through health problems until I was let go for having the audacity to have internal bleeding to make sure my ex wife got medical treatment for her cancer, which backfired in the end.
I joke through the pain, the crippling depression, and the PTSD. I certainly view the safe spaces crowd with an unhealthy distaste because I’ve been trying to break my own issues instead of whining about them.
And yet, regardless of how many shit jobs I try to work, I can’t crawl out of the hole I’m in. My education turned out to be useless when hiring freezes keep me out of things I’m qualified for, and having attended college makes me “overqualified” for supermarket stocking and flipping burgers. At this point in my life I’m forced to apply for disability, which is humiliating enough; but also listening to much more well off people tell me I’m looking for a handout and lazy because of it–which is infuriating.
And all this for a white male. I’m not blind to the struggle–but I sure as hell don’t look at a man who inherited his money as any better; and arguing that he might have to give up an extra car or a vacation home to help better the lives of his countrymen is simply absurd–I give what I can, I expect others to do so as well from common decency.
I’m neither Christian, Conservative, nor Liberal. I don’t buy into the concept of extreme wealth as “hard won” in many cases; nor do I buy into the idea that the wall is unbreakable. There’s certainly a middle ground; but we won’t find it while the affluent and corporations control the majority of our political machine.
Don’t forget that most wealth in the United States is inherited, not earned. Don’t forget that rich people wouldn’t be so rich if not for government tax breaks, government subsidies, no-bid contracts, natural resources on public lands sold at below market prices, government-maintained infrastructure and services, a publicly educated and trained workforce, government-enforced free trade agreements that favor big biz, bills often written by corporate lobbyists, regulatory capture, average Americans enlisting in the military to fight wars that defend the interests of big biz (defending trade routes and access to foreign resources), and on and on. The rich benefit the most from all of this. Everything the rich have comes from the society they were raised in. Take the baby of the richest parents in the world and leave that baby alone in the wilderness, and guess what… that baby would not grow up to be rich. It’s the society, not the individual, that makes someone rich. Money itself is an artificial creation of society. There is no money growing on trees for that rich baby in the wilderness to accumulate.
Spot on, Benjamin David Steele.
Everything you have came from the society you were raised in too. Yes, some people start with more capital than others. Some squander what they get. Some manage to accumulate and pass on to their descendants.
The group you arbitrarily define as “the rich” also pay more in taxes for those things you list, and yes, the people with money have access to the levers of power. They always have done. If you had their wealth, you would too.
Yep. Everything anyone has comes from the society they’re raised in. No one creates or earns anything outside of a social network, which in the modern world means a large complex society built on trillions of dollars of natural resources and public investments. Humans are social animals and we never operate outside of that larger social order. Considering that most wealth is inherited and not earned, it’s obvious that most intergenerational wealth transferrals have little to do with what you describe.
There is no arbitrary definition. It’s simply a word. To be rich, as the dictionary defines it, is to have way more wealth than most people. In the US, most of that wealth comes from inheritance. Sure, they pay more in taxes, as they benefit more from all that they don’t fully pay for such as natural resources. They are taking more than they are giving. It just so happens with a resource-rich nation like the US there is a lot to take. Your same arguments could be made about feudal lords and peasants. slaveholders and slaves—the former having paid a lot of taxes and the latter having paid little or no taxes. Generally speaking, the exploiting class has to pay most of the taxes since they are taking most of the benefit from society. Most Americans barely make enough to live on and don’t have much left over from taxes, despite those natural resources being on public land from which these poor people should be as rich as some of the Nordic people who also have resource-rich countries, just not a class of exploiters.
This is absolutely the best article that I have read regarding the current political environment. Why? I grew up as a poor, white kid. I worked in the defense industry, twice. I was in the inner circle of one of these companies along with the CEO, COO, and other officers. At the same time I was active in GOP politics. I learned first hand what Lee Atwater and Karl Rove thought of poor white Southerners. I know first hand of the strategy to “divide and conquer” and to use racism and other cultural’religious values to manipulate and control the middle and Lower socio-economic classes. I worked for ten years as Director of a mental health center, dealing with psychological and social issues of people in the South. I currently do volunteer work to assist people on the low end of economic ladder in our society. Based upon my experiences over the past seventy years, I can relate to so much of what this author is saying. I know it to be true for me. I also came came to the realization that Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for ninety percent of Americans. I say that because I have had quite a bit of experience with people on both the upper 10% and the bottom 90%.
This will not be read by the majority of $Hillary voters, who do not want their illusion of being humanists busted.
They think they are fighting the big, bad Republican corporatists, and don’t want to ever understand that $Hillary could teach a doctorate-level university course in how to bed corporations and turn around and bamboozle the electorate.
Just a bullshitter through and through.
Sad thing is a lot of very well-intentioned, reasonably educated people are included in those bamboozled.
I know this because until last September, I was one.
Let’s try this:
Put every single candidate on a lie detector, AND IF they are asked a question in a debate, give the audience buttons to force them to actually answer them, rather than slithering around them – the way $Hillary did about the transcripts.
“I will publish them wjen everyone else does.” Hillary
WTF is she talking about?
Bernie has no transcripts to release.
She makes me a) want my money back
and b) to vomit.
Thank you for this excellent piece. Great commentary as well
“The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! ”
“A 2014 Bankrate survey, echoing the Fed’s data, found that only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. Two reports published last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found, respectively, that 55 percent of households didn’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income…”
“Wolff also examined the number of months that a family headed by someone of “prime working age,” between 24 and 55 years old, could continue to self-fund its current consumption, presuming the liquidation of all financial assets except home equity, if the family were to lose its income… He found that in 2013, prime-working-age families in the bottom two income quintiles had no net worth at all and thus nothing to spend. A family in the middle quintile, with an average income of roughly $50,000, could continue its spending for … six days.”
“…the study by Lusardi, Tufano, and Schneider found that nearly one-quarter of households making $100,000 to $150,000 a year claim not to be able to raise $2,000 in a month. ”
People don’t vote their situation, they vote their aspirations. It’s called “identity politics”. People won’t change their minds based upon ideas, facts, reason, or argumentation. It’s their identity! And someday, after they win the lottery, they won’t want to pay all those taxes.
Not that it matters how they vote: https://represent.us/action/theproblem-4/ Science has confirmed popular wisdom: Money talks. BS walks.
My takeaway from this article was that the “identity politics” that Trump has been capitalizing on has as much to do with political and social elites fostering racism and xenophobia (effectively allowing Trump to apply Nixon’s “southern strategy” to the nation as a whole) as with people aspiring to become wealthy.
I am not American, and I do not intend to be American – however, I am always interested in American culture wars for two reasons: first, because my own country seems to repeat the same wars several years later; second, because it’s interesting in it’s own, like watching some weird reality show 😀
Nevertheless, I would like to comment on just one thing: though I am atheist, I have many religious friends. You should not assume that because they are poor and you are wanting to help them out of their poverty, that means they are stupid because they do not want to support you. I know many religious people who really had different priorities and when they stated that the religion is the most important for them, they mean it; in one interview a liberal (in american sense) journalist asked his friend why he has to talk about Jesus all the time, couldn’t he restrict this views to private? After all, the liberal said, you are speaking about a lot of important things, if you would just stop talking about Jesus and sins many more people would listen to him. The catholic answered: “why you want me to stop talking about thing which are most important to me and limit myself to things which are of secondary importance”?
It’s the same here. People have different priorities and material things sometimes just are not important at all.
What I would say to your neocon (not liberal, which suggests life based on reason and facts) is this:
Just like a family will fracture into dysfunction and entropy with everyone operating based on different sets of facts, the world’s 5,000,000,000 people have – and will continue to fall into chaos and entropy IN THE ABSENCE OF a set of facts upon which all men agree: such as, water is wet, gravity and death suck, and we all feel hunger, thirst, pain, lust, etc., etc.
But with religions adding into that list MADE UP facts about talking snakes or purple doctor elephants or whatever – WE ARE ALL FUCKING DOOMED!
Catholicism killed WAY MORE people than it EVER helped, and because they were some of the ORIGINAL BANKSTERS, are very reluctant to release their powerful influence in the EASIEST GIG in the known universe – that of telling lies for money, and scaring the FUCK out of cavemen unwilling to admit snakes don’t talk, but if they DO, he and nobody like him is listening.
Where I wrote Catholicism, simply substitute all other non-fact based institutions – such as political parties, Buddhism, Zoroastianism or WHATEVER.
I suggest we devise and agree upon a universal and dynamic human intelligence test by which ANY leader of men must arise to achieve.
This would certainly not relieve us of evil, but would MOST DEFINITELY relieve us of the utter stupidity of Donny Drumpf.
The Catholic Church was the biggest single contributor to Western culture prior to the Protestant Reformation, and a major source for everything we hold dear including the rise of science.
Random capitalization is no substitute for actually knowing something about history, which unfortunately most self-proclaimed atheists do not.
“From the era of slavery to the rise of Donald Trump, wealthy elites have relied on the loyalty of poor whites. All Americans deserve better.”
Oh please… Two things wrong with this statement.
One, its insinuating Democratic party members are not wealthy elites. Almost all these Senators, and Congressmen are “wealthy elites”. Many Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are FABULOUSLY wealthy….
Two, are you trying to say Democrats don’t rely on the loyalty of poor people? The party that runs on handouts for everyone? Fact of the matter is Democrats get MORE poor votes (white and all other colors), specifically ones relying on welfare and food stamp programs from their social welfare policies. I guess shame on Trump or Republicans to try and steal some of those poor votes from Democrats… I can tell you one thing, the poor votes Trump gets are at least WORKING CLASS contributing to society.
The fact of the matter is, the poor man has just as much of a vote as the rich man. Both parties try to do what they can to get those votes.
I don’t see where this article is making much of a distinction between Republicans and modern-day “Democrats” like Clinton, except to the extent that Bernie Sanders is also running as a Democrat (and he’s far from being a Democratic Party insider to this day). In fact, it could certainly be argued that the reliance on race-baiting by Republicans since the time of Nixon’s Southern Strategy is not much different than reliance on the usage of terminology like “super-predators” and “welfare as we know it” by modern-day DINOs: http://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-does-not-deserve-black-peoples-votes/
What I’m saying is Democrats already “bait” lower socioeconomic votes merely by virtue of welfare programs. But it doesn’t end there. This article acts like Republicans are the only ones that “bait”. Realistically both parties do in different ways. Bernie absolutely does bait when he makes statements like “white people don’t feel poverty” in order to win black votes even though an overwhelming majority of welfare recipients are whites. Democrats absolutely do bait race by not denouncing the follies in baseless and violent groups such as BLM.
Trump wants to secure the borders. To the uneducated racist that has an appeal. But to the educated hard working tax payer, there is also a non racist appeal in curbing illegal immigration. But sensationalized liberal sites such as this only focus on the few uneducated that endorse these policies, when in reality, Democrats have plenty of low socioeconomic classes that some may consider “trash” that vote Democrat for the wrong reasons.
>>What I’m saying is Democrats already “bait” lower socioeconomic votes merely by virtue of welfare programs. <<
Even Ronald Reagan didn't agree with your stereotype: “I know that one of the great tragedies of welfare in America today, and I don't believe stereotype after what we did, of people in need who are there simply because they prefer to be there. We found the overwhelming majority would like nothing better than to be out, with jobs for the future, and out here in the society with the rest of us." – http://neshobademocrat.com/Content/NEWS/News/Article/Transcript-of-Ronald-Reagan-s-1980-Neshoba-County-Fair-speech/2/297/15599
>>Bernie absolutely does bait when he makes statements like “white people don’t feel poverty…”<< I have no idea what this refers to, unless it's this statement, in which case I have no idea what you're talking about: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/07/bernie-sanders-says-white-people-dont-know-what-its-like-to-live-in-a-ghetto-about-that/
One baits and kills whales, and the other lives on plankton or krill.
I prefer the latter.
Let’s agree the Democratic party has followed the money also, though, but, to their demise.
>>…sensationalized liberal sites such as this only focus on the few uneducated that endorse these policies…<< So you have evidence that the majority of Trump supporters agree with the idea of getting tough on "illegal" immigrants simply based on the logic that Trump (or at least others like him) shouldn't be held accountable for knowingly hiring them in the first place?: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431933/donald-trump-foreign-workers-american-workers-arent-good-enough
Reagan said that in the 70s. Whether that holds true or not I am not sure. But i can tell you certain polls have found 60-80% of those receiving public assistance vote Democrat. You can be assured that that 60-80% includes those who use welfare for what its meant for, to help them out while they continue searching for employment, and those that have been abusing it for years like this lady.
As for what I said about Bernie. Yes that was it. That headline makes it seem like its only talking about living in an actual ghetto. Not sure whats so hard to understand, there are millions of poor whites. yet in the Democratic Debate in flint Bernie quote on quote says, “When you’re white … you don’t know what it’s like to be poor. ” Baiting, and absolutely uninformed and false
My evidence for Trump supporters not all being hillbillies lies in the counties he wins. Most recently he won a majority vote in almost all of North Eastern Pennsylvania (where I’m from) many of which are extremely posh suburbs filled with highly educated and a wealthy population.
As for hiring illegals. That was the work of the CONSTRUCTION COMPANY he contracted to do his work. Theres no evidence that he had any idea of that, and to be honest, its not really his job to look into how that construction company does their business. You act like that article you sent me is the problem when it talks about 200 undocumented Polish workers brought in by a contracting by the name of Kaszycki & Sons (clearly polish), when Trump is talking about 12 million undocumented Mexicans living in the country, coming in at a rate of 700,000 a year..
I have no numbers on who endorses that policy other than his own supporters. Im saying its a stance that can be respected from multiple perspectives.
Ok, it is 2016, so let me be mathematically explicit, factual and avoid exaggeration:
Take ALL of the “welfare” (which Clinton ended while trying to blow Newt Gingrich – much like Obama did with Boner) from the 60-80% you quoted – I’ll accept the numbers – ADD to it the 20-40% who vote R, add THAT to EVERY single social program aimed at INDIVIDUAL citizens. . .total up every dollar spent, and you will have a number that represents 1/10,000th of welfare, tax dodges, weak fines, offshore dodges, lobbyist-written legislation ripoffs of Americans, and a list of PRIMARILY Republican written “deals”.
Now I know, every blue moon a Democratic gov, sen or congressman gets caught doin a dirty, but THIS activity is a prerequisite for admission into the Republican party – SO much so that I challenge you to name JUST THREE Republicans that are NOT corrupt like $Hilarity.
Seriously man these guys DON’T TRUST a Republican that DOESN’T cheat.
Anyway, the whole “welfare momma” argument is such mathematic nullshit for anyone with a calculator, unless you want to talk SSI/SSA, and then again the citizen MASTERS of this shit are conservative Republicans.
Tax cheats I’d have to say equal in number of citizens, but the MATH numbers are gonna be overwhelmingly Republican bc of vastly different incomes.
Anyway, you must not be from America, bc the “welfare” system was essentially dismantled in ’96 when Republicans shut down the govt and Clinton took the opportunity to eat young twat, get blown, end welfare, and begin the for-profit jail system by incarcerating millions of black men – gettin that good ole Jim Crow shit started all over again.
Don’t you wonder why the Koch brothers love $Hillary? They KNOW $he’s For $ALE and her legs are open for business.
Welfare expenditure has actually grown drastically over the years. You must not live in America, or a trillion dollars must be chump change for you….
And the notion that Democrats only get their hands occasionally (when their caught) but all Republicans have dirty hands is completely biased and naive. As you have acknowledged lobbying is a problem in the country, and very few high ranking Democrats and Republican alike have gotten their seats without monetary support from such sources.
As for Tax loopholes… One can spend days arguing the pros and cons of them, but funny how Democrats point the finger at large businesses that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans with high paying jobs, dump billions of dollars into our economy through their business ventures with local businesses, many times improve american infrastructure, but Democrats point the finger at the millions(less than the good we get from them) of dollars they’ve evaded in taxes (which usually get spent back into the economy as companies usually reinvest profits after payroll back into Research and development so they can compete with both national AND international companies), or the fact that certain companies outsource cheap worthless labor to whatever 3rd world country (because of minimum wage laws supported by Dems, that are non existent in the rest of the world). And what ultimately is the point of all these taxes? The government was originally formed to protect people going about their daily lives (doing their businesses, working their jobs, practicing their religion). Now Democrats are cultivating some sort of culture of entitlement of those who don’t work, and punishing those that do.
Don’t get me wrong we need to help those who are fortunate. But we need to help them help themselves. Beef up public education systems and scholarships. Give businesses incentives to start, as well as hire people.
Well damn those poor homeless people and their need to eat! Who the fuck do they think they are??
I’m done arguing with an unarmed man.
Unarmed man? You must not have read any of the links I sent you, welfare is THE LARGEST item on the federal budget at over 1 TRILLION dollars… It’s a lot more than just “feeding the homeless”… Since you seem to be grossly out of touch with reality, to put that into perspective for you, that’s more than what 10 bill gates’ are worth… properly allocating that much money should be capable of feeding the whole worlds homeless population let alone the measly population of the US…
@Paul – The problem is your being dishonest. You know, as everyone knows, that defense is the largest part of discretionary spending and that doesn’t include all the costs of unpaid wars, veteran services, alphabet soup agencies, black budget, etc. Such things as Social Security aren’t part of discretionary spending because people who receive it pay into it, and the fact that politicians steal from the Social Security funds is a separate issue.
Agreed, so let’s put a wealth cap on anyone in a position of govt leadership, that way if they’re there for the money – as Clinton, BusCheney clearly are, then they gotta go straight to the corporate whorehouse and stop pretending they’re part of representative govt.
I find it ironic that this article illustrates the point of using discrimination and segregation to divide and conquer the lower class, and people in the comment section are doing just that. A major portion of this work was to illustrate how we are taught to hate one another so that real progress is never made in our favor, and we are consistently exploited by the mega-rich. Let’s be honest, none of us here are billionaires. I don’t see how, after reading this amazingly well written and thought out submission, anyone would think it was beneficial for us to attack one another and weaken ourselves through division. Realistically, in a situation like this, love, acceptance, and embracing one another for a common goal of progress is the answer; something we could all use a lesson in these days
@Observer – “I find it ironic that this article illustrates the point of using discrimination and segregation to divide and conquer the lower class, and people in the comment section are doing just that.”
Unfortunately, most people are easily manipulated. When people hear opinions repeated enough by certain politicians and pundits, they begin to take on those opinions as if they were their own. This is particularly a problem as our society becomes ideologically segregated and Americans become ever more trapped in media bubbles and echo chambers.
It’s frustrating. You’d think more people would get tired of this endless manipulation, but few seem to have the self-awareness to realize what is happening. The average American lacks what some call intellectual self-defense.
“Instead of fighting for better education for the white underclass, we call them ignorant rednecks. Instead of fighting for them to have better health care, we laugh at their missing teeth. Instead of fighting for them to have better housing, we joke about tornados hitting trailer parks.”
Well, except that we *do* fight for them to have better education, health care, and housing, while they vote for the people we’re fighting. How sorry are we supposed to feel for them at this point?
According to Wikipedia, about half the whites coming to the American Colonies were indentured servants, average age 24 years. I think many 24 year olds and younger people today could benefit from following me around for no pay. Their problem is not that they don’t make enough money, their problem is they don’t know enough to produce anything of value.
It has become acceptable to make fun of a certain class of white Southerner. Sixty years ago, the government was interested in the problems of Appalachia. Making fun of poor Southern whites was okay then–see Lil’ Abner, and the Beverly Hillbillies–but there was also sincere interest in understanding and solving their problems. That evaporated when the Democratic party became the representatives of primarily Gentry Liberals and African Americans. Both groups deserve a voice, of course, but in practice it has been the Gentry Liberal voice and the African American vote. Poor Southern whites have been lost in the shuffle.
Bernie Sanders is a millionaire. Take his retirement plan and compare it to a similar annuity. He’s definitely a member of the one percent. Not to mention that he lives in a half million dollar house, and his wife has had a lucrative career, in small part, at least, due to Sanders’ government connections. He pays taxes at the Mitt Romney rate or thereabouts.
Whenever I’ve encountered very articulate people who identify as ‘poor,’ I’ve found that they often have a special understanding of ‘rich’ that doesn’t comport with my own. ‘Rich’ is only partly about money. It’s also about social skills, education, connections, and putting two and two together to earn a living. Some people are so determined that someone else is responsible for their care and feeding, that they are blind to the opportunities that come their way. I don’t know enough about her to confirm that this is the case with this author, but I have my suspicions.
“That evaporated when the Democratic party became the representatives of primarily Gentry Liberals and African Americans.”
Fixed: “That evaporated when poor Southern whites bought into the southern strategy and fell (once again) for letting the rich use racism to get them to vote against their own interests”. All the poor Southern whites have to do to get the representation they crave is to set their bigotries aside and be willing to work with those who are trying to uplift all people.
As a Canadian who has lived in the US but now watches your politics from a distance I have been mystified by the hold the Republican party seems to have on the very people their policies hurt most. The arguments you present in this article form the clearest explanation of the roots of the racial and class divisions facing the US that I have ever read. Thank you for you thoughtful analysis.
Well written article beyond that it is basically Propaganda to enhance a particular candidate . The summation of the article basically does exactly what the article suggest should not be done. Its divisive and has limited inclusive value.It assumes everyone wants the same outcome and attributes all things to monetary value of a candidate. People of religion often have less desire to be wealthy even some seeking poverty as a life style. Almost suggesting people should drop moral and family or societal values in favor of profits and wealth. I would attribute it to have the same value as common sense by Thomas Paine.
Thomas Paine was a Deist. He thought Christianity was a bunch of lies and fake stories. He was also a radical liberal who thought that it was obvious that inequality was bad and that democracy was good. That is what common sense meant to him.
No he was simply pushing propaganda . The intent of that propaganda was to seize power. Our founding fathers had no interest in democracy. 9% of the population supported rebellion that is all. Had the revolutionary movement been held to a vote we would still be British. But i agree with one thing he was a radical extremist.
The word ‘propaganda’ seems to mean everything you disagree with.
Paine made arguments that inspired the American Revolution. Without him, there very likely would be no United States today. He helped explain to colonists why they should fight and what they should fight for.
You obviously know nothing about Paine. He never wanted to seize power. He fought those who wanted to seize power, which was why he was an Anti-Federalist or rather a real Federalist (i.e., not an imperialist).
Also, you know little about the founders. They disagreed about many things. There were founders like Paine who did want democracy, although the word itself was less often used. The founders didn’t always have the language to describe the new kind of society they hoped to create.
You are correct, though, that at least initially few colonists supported revolution. But what you don’t comprehend was that this minority of rebels included those who were extremely radical. The Declaration of Independence and the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, expressed a radical vision.
The less radical colonists were contented with being subjects of the British Empire. If not for the radicals, we’d still be British.
And you wouldn’t have had to fight a bloody war 90 years later to abolish slavery.
The Anti-Federalists were against slavery as well. The abolition movement was growing before the American Revolution. If the there hadn’t been a pseudo-Federalist coup, slavery could have been ended peacefully. Instead, slaveowners and those who profited from the slave economy took over the government and made a Civil War pretty much inevitable, as the Civil War was the result of what the American Revolution started. Even many of the Federalists realized that slavery wouldn’t end well for the country, but they lacked the moral courage to do the right thing. Paine was of the mind that the living generation should take care of their own problems, instead of foisting them onto future generations.
Thank you for this well weighted and carefully developed essay. The point of view is extremely valuable as it sets our sights beyond the media’s horse race narrative and looks for common (!) ground beyond this cycle. The negative comments are valuable as well as they illustrate your main points. Any mention of Senator Sanders will, of course, draw the gnashers in from the outer darkness. With perseverance, your observations will contribute to the basis being formed for constructive discussions on the other side of the spring-loaded cries of fear and wounded pride.
One necessary next step is that there might be two parties, but there is only one establishment. That establishment is out for itself and will continue to prey upon everything (resources, people, moral values) from which it can wring a penny. What had appeared to be the continued convergence of the two parties has been revealed by Mr. Trump and his followers as one party with two candidates: those two being, of course, Clinton and Bush. To his everlasting credit, Mr. Trump has rent the veil behind which the establishment plays its game. Clinton goes after “Republican” donors, Trump hires “Democrats” to run his campaign. All of the angst and bickering over the years regarding “third” parties is now seen to be meaningless foam from the mouth. Perot saw it, Nader saw it, and now Mr. Trump shows us all. I agree that America doesn’t need another third party. What America needs is a viable second party to vie with the establishment. If Mr. Trump can do that, then more power to him. We Democrats have had our chances. If he DOES do it, then he will attract more than just po’ white folks from the South.
As a lower class white woman, I am so incredibly sick of articles like this one that perpetuate the LIE that poor and working class whites overwhelmingly vote Republican, when it’s actually middle class whites who are far more likely to vote Republican. That’s why Sanders beats Trump by 5 points among all white people but by 15 points among white people earning less than $25,000.
As for Trump voters, they have a median household income of $72,000–that’s substantially higher than the national median household income and definitely NOT working class or poor. Voters for the other GOP candidates have even higher incomes. Of course there are some low income people who are Trump voters, but they’re a minority. Trump knows this; that’s why he said his focus won’t be on minimum wage workers but the middle class–THAT is where his support is coming from.
It’s true Democrats never lost lower income whites in many parts of the country. But this did happen in the South. And the South is a politically influential region of the country. Even so, I’m willing to bet this is changing in the South, specifically among the young.
Polls show that most Southerners support or lean toward the Democratic party. The problem is there is massive disenfranchisement and systemic voter suppression in the South. The very people who support Democrats the most are the least likely to vote, whether because of apathy or because of voting difficulties (e.g., inconvenient polling locations and long lines in poor areas).
This is largely to be blamed on Democrats. The Democratic party establishment has refused to fight hard against voter disenfranchisement and suppression. They’ve specifically refused to fight hard in the South.
Part of the reason for this is that even the Democratic party establishment feels threatened by these people, as shown by the DNC’s response to Sanders’ campaign. What the political elites don’t want to acknowledge is that the average American, on many issues, is further to the left than even the Democrats.
Ultimately, the political establishment is bipartisan, rather than partisan. This is because the big money donors don’t really care which party wins and often donate simultaneously to candidates on both sides. Political elites in neither party really wants to genuinely represent low income Americans.
All of which may be true, but the Feminists, Affirmative Action cliques and other liberal elitists of whatever persuasion or race do not care about these people either.
Peasants exist in every country. They make the world turn. Mostly they accept their hard existence and want to be left alone. In their own way, leftists are much more abusive towards these people than right-wingers.
Right-wingers see them as sheep to be shorn – the characteristic role of peasants everywhere. But leftists, who see themselves as superior despite making no real contributions to society from the comfort of their liberal arts colleges, and, in spite of their worthless degrees and non-falsifiable crackpot dogmas like “critical theory”, have far less understanding of real conditions in this world, are actually hostile to poor whites’ very existence, have an instinct to shame, punish or defame them, and export the consequences of their misguided leftist ideology to those with the least ability to insulate themselves through economic privilege.
I always wonder about comments like yours. There are so many trolls and dogmatic ideologues online that it’s hard to tell them apart. I never know who to take seriously and who to simply ignore.
Many feminists, affirmative action advocates, etc are neither liberal nor elitist. Your comment implies that poor people and minorities have no interest in social democracy, civil rights, and social justice. You obviously don’t know very many poor people and minorities.
BTW those on the bottom of society don’t tend to like being called peasants. And they aren’t worried about making the world turn. They want basic rights and opportunities. They want to be free of endless prejudices and oppression. Like anyone else, they simply want to be free to live their lives as they choose and not be crushed by a cruel society.
In Western countries like the United States, no reasonable person could say “leftists are much more abusive towards these people than right-wingers.” Leftists have little power in our country. Even earlier last century when leftists had more power, you found leftist ideology most popular among the poor and minorities: blacks dealing with Jim Crow, migrant workers confronting big ag, coal miners trying to organize, factory workers striking, etc. The history of leftism in this country has been mostly the poor and minorities fighting for themselves. It was the liberal elitists who, earlier last century, were one of the main enemies of leftists.
You seem to be a person caught up in ideology. Yet you project onto others claiming that they are caught up in ideology. Well, there are plenty of people caught up in ideology. But let’s make one thing clear. The poor and minorities are far to the left of any of the elites.
Thanks Ethan Benjamin Farber, that was a rush!
I grew up white, in a small, dilapidated trailer-park. It was actually relatively diverse for its small size, but it was surrounded by mostly white middle-class neighborhoods. Both my parents were very liberal and I grew up identifying strongly as a liberal and a Democrat. This was reinforced strongly under the Clinton administration by what I saw as the overreaching social agenda of the fundamentalist Christian right which seemed to be hypermoralistic and to infringe on freedom of religion.
The presidency of George W. Bush further confirmed my liberal leanings. The Iraq war seemed to demonstrate the complete imperviousness of the conservative mind to reasoned argument. How could they not see that there were no WMD in Iraq – or at least no solid evidence of their existence? How was it that the debunking of their WMD “evidence” was available months (perhaps even years) prior to their airing in the MSM – usually to the refrain of “who could possibly have known” that the war was based on false evidence and would come to a bad conclusion? The conservative movement seemed to be an amalgamation of willful obtuseness and callous disregard for their fellow man…and yet….
There were already cracks forming in my convictions as a liberal. I would see “liberals” attributing malicious motives to conservatives at all turns, hurling invective and spitefulness and wishing ill on others for nothing more than their political beliefs. I’d be a liar if I said *none* of it was deserved, and a bigger liar if I said I never engaged in invective myself, but the degree to which liberal argument (perhaps out of frustration) had devolved into: “you’re stupid white trash and all conservatives are evil” was disconcerting and disturbing and not what I’d signed up for as a “liberal.”
I would hear viscious class based rhetoric aimed at poor white people – particularly conservatives. Those were my neighbors and friends and (to a lesser extent) me, and the stereotypes did not at all reflect the relatively apolitical attitudes of the majority, or the demeanors of even the most conservative leaning.
When I arrived at an elite private college the casual animosity toward poor white people was shocking, but not entirely suprising. Yes, classes which addressed multi-cultural issues paid lip-service toward class, but a “white trash” or “trailer-park” joke was – if not common – not considered gauche. The galling thing about it was that the professors and attendees of that college (of all shades) were generally middle to upper-middle class yet felt comfortable talking down poor people so long as they were white.
Later on I did a research paper for a class on the concept of “white-trash” in America and saw reflected in the articles and statistics that I gathered a reflection of exactly what I’d experienced in my life. Whereas, at the beginning of the country the economic suppression of poor whites was used to set them against slaves, as blacks and hispanics have achieved political and social mobility “white trash” have increasingly been used as an acceptable release valve for the latent bigotry and elitism of the middle and upper-classes as well as lower-class minorities.
Finally there has been the increasing social acceptance of identitarian politics, which largely ignore class (except as a supplement to racial politics) and are often driven (again, regardless of skin-color) by people who are privileged by class, people who redefined racism conveniently to exclude their own bigoted attitudes. Ultimately I could not continue to identify with a movement which – though I actually agreed with some of its theoretical foundations (myopic though they sometimes are) – sought to sacrifice the principles of equal treatment under the law on the alter of “progressive” politics.
Now, I’m not saying I’m voting for Trump, but I understand his appeal. He’s *not* actually that conservative – so he appeals to disaffected Democrats such as myself. The media has lied about, or exaggerated his statements – ascribing meaning to them that was not explicit in his wording in order to smear him and calling his followers “stupid” and “racist” for wanting the laws of this country (such as immigration laws) to apply equally to everyone, and for (however clumsily) identifying the problem of Muslim extremism and urging caution in potentially importing that sort of extremism to the United States.
What I see in response from the left: reactionary fervor masquerading as nuance. The media manipulation and flat-out lying makes me increasingly see Trump as an antidote for the vileness of the regressive left, which has sacrificed liberalism on the alter of identity.
I’d be careful about generalizing. Many people who identify as liberals or hold liberal views are lower income and lower education level.
I’m such a person. I do live in a middle class liberal town. But I’m a working class liberal with only a high school degree. And many people I know are working class liberals. It’s not that I’ve never heard a liberal ridicule poor whites. It’s just rare. I’ve never seen evidence that those on the political left are more likely to be condescending toward the poor than any other demographic.
The people you met at an elite private college are not your average person, not your average person on the political right or the political left. They don’t represent anyone other than the demographic of people who attend elite private colleges. Very few liberals and leftists attend or even have the opportunity to visit private elite colleges.
We do live in a class-based and class-obsessed society. There has been class war continuously going on in this country since before its founding. That is what history teaches us. It has nothing to do with specific ideologies and yet it infects all ideologies.
By the way, if you conflate Democrats with the political left, that is your first mistake. Democrats haven’t been particularly liberal in a long time. Reaganomics actually began under the Carter administration. And the Clintons used their own Southern Strategy to make the Democratic party into Republican lite: welfare slashing, tough-on-crime, war hawk policies, etc.
Public polling shows that, on many major issues, the American public is way to the left of the political elite of both parties. I also promise you that you won’t hear much views from the left on the MSM. Newspapers earlier last century used to have labor sections as they still have business sections. That was back when unions were more powerful and had higher membership rates. Now most media is corporate media and has been bought up by a few mega-corporations, many of which also have ownership in other areas such as big oil and defense contract work.
The actual political left in the US is a silenced majority. They aren’t hard to find in real life. But you aren’t usually going to hear about them in the MSM or see them represented by either major party. There is a reason the candidate who identifies as a socialist, Sanders, is not just the most popular and most trusted candidate with the biggest crowds and the most small donations. He also is the candidate with the most support from low income Americans, including poor whites. Maybe that is why he just won West Virginia.
We need to learn to look deeper than the info we are presented. The world on the ground is often far different from what we’ve been told.
BDS, you think your angry SJW ranting makes your ideas seem more assertive or credible, but in reality you are proving everything Joe and I said.
You have no standing to claim you or your ideology is inherently more moral than anyone else’s, and you have no standing to claim that you speak for any social constituency than your own peers: overprivileged and elitist campus dwellers.
The very fact you make such arrogant and hypocritical claims about your putative moral superiority or right to speak for those who are not you or yours is sufficient to discredit everything you say and utterly validate Joe’s well-considered remarks, which corroborate my experiences as well.
@Ethan – I can’t say I felt particularly in an angry or ranting state of mind. Maybe you’re projecting again. I can’t say I’ve ever identified as or been called an SJW. I’m not much of an activist. I’m just a working class bloke.
I never claimed my ideology is more inherently moral. I’m not a dogmatic ideologue and my ideological views are rather mixed, as I’ve borrowed ideas and values from many sources—from people I know, places I’ve lived, and things I’ve read (and I do read widely). I tend to identify as a liberal, but this is more about my psychological attitude than any particular ideology. I have some interest conservatism from my parents and also interest in libertarianism, anarchism, socialism, etc. I’m not an ideological purist. I take good ideas and insights wherever I find them.
I’ve lived in many places over my life. I was born and spent my early childhood in a small factory town. I lived in a mostly Jewish suburb. I spent some of my most formative years in the Deep South (the last 5 years of my public education), including what some consider the Buckle of the Bible Belt (where I worked at a Christian camp for several summers). And in recent years I’ve settled in this small Midwestern college town in Iowa, not exactly a state that is known for its liberal elite.
I’ve had working class jobs my entire life: working newspaper routes as a child, working fastfood and mowing lawns in high school, and since then doing housecleaning, janitorial, dishwashing, and presently working as a parking ramp cashier. My friends include a busdriver, baker, etc. The most wealthy people I know are my conservative parents, as they did fairly well in their careers.
What I speak of is from my experience. But it is also from data I’ve seen. I know what decades of polling show. It’s not a secret. Anyone can look at the data, even average Joes.
I really have no clue where your response is coming from. You seem to want to treat me as someone I’m not. I’ve never claimed to be anything special. That is the whole point.
So you have “wealthy conservative parents” in a “mostly Jewish suburb” (Jews vote >70% Democrat) and attribute their affluence to them doing “fairly well in their careers”.
So privilege and such only belong to other people than you and yours? Hmm.
You say you worked at a Christian camp, so it’s reasonable to infer you are Reform Jewish, not Conservative/Orthodox Jewish. Reform Jews are significantly more inclined to the political left than other denominations. This is so in large part because whereas other denominations subscribe to traditional values associated with the religion, and believe those values are the basis for worldly success (and they’re not wrong), Reform Jews tend to buy into the charlatanism of the liberal elitist hypocrisy as a way of getting all the arrogance of affiliation with the Jewish lifestyle without any of the costs or responsibilities.
From that context, it is clear you have no idea what actual “working class jobs” are. It doesn’t mean saving up a few extra bucks of “your” money while living with your parents in your upper class suburb or asking if people want fries with that while paying down student debt on your worthless liberal arts degree.
And that you instinctively patronize others by referring to them as “average Joes” betrays the outsized egoism that underscores your entire viewpoint.
I understand these factors well because I was also raised in an affluent Reform Jewish family and came to question and challenge that outlook more and more as I grew older and had more experiences.
Finally, you say something else that is really the nail in the coffin so far as being “open minded” goes. You say you “really have no clue where [my] response is coming from”. Open-minded people do not turn their own lack of comprehension into a validation of what they believe. This is a common fallacy of logic I see quite often with campus neoliberals like you. You begin with the assumption that you are so edumucated that what you believe is right, therefore, any lack of understanding on your part, must be because the other party is wrong. If you subscribe to that way of thinking, then so far from being educated, you are uneducable. And that is the central hypocrisy of neoliberal elitists like you.
I didn’t grow up wealthy. Sometimes my family was living a middle class lifestyle and at other times we were on the lower income end of the class scale. My parents did end up doing well in their careers, but it had nothing to do with me. They’ve never bought me cars or economically supported me. Even as a kid, I was expected to earn my own money.
My parents also weren’t wealthy growing up. They both were born and raised in Indiana, my mother in a larger factory town and my father in a smaller rural town. One of my grandfathers was a factory worker and many of my extended family still does that kind of work.
By the way, I’m not a Jew. My family has been Christian for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, my grandfather was a minister. It was arbitrary that my family lived in a Jewish suburb at one point, as we had to move around a lot because of my father’s work and his changing his career.
I’m literally working class. I don’t make much money nor save much money. I mostly live from paycheck to paycheck. I live in a small apartment and I don’t even own a car. Like many other Americans, I get by and that is good enough.
I’m also literally “open minded” in that I’m naturally curious and like to question. I’ve spent much time interacting with people of different views because I want to understand what motivates people and what shapes their worldview. I’m fascinated by human nature.
I don’t lack comprehension. I simply have been humbled by life. I’ve dealt with a learning disability since childhood and severe depression for a long time. I fully understand that I don’t have everything figured out. But it isn’t a lack of comprehension. I simply hold my beliefs at arms length, not assuming my beliefs are right simply because they are my beliefs.
I’m actually not particularly “edumucated.” All I have is a high school degree. But my conservative parents did teach me a love of learning. That includes learning form others. You might want to try it.
You seem quick to jump to conclusions about people based on almost no knowledge about them. That is a bad habit. Don’t pretend like you have me figured out. I don’t have myself figured out.
You have a weird notion about class. Most Americans are working class. It isn’t some unusual condition. And it means many things to be working class.
My grandfather was born poor, barely had any education, and yet he got a good factory job that paid well and had great benefits. He probably made more money than my mother who was a public school teacher and he certainly made way more than I do. My grandfather was able to own a house, buy a new car every few years, take his family on road trip vacations, send his kids off to college, and retire comfortably.
That used to be a fairly typical experience for many working class people in the era when the economy was booming and economic mobility was high. There was a period of time when someone could have a nice life as working class—back before union member ship rates declined, before offshoring and mechanization, before wages stagnated and buying power decreased (while housing and education costs went up), before job security and pensions became rare.
Even for my parents’ generation, the economy was booming and there were a lot of opportunities. Back then, a ton of working class kids went off to college and careers like public school teacher were common for those working class kids. It’s not as if public school teachers have ever made a ton of money, but it’s enough money to raise a family and save for retirement.
All of that has changed in recent generations. For example, I pointed out that wages have stagnated and that has been going on since 1974. Before that, wages had been increasing continuously for decades. I was born in 1975 and so there isn’t a single year in my life that wages weren’t stagnating. The US used to have the highest rate of economic mobility and the largest and wealthiest middle class in the world, but that is no longer the case.
My generation was the first generation in recent history that has on average done worse than the previous generation. Generation X actually experienced a recession when they reached adulthood, but it was a recession that only impacted their generation. That came long before the 2008 recession. Millennials have likewise been hit hard with high rates of unemployment and underemployment having become the norm. Permanent unemployment has became so high that the government simply stopped recording the data during the Reagan administration. No one knows exactly what is the total unemployment rate.
I don’t have a college degree. Still, even having a college degree doesn’t mean what it used to. Having a college degree these days is about like having a high school degree earlier last century. A large number of people with working class jobs have college degrees. There are simply more people with college degrees than there are jobs that require college degrees. Yet, if one doesn’t get a college degree, one has no hope of getting one of those jobs that requires a college degree. And if one doesn’t get one of those jobs, it is hard to pay off one’s college debt. It’s a bit of a Catch-22.
Doing everything right doesn’t ensure getting a good job. In the past, all that was required was a willingness to work hard and you were almost guaranteed a job that paid well.
Considering all of this, I’m not sure why you are shocked that I’m working class. I only make about $20,000 a year. Poverty level for one person is about $12,000. I have lived below the poverty level. That was when I was mostly working as a janitor, which I did for several years. Even now, it’s not as if I’m that far above the poverty level. A single health problem could put me into massive debt.
Just because I live in a middle class town, it doesn’t do me any good. It’s not as if the middle class professionals living around here give me part of their paychecks for the my happening to live in the same town. There are poor and homeless people in this town and it isn’t extremely different from being poor and homeless anywhere else.
Do you understand what it means to be working class, what it means to be lower income?
BDS, could you articulate what “weird notion” about class I have?
I flatly don’t believe your description of your grandfather. It reads like your own ideological impressions of the past as it existed for people who weren’t your family, rather than how it actually was. For example, do you realize that most industrial workers walked or took mass transit to work 50 years ago? When you say “great benefits,” what benefits do you think you’re referring to? When you say “send his kids off to college,” how do you think that worked, who paid, why do you think that would be a good thing?
And I still don’t believe your claim to not have a college degree. Since you believe everyone should get education, and college degrees are already more accessible than they should be, it stands to reason you would already have one – particularly since, from your own account, you were raised in a “wealthy [politically] conservative” Reform Jewish family, who as a culture basically always send their kids to college (spare me the PC about generalizations, it cuts no ice with me), and were old enough to work while living with them (meaning you could also have been attending college online).
Further proof that you have a college degree is your very claim that a college degree is not a guarantee of employment. This is only true if you have strong preconceptions about what kind of degree you are going to work towards or what kind of work you want to do. Hires with degrees in criminal justice, civil engineering, computer science or accountancy are always in high demand. From your belief that “a” degree is not a guarantee of employment – from the perspective of one who claims not to have one and is therefore starting from square one – I would assume you already have a worthless liberal arts degree.
There are other revealing errors in what you say. For example, you conflate “the poor” and “homeless people.” Homeless people aren’t poor. They’re economic non-actors for psychosocial reasons. It isn’t the case homeless people are being kept down by The Man or something, they just don’t want to participate in mainstream society. Life for actual poor people, the working poor, is something you evidently don’t have a good frame of reference for, probably because you don’t live in a part of the country where homeless people are a common sight up-close-and-personal (as opposed to seeing them occasionally from your car or something) and you can get a good sense of how they actually think and act.
Bottom line – you don’t understand what “working class” means in the context of the article. It doesn’t mean flipping burgers until you go to college. It means, literally, people who work, generation after generation. Going back to my point about peasants, what you don’t grasp is that the world turns on such people. You don’t seem to grasp the chauvinism implicit in your belief that social mobility is the solution to poverty, as if the jobs they spend their whole lives doing should just cease to exist. It makes sense if you assume that work is something only other people should do.
Finally, homes are actually still quite affordable. You just have to be willing to move off the neoliberal Coast. I paid $55k for a home here in Cincinnati. Mortgage payments are $500/mo. It’s very possible to pay even less if you’re handy or willing to go to the trouble of doing fixer-uppers. The main reason neoliberals like you don’t do that is – again – the intensity of your disdain for people living in Middle America or on the bad side of town. That is a prejudice I personally share. But I am also wise enough to understand that most of America and the world at large is competing brands of bigotry, stupidity and insanity.
Now, I’m not saying American society is just fine or perfectly fair. My point is that the observation made by the article and other posters in this thread that neoliberals such as yourself lack a real understanding of or empathy for “poor whites” or actual “working class Americans” and are primarily preoccupied with reinforcing your own privilege or sense of superiority.
“BDS, could you articulate what “weird notion” about class I have?”
The kinds of comments you make and the questions you ask indicate someone who hasn’t had much in-depth and diverse experience with working class people. You have a lot of ideas about class identity, but you don’t seem to realize how different it can mean to be working class. It always seems weird to me when people let ideas trump reality.
“I flatly don’t believe your description of your grandfather.”
I don’t care. I wasn’t trying to convince you. I flatly don’t believe that you really don’t believe. I think you’re just playing ideological games. My experience doesn’t fit your beliefs and so therefore you feel compelled to dismiss what I write. Whatever.
“For example, do you realize that most industrial workers walked or took mass transit to work 50 years ago?”
There was a large public investment in mass transit earlier last century. I know that. We liberals see such public investments as a positive thing. I’m sure there was public transit in the town my mother grew up in. I don’t know that any public transit went from their house to the factory.
For my grandfather, owning a car was a point of pride, as he grew up poor. It’s the same reason he was proud to own his own house and proud to send his kids to college. Even if there was public transit, he probably would have been too proud to use it, just as he would have been too proud to go on welfare even if he needed it. He was a proud working man, the first generation to be able to provide so well for his family. His own father was born in an abandoned house that his family was squatting in. That is what economic mobility used to mean.
“When you say “great benefits,” what benefits do you think you’re referring to?”
His factory job gave him many things that wouldn’t have been available to his own father: high pay, healthcare insurance, sick time, vacation days, disability pay, lifetime job security, on-the-job training, a generous pension, etc.
“When you say “send his kids off to college,” how do you think that worked, who paid, why do you think that would be a good thing?”
He did send his kids to a state college. State colleges were well funded back then. That did make it cheaper compared to today. Still, it cost a fair amount for someone who was working class. He was lucky to have been able to save enough money from his factory job, along with my grandmother working as a secretary. Even then, my mother had to help pay by working in college.
Was it a good thing? Well, his children ended up having fairly decent careers. My mother was a public school teacher and one uncle became a hospital technician. There is another uncle who didn’t go to college and became a security guard (it seems he has a learning disability like I have, although they weren’t diagnosing such things back then). That seems like a fairly good result for money invested. Do you disagree?
“And I still don’t believe your claim to not have a college degree.”
And I still don’t care about your beliefs disconnected from reality. Lacking a college degree isn’t some strange thing. Despite college degrees, most Americans still don’t have a college degree.
“Since you believe everyone should get education, and college degrees are already more accessible than they should be, it stands to reason you would already have one – particularly since, from your own account, you were raised in a “wealthy [politically] conservative” Reform Jewish family, who as a culture basically always send their kids to college (spare me the PC about generalizations, it cuts no ice with me), and were old enough to work while living with them (meaning you could also have been attending college online).”
You seem to lack reading comprehension skills. I never said my parents were “wealthy conservatives” or that I was raised in a “wealthy [politically] conservative” Reform Jewish family.” As I told you, my family has been Christian for as many generations as anyone can remember.
I also wouldn’t call my parents wealthy. If you’re going to use quote marks, the honest thing to do would be to actually quote me: “The most wealthy people I know are my conservative parents, as they did fairly well in their careers.”
I said “most” by which I meant wealth in a relative sense. Even a poor person has wealth, even if it is only a few hundred dollars in their bank account. It isn’t much wealth, but it is more wealth than having no money at all. Similarly, my factory-working grandfather was relatively wealthy compared to his own father. My point is that my parents are wealthier than, for example, my friends who work such jobs as a bus driver, baker, etc. My parents are also wealthier than my brother who works as a county naturalist, as county naturalists don’t make much money, often less than a public school teacher.
Everything in life is relative. It always depends on what you’re comparing to. The average working class Westerner in a highly developed country is far more wealthy than the average working class non-Westerner in a third world country. You don’t even need to look to the third world. Compared to homeless people, a working class person paying a third of their paycheck or more to rent alone is wealthy. Life is about perspective. Class isn’t an objective reality but a socioeconomic position relative to other socioeconomic positions within a specific economic social order.
“Further proof that you have a college degree is your very claim that a college degree is not a guarantee of employment. This is only true if you have strong preconceptions about what kind of degree you are going to work towards or what kind of work you want to do. Hires with degrees in criminal justice, civil engineering, computer science or accountancy are always in high demand. From your belief that “a” degree is not a guarantee of employment – from the perspective of one who claims not to have one and is therefore starting from square one – I would assume you already have a worthless liberal arts degree.”
There are many degrees besides liberal arts that have relatively higher unemployment rates. Even STEM degrees aren’t worth what they once were. Some data shows that STEM degree unemployment has increased. Part of that has to do with the recession and its aftereffects. My friend who drives a bus has a degree in architecture and obviously architecture degrees became less valuable when construction decreased after the housing bubble busted. Another friend has a degree in computer graphics and it turns out it is hard to find work in that area.
If you are younger, this is even harder. Many careers require doing unpaid intern work, which many people can’t afford. I know someone with an accounting degree that is struggling because before he can get a job he has to get experience through an unpaid internship, but it’s not as if he can afford to work for free. This makes it harder for young people to break into certain fields, unless they or their parents are wealthy enough to support them through an unpaid internship.
Even for older folk, times are tough. My father’s cousin during middle age went back to college to get an engineering degree. He has found work, but mostly temporary. No one wants to hire an older guy, no matter education. My father was lucky to start a new career when the economy was doing well. It’s just not a good time for that kind of thing right now. Still, many people have few choices available to them. You obviously must be living a comfortable lifestyle if you don’t understand what is happening in our economy right now.
“There are other revealing errors in what you say. For example, you conflate “the poor” and “homeless people.” Homeless people aren’t poor.”
I never made such a conflation. Except in your imagination. I don’t even conflate “the poor” and “the working class.” There are overlap between all of these terms, but they aren’t the same. I’m sure even most wealthier people understand these distinctions. It’s not particularly complicated.
“They’re economic non-actors for psychosocial reasons. It isn’t the case homeless people are being kept down by The Man or something, they just don’t want to participate in mainstream society.”
You really are disconnected from reality on the ground.
First of all, the largest proportion of homeless are veterans dealing with brain trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder, along with everything related to it: increased violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. After seeing war and death, it can be hard to re-enter normal life as if nothing changed, especially if you’re dealing with other ongoing issues related to your military service.
Besides veterans, there is a high unemployment and underemployment rate, when one counts all unemployment. It’s not like in the past where anyone willing to work could find work. Or at least there is a lack of legal unemployment, although the black market is booming, if you don’t mind being a drug dealer, prostitute, or whatever. By the way, many homeless people are even employed, but they can’t afford rent. If you’ve ever tried to live on minimum wage, you’d know why that is the case. Most people on welfare are working as well.
“Life for actual poor people, the working poor, is something you evidently don’t have a good frame of reference for, probably because you don’t live in a part of the country where homeless people are a common sight up-close-and-personal (as opposed to seeing them occasionally from your car or something) and you can get a good sense of how they actually think and act.”
The working poor are a diverse group. You seem to maybe have met a few poor people at some point in your life and now think that you can generalize about a massive complex demographic. In this Iowa town, there are a lot of homeless people downtown. I used to work cleaning up the downtown and regularly talked to the homeless. Many of them had mental illnesses. Some that appeared to be homeless weren’t actually homeless, but simply were scraggly people who spent a lot of time downtown. The only way you could tell who was actually homeless and why that was the case was by talking to them as normal people, something few people ever do, as obviously you haven’t done.
You talk about the homeless as if they are a different species. No, they’re just people trying to get by like anyone else.
Let me toss it at you this way.
What do you think of the people and culture of rural Iowa? Or the Bible Belt?
What do you think were the strengths and weaknesses of your upbringing, in terms of how it made you a better or worse person?
What, to you, defines the “working class” lifestyle?
What differentiates you from “white trash”?
You can reply to those questions item by item. Or you can reply with the cliche that because you do not understand the point of those questions, you need not answer them, as if any question that doesn’t serve your ideological bent is wrong.
I’m not sure what is the point of your questions. But I’ll answer them.
“What do you think of the people and culture of rural Iowa? Or the Bible Belt?”
I don’t think of them any different than I think of anyone else. People are just people.
When I was in high school in South Carolina, I worked with many poor people and minorities in my fastfood job. I didn’t think much about it. It was just work and they were my coworkers. My best friend in high school was a working class ‘redneck’.
In North Carolina, I worked with a diversity of people, including many locals. I dated a girl there whose family was fundamentalist and lived in a trailer on a rural country road that was on the side of a mountain. It was a different culture than I grew up with. Even though I was raised Christian by conservative parents, I wasn’t raised fundamentalist. North Carolina had way more fundamentalists than South Carolina. Those fundamentalists do take their religion seriously. At the YMCA camp I worked at, I was surrounded by Christians and they were nice people who were trying to have a positive impact on the world. I’ve always had respect for people like that.
Here in Iowa, I’ve worked numerous jobs. My coworkers have included many types of people, but certainly I’ve worked with many people who live in or were raised in rural areas. People who grew up on farms or doing farm work around here is common. This is a small college town surrounded by vast stretches of farmland. If you were downtown, it would only take you 10 minutes to drive to the edge of town where farmland begins. A rural Iowan isn’t particularly different than any other variety of Iowan. It’s not as if rural Iowans look or talk differently. Even many urban Iowans live in or grew up in factory towns. There are a ton of factory towns in this part of Iowa.
I’m curious. What was the point of your question? I’ve known working class people my entire life. Much of my mother’s family is working class. That part of my family comes from Indiana and before that Kentucky. They have a bit of the Upper South culture about them. I’ve been visiting them my entire life. I don’t see anything particularly unusual about being working class. My mother raised me with a working class attitude. Working class seems normal to me. In everyday life, I don’t think much about it.
“What do you think were the strengths and weaknesses of your upbringing, in terms of how it made you a better or worse person?”
Well, as I said, my mother raised me with a working class attitude. More specifically, I was raised with Midwestern culture, despite the years I spent in the South.
Only working class people in the South do their own yard work and my family always did our own yard work, just as we did our own housework. The neighbors all hired work done because labor is so cheap in the South, for the simple reason poverty and unemployment is so high (there are always people looking for work). One neighbor was an old Southern Belle who had married below her class, but she had inherited money and for her entire life she had a personal black servant who followed her around doing everything for her.
The South is a very different place than the Midwest. I’m a Midwesterner and that shapes the kind of working class attitude I have. I’m not sure how much I want to try to explain Midwestern culture, but I’ll point to a few things.
One difference is maybe related to education. There has always been a strong tradition of education in the Midwest. That might relate to why my parents instilled in me such a strong love of learning. Even my factory-working grandfather was proud that his children went to college. In Iowa, it’s been common for a long time for farmers to send their children to college. Iowa has good farmland and it used to be that a small family farmer could make good money. It creates a different kind of attitude than a poor farmer working in a region that has poor soil. It’s not just the soil. Midwest has the highest rate of Northern European ancestry in the country and this shapes the culture here.
In my mind, there is no contradiction between being working class and valuing education/learning. Certainly, my parents never taught me to see such a distinction.
“What, to you, defines the “working class” lifestyle?”
I wouldn’t say there is a working class lifestyle. There are simply people who have working class jobs. That does create a certain kind of attitude about life, but I don’t know what that has to do with lifestyle. Working class represents much diversity—depending on race, ethnicity, religion, region, etc.
When I lived in Arizona, I did housekeeping with quite a few Navajo people. Like anywhere else, being working class isn’t all that different. You work some job for a basic hourly wage and then you go home. You don’t have much money and you find simple, cheap ways to occupy the rest of your time. Still, a working class Navajo has a different culture and lifestyle than a working class rural Iowan, a working class factory-working Hoosier, a working class inner city black, or a working class migrant worker.
I’m not sure why anyone would think there is a working class lifestyle.
“What differentiates you from “white trash”?””
I don’t know. That isn’t a label I would use. I’ve known some very poor white people. I can’t say that there would be an easy or useful way to generalize about all poor white people. Are you implying that we should generalize about large demographics in this fashion?
Let me try to get at the meaning that might be behind your question. By “white trash,” I could interpret that as meaning poor white people who have been severely and continuously poor for more generations than anyone can remember. That would describe my mother’s family up until grandfather’s generation when they moved to central Indiana and found better paying work with the railroads and factories.
So, do I differentiate myself from my own family from a few generations ago? Not really. People do what work they must to get by. When possible, people work to better themselves and their families. It isn’t any more complicated than that. Work shouldn’t define people.
BDS, re-reading what you said in the context of your latest post, I think I really misunderstood where you’re coming from. My sincere apologies.
“BDS, re-reading what you said in the context of your latest post, I think I really misunderstood where you’re coming from. My sincere apologies.”
Okay. Thanks for the apology. I wasn’t looking for a fight. I just didn’t know how to respond to your original post. It seemed like you were making generalizations that didn’t fit my experience. I get tired of generalizations. Not all poor people, working class people, and homeless people are the same. That is what makes it hard being on the bottom of society. So many people think they have you figured out or else they dismiss your struggles. I’m sorry to have been so defensive. Depression really does put me in a bad mood. It’s not your fault or anyone’s fault. But life sucks and it sucks worse for some than others. I know I’m relatively luck living where I do. If you’re going to be low income, it’s better to be in a middle class town than in a poor rural area or poor inner city. I do count my blessings. But it doesn’t make me feel any better knowing that others struggle even more than I do. I wish I lived in a society that wasn’t obsessed with class identity and class war. There is nothing I can do about that. Anyway, I’m sorry about our conflict. I have no hard feelings toward you.
BDS, you said you had “wealthy conservative parents”. Now you are equivocating in the hopes of sounding more credible when you speak for people who are not you.
You say you parents didn’t “economically support you,” you were expected to “earn your own money,” and complain about your “learning disability”.
What you do not grasp is that benefiting from life with your parents in the burbs (having a strong safety net, social enfranchisement, and discounted rent in a safe neighborhood), is a huge privilege, so much so that you think your “learning disability” is in any way comparable to what actual working-class people have to life with. Simply put, you talk in the terms of leftist privilege.
I flatly do not believe you are being truthful that you have only a high school diploma. It is not difficult to get an AA/BA online. If you are cogent enough to be having this debate here, then surely you would have already done so.
What can be taken from your claim, then, is that you believe you are entitled to lie on the basis of your ideology, which you believe gives you moral superiority by mere fact of subscribing to it.
You talk about learning from others. But your instinct is to patronize rather than engage. And yes, sizing others up quickly while remaining open to learning more about them is not a bad habit – it is called “street smarts.”
Joseph – you sound like a fascinating person, and I really enjoyed reading your piece. Kudos.
I’m concerned about our future. Many comments here absolutely demonstrate just how divided we are because, rather than accept our commonalities and work together to defeat the growing oppression of the vast majority of Americans, we have spent our time fighting over minute details of our differences. That is all the elite oppressors need from us to continue what they’re doing.
I suppose the mythical “Willie Lynch” plan has worked beyond anyone’s wildest expectations because it wasn’t the rich White landowners whose wielded the whip, rope, or gun that was used to oppress slaves. It was the White underlings who were tasked with chasing down, disciplining, and killing Blacks.
All they have left now is faux privilege and the same ability that Blacks have – that being to hate and blame the other other poor or less fortunate groups for their hardship. and I take that to mean most lower and middle level managers in business, health, and manufacturing environments.
None of us can win so long as we fight over differences rather than focus on our common needs which are not being met by America’s financial systems.
Thank you for summing up the main intent of this article – it’s pointless for us to spend so much emotion and energy resenting each other, when we could be building a great nation to live and work in.
First off, great article. I agree with the truth of what you’re describing, as I’ve observed it first hand, first when growing up in a rural part of the midwest not far from Arkansas, and second by talking with people as part of my job, people who are from these parts of the country and do match some of the experience the author is retelling.
As a long term resident now of the PNW, a lot of us moved here from crap-ass parts of the country, where everything from Walmart to NAFTA to Bain Capital and vulture capitalism (the deal where they buy the company, load it up with debt, then sell it as a paper asset after they move the jobs offshore).. Where all these things went on, some of us said the hell with it and moved to big cities, typically on the coasts, and worked at getting our lives working.
In so doing some of us probably picked up some pretty Liberal ideas, because everyone is new from someplace else, everyone just wants to work, everyone has a more or less equal chance to make something of themselves. Those ideals aren’t completely dead on the coasts in America, particularly if you get a degree and/or have technical or builder skills.
So my question for the author’s point of view would be this: If we can do it, why can’t these folks in rural Ark? Why stay put? Why, generation after generation, sit there bitching about how much life sucks? Or even better yet, why keep blaming the big cities and all us awful evil Liberals, when it was we that actually went out and made something of ourselves?
I get really frustrated by the Democrats, they’re corrupt, but one thing they do not do is try to tell Americans how to run their own bedrooms or who they have to worship. Republicans seem more worried about who sleeps with whom or what idiot 5000 year old goat herders had to say about morality and law, as you cherry-pick your way through Bible quotes and come up with things you can hate people with, or ignore your real problems as a result of. Makes no difference to me, but you sure as heck won’t be getting my vote any time soon. Trump’s one of you guys now, so he will never get my vote either. Just another Religious Republican trying to tell the gays they can’t marry, or telling women then can’t have birth control.
So to the author or anyone else: What do you think would fix these deep divides in America? Personally, I’ve had it with the South and if they wanted to secede again I’d say bon voyage and there’s the damn door, don’t let it hit your big fat redneck ass on the way out. Let the West Coast go on to be one of the worlds’ great countries, let middle america and rural Southern America keep shooting itself in its own foot trying to pretend its moral when in reality it’s anything but.
@c doom – “So my question for the author’s point of view would be this: If we can do it, why can’t these folks in rural Ark? Why stay put? Why, generation after generation, sit there bitching about how much life sucks? Or even better yet, why keep blaming the big cities and all us awful evil Liberals, when it was we that actually went out and made something of ourselves?”
Well, actually most of the people have left most of those places. The people remaining are disproportionately those who are older, retired, disabled, impoverished, in debt, etc—i.e., those least capable of leaving and starting over somewhere else. It takes money to move and to get further education or training. Not everyone is so lucky. Besides, it is a major risk to leave behind everything you know and depend on, to leave your family, community and church in order to bet everything on the hope that you’ll make it in the big city, precisely at a time when the economy is doing badly and opportunities are decreasing, wages are stagnating, economic mobility not being what it used to be, and homelessness on the rise.
“So to the author or anyone else: What do you think would fix these deep divides in America? Personally, I’ve had it with the South and if they wanted to secede again I’d say bon voyage and there’s the damn door, don’t let it hit your big fat redneck ass on the way out. Let the West Coast go on to be one of the worlds’ great countries, let middle america and rural Southern America keep shooting itself in its own foot trying to pretend its moral when in reality it’s anything but.”
The divides aren’t primarily between the South and the North or between rural and urban. The real divide in both parties and across the country are the haves and have-nots. The South is a complex place. Don’t blame the average Southerner for everything done by the Southern political and economic elite.
Most Southerners either identify with or lean toward the Democratic party (the same is true with many rural states, especially Midwestern farm states). The Republican party has only dominated the South by disenfranchizing, demoralizing, suppressing, and generally shutting out most potential voters—by voter purges, few polling locations, long lines, etc. Southerners didn’t turn against the Democratic party. Rather, the Democratic party abandoned Southerners.
Also, keep in mind that it was the West Coast that gave us Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, the Southern Strategy, and such. It is also where was developed some of the harshest tactics of big biz against organized labor (see “Right Out of California” by Kathryn S. Olmsted). And where big biz joined forces with big religion, specifically by way of the California mega-churches. Don’t forget that California is filled with generations of people who came from the South. California is the twin of Texas. Also, don’t forget that a place like Oregon was the only sundown state in the country, where blacks were legally excluded from living there. There is a dark history to the West Coast.
Many people all over the country are in a tough spot. Homeless camps are growing in size and number all over the country, specifically in the big cities. The government stopped keeping full unemployment data back in the 1980s. Nobody knows how many permanently unemployed there are, as those are excluded from the unemployment records. The poor all across the country understand this all too well. It’s time that those who aren’t poor to begin to take this seriously. Those struggling and suffering need help and opportunities, not blame and scapegoating.
I think this is why Andrew Jackson is maligned today, as some own who pulled the blinders of this con, and bread egalitarianism that lead to an explosion in abolition and poor all over realizing they could take power, and thus leading minorities and women to the same conclusion. The elites do not want this, and they also spend lots of money to paint progressives in a poor light as well.
All of these ugly, back and forth arguments are making the author’s point. Stop fighting each other and band together to raise one another up instead of tear one and other down. You are not the enemy.
Fantastic piece the author has written here!
Why did so many people inserted religion into the conversation? I guess the answer to that question is the start of a whole different conversation. I’d love to her the author’s opinion on organized religion, but that may be a can of worms not worth opening. But something to ponder for a future article.
Nice work, but, I think you have failed to sufficiently give the Clintons (and New “Democrats” in general), full credit for all of their hard work, in driving blue-collar America toward Trump.
Never fear, I’m here to “Correct The Record”…
Bill Clinton’s odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the ’90s
How Clinton Democrats abandoned the working class and spurred rise of Donald Trump
While I think this article makes many good points about how powerful people put on their costumes and act in order to sway the powerless into voting for them in order to gain even more power and influence, I think we may have made an assumption that makes this analysis fatally flawed. In the article you write “This is a group of people who have almost effortlessly been manipulated by some pretty despicable people into voting against their own interests and aligning themselves with people who have nothing in common with them.” Then you prove this by showing how the economic interests of poor white people are not in line with the economic interests of the politically elite. This analysis fails to account for two things; first that people select candidates for reasons other than economic interests, and second, that people should select candidates that will provide for their own self interest.
On the first point, I think that for many of the poor white voters that you reference, the economy is not the issue that is driving their candidate selection. Colloquially, I believe that moral/religious issues (maybe more accurately the perception of moral/religious issues) are more important for their candidate selection than any other factor. We may call these religiously based voters bigoted, racist, sexist, and other derogatory terms, but the fact remains that they have the right to vote, and if candidates cannot or will not reach out to them, the candidates will have to contend with overcoming the moralist’s support of the Republican party. You may disagree with the moral determinations that this group relies on, but the fervor with which they believe in these decisions is evident everyday, and it is just as strong as the moral fervor that people with opposing viewpoints fight for their causes. I think it is fundamental to understand why and how these voters are willing to reject their own self interest in order to pursue these moral objectives in order to reach the poor white voters on economic issues. Which brings me to my second point …
Not all voters should, or actually do vote for the candidate that best supports their own interest. This article wonders how it is that these poor white voters are so ardently against their own interests and vote for wealthy, powerful candidates. However, this same question could be asked of wealthy liberal elites who advocate for higher taxes, more welfare programs, and more progressive platforms. Yet, no one is asking why someone like Warren Buffet is advocating for more taxes on the wealthy in America, or trying to show that wealthy, urban, elites in the democratic party are similarly self sabotaging by supporting people that are not in favor of their best interest. The truth may be, that when voters are tasked with casting their votes, they truly believe they are doing something altruistic, something that is good for the country and not themselves. If that is the case, then poor white voters who vote for wealthy elites may be doing so because they believe that person will help this country the most even if the candidate has not promised to provide them with upward mobility.
As an aside, I do not believe that rich people are happier and poor people are more maligned. While having resources can make life a bit easier, some of the most satisfied and happiest people I have ever met have been poor people. If this article was intended to reveal power relationships in a representative-democracy, it was very good, if it was intended to understand why poor white voters vote the way they do, I think there has to be a more normative discussion about what actually matters to poor white people.
@Jon – “This analysis fails to account for two things; first that people select candidates for reasons other than economic interests, and second, that people should select candidates that will provide for their own self interest.”
Well, your analysis fails to account for the fact that the data shows that economics is an important factor to voting behavior, even if not the only important factor.
The candidate who is talking most about economic populism, Sanders, has the support of low income Americans. Poor whites and minorities have decided voting based on economics is in their interest, contrary to what you apparently believe.
Trump actually gets more of the middle class white demographic. His supporters are fairly average in wealth and education. That is an important detail to keep in mind.
“On the first point, I think that for many of the poor white voters that you reference, the economy is not the issue that is driving their candidate selection. Colloquially, I believe that moral/religious issues (maybe more accurately the perception of moral/religious issues) are more important for their candidate selection than any other factor.”
In that case, if we are to assume that their decisions are based on moral/religious issues, poor whites are choosing the socialist, secular Jew because they support socialism and secular Judaism. I doubt that is the case. But going by your argument, that is what we’d have to assume.
“The truth may be, that when voters are tasked with casting their votes, they truly believe they are doing something altruistic, something that is good for the country and not themselves. If that is the case, then poor white voters who vote for wealthy elites may be doing so because they believe that person will help this country the most even if the candidate has not promised to provide them with upward mobility.”
The problem with your assessment is that most Americans support the positions that Sanders is promoting. This is shown in years of public polling. Still, maybe you got one thing right, sort of.
It could be that most Americans support a strong welfare state, low inequality, more opportunities for more people, etc for altruistic reasons because they want a better world for everyone, not just themselves. The Lost Generation in their older age, for example, pushed for Social Security and other progressive policies. even though few of them ever benefited from it.
“If this article was intended to reveal power relationships in a representative-democracy, it was very good, if it was intended to understand why poor white voters vote the way they do, I think there has to be a more normative discussion about what actually matters to poor white people.”
Before one can participate in a normative discussion, one has to know the actual data in order to know what is normative. Otherwise, false assumptions are easily made based on preconceived notions about other people.
I guess I can play your point-by-point game.
“Well, your analysis fails to account for the fact that the data shows that economics is an important factor to voting behavior, even if not the only important factor.”
-I never said that economics was unimportant. I was responding to an article that seemed to overly rely on economic interests to explain why poor (or as you point out, middle class, but we will come back to this) rural white people seem to be supporting Trump. My suggestion is that to truly understand these voters, one may want to consider other, equally important political issues that these voters seem to care more about than the economy. To look at the whole person, rather than what you think the person should care about.
“Trump actually gets more of the middle class white demographic. His supporters are fairly average in wealth and education. That is an important detail to keep in mind.”
-I would like to see the data you have to support this claim of Trump supporters. Everything I have seen reported seems to suggest that Trump supporters trend poorer, more rural, and less educated than supporters of other candidates. For example see the Atlantic: Who are Trump’s Supporters Really? Mar. 1, 2016. Also, it is the claim of the article I responded to that poor, white, and rural voters are flocking towards the Donald, not my own, I was just giving an alternate explanation that would account for their support that I think the article overlooked.
“In that case, if we are to assume that their decisions are based on moral/religious issues, poor whites are choosing the socialist, secular Jew because they support socialism and secular Judaism. I doubt that is the case. But going by your argument, that is what we’d have to assume.”
-Again, the article I was responding to surmised that these poor people were supporting Trump. I simply responded to the claim that it is not in the poor people’s interest. As an aside, you claim here that these religious/voters are supporting Sanders more than Trump with no facts to back that up, but again, we will come back to that in a minute.
“The problem with your assessment is that most Americans support the positions that Sanders is promoting. This is shown in years of public polling. Still, maybe you got one thing right, sort of.”
-I never said anything about “most Americans” I only referred to the subject of the article, which is to say poor people that support Trump.
“It could be that most Americans support a strong welfare state, low inequality, more opportunities for more people, etc for altruistic reasons because they want a better world for everyone, not just themselves. The Lost Generation in their older age, for example, pushed for Social Security and other progressive policies. even though few of them ever benefited from it.”
-It could be that this is correct, or it could be that this is completely incorrect, but it has nothing to do with the subject of the article I was responding to, nor my response. This has added nothing to our conversation. Everything in this paragraph is irrelevant.
“Before one can participate in a normative discussion, one has to know the actual data in order to know what is normative. Otherwise, false assumptions are easily made based on preconceived notions about other people.”
-Bold words for someone who cites to zero data and has made several assumptions while not responding to any of the points raised in the initial post, or the article it was based on. You get a C- for your reading comprehension, good luck to you, I hope you have access to resources that can help you improve on this subject.
“It could be that most Americans support a strong welfare state, low inequality, more opportunities for more people, etc for altruistic reasons because they want a better world for everyone, not just themselves. The Lost Generation in their older age, for example, pushed for Social Security and other progressive policies. even though few of them ever benefited from it.”
And it could be that you are totally wrong and that’s what YOU want.
Socialism is immoral and an failed economic model. The former is a matter of your morals, the latter, a matter of whether you can be true to the facts, i.e., Greece, Venezuela, even some Scandinavian countries that are moving away from it.
@Pete – “And it could be that you are totally wrong and that’s what YOU want.”
All I know is that the majority of Americans apparently disagree with you. The reason I know this is because I bothered to inform myself.
“Socialism is immoral and an failed economic model.”
Tell that to the sewer socialists who ran the Milwaukee government for a half century. They were popular and the city was considered among the best governed in the country. The tv show Happy Days is set in Milwaukee during the sewer socialist era. That is why they were such happy days.
” The former is a matter of your morals, the latter, a matter of whether you can be true to the facts, i.e., Greece, Venezuela, even some Scandinavian countries that are moving away from it.”
You probably should tell that to the Scandinavian countries. They love their massive welfare states.
In the post war era, where money was flowing in hand over fist, sure socialism was popular. That’s how it is when you’ve bombed the productive capacity of the rest of the industrial world back into the bronze age, and you’re the only person left in the market. That’s also the only way to make money out of war.
It’s when the money starts to run out that people become leery of socialistic programs.
The Scandinavian countries and many other Western countries are doing better than the US now. Less poverty and inequality. Greater socioeconomic mobility. Greater ease in starting new businesses. High rates of innovation. More rich people per capita. Larger and wealthier middle classes. Fewer social prolems. More well educated and well trained workforces. More employment. Better schools. Even the public schools in Finland with high teacher unionization rates and high immigrant students do better than US schools. Your entire argument falls apart.
Bravo, great points.
What would be the goal of government anyway (or our choices to vote into government certain people)?
– Security from both those outside and inside the borders? Then you need a strong defense and border control/policies as well as a fair and effective police force.
– Freedom from persecution and freedom from the government or others trampling your natural rights? Then you need a Constitution and Bill of Rights that set out those clearly and a government that upholds those rights and does not try to take them away.
– Freedom to be “happy” and not have others or the government forcing things on you to make you unhappy.
Notice the list above does not include that the government make you not poor, more rich or give individuals provisions or money.
The socialism that this article is supporting through it’s premise is counter to all of the above.
Maybe poor white people are tired of other people telling the government that they want less freedom and liberty for all of America. That would mean less of the things the Democratic party wants.
The first sentence has another example that is counter to what Trump wants to deliver:
“While I think this article makes many good points about how powerful people put on their costumes and act in order to sway the powerless into voting for them in order to gain even more power and influence,”
The Democratic party has promised the poor (and others) fruits that it has never actually delivered – prosperity. It’s offered them servitude to their master, the government. Yet many continue to vote for them instead of making the other choice – one where those that want and know how to grow the economy and jobs will raise all boats.
@Pete – Great points? Is it irrelevant whether the points conform to reality in the slightest? The socialism that this article is supporting through it’s premise is supported by most Americans, most especially most low income Americans.
Maybe poor white people are tired of other people telling them what they think, even though they are clueless of what poor whites actually support. That would mean less of the things the neoliberals and neocons want.
I don’t care about the Democratic party, as I’m an independent, but I will point out some basic facts. Unemployment rates and recessions have been worse under Republican presidents, for a very long time. Maybe it’s because of the plutocratic vision of trickle-up ‘prosperity’ that most poor whites don’t support right-wing economics.
Your reality is not even reality. Obama’s record is actually pretty horrid as far as getting people out of poverty and into the workforce. but the way the government reports those statistics doesn’t show that. Right wing economics means don’t tax the hell out of everyone, make it easier for businesses to thrive and get people to work so that welfare isn’t needed. But I expect this kind of nonsense from you. Don’t bother responding, I know your kind – bleeding heart that can’t see that getting the government out of the way and reducing the need for welfare is the way to make people happier. There’s nothing you can teach me on this topic, I’ve heard all of your kind of liberal nonsense before.
Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others
By James Gilligan
Kindle Locations 801-830
Why has unemployment increased and then lasted longer, and why have recessions occurred so much more frequently and then lasted longer, during Republican administrations than during Democratic ones? And why have declines in unemployment and growth of the economy been so much greater when there was a Democratic president rather than a Republican in the White House? Is this simply a matter of bad luck for the Republicans and good luck for the Democrats? Is it a function of the “business cycle” that operates independently of human political choices, like a force of nature or an act of God that just happens to coincide with times when Republicans are presidents? A misfortune , to be sure, but not their fault?
As opposed to that supposition , many experts on the relationship between the political parties and the functioning of the economy have concluded that the latter is very much a function of the difference between the economic policies of the two parties. This has been shown, for example, with respect to why economic inequality increases under Republicans and decreases under Democrats. Writing in 2007, the Princeton political economist Larry Bartels 8 concluded that:
“The most important single influence on the changing US income distribution over the past half-century [has been] the contrasting policy choices of Democratic and Republican presidents. Under Republican administrations, real income growth for the lower- and middle-income classes has consistently lagged well behind the income growth rate for the rich – and well behind the income growth rate for the lower and middle classes themselves under Democratic administrations.”
Furthermore, Bartels observes that “these substantial partisan disparities in income growth … are quite unlikely to have occurred by chance.… Rather, they reflect consistent differences in policies and priorities between Democratic and Republican administrations.”
Bartels also points out that one measure of inequality, “the 80/ 20 income ratio, increased under each of the six Republican presidents in this [post-World War II] period.… In contrast, four of five Democratic presidents – all except Jimmy Carter – presided over declines in income inequality. If this is a coincidence, it is a very powerful one .” 9 He then goes on to show reasons why it “seems hard to attribute this to a mere coincidence in the timing of Democratic and Republican administrations.”
To extend the argument, the political economist Douglas Hibbs 10 points out that “Democratic adminis-trations are more likely than Republican ones to run the risk of higher inflation rates in order to pursue expansive policies designed to yield lower unemployment and extra growth.” Hibbs notes that “six of the seven recessions experienced since  … occurred during Republican administrations. Every one of these contractions was either intentionally created or passively accepted … in order to fight inflation.” The cruelest irony of all, in this regard, is that from 1948 through 2005 the inflation rate during Republican administrations has been virtually indistinguishable from that achieved under Democratic ones (3.76 percent vs. 3.97 percent), while the degree of overall prosperity (real per capita GNP growth per year) has been 70 percent higher under Democrats than under Republicans (2.78 percent vs. 1.64 percent), as Bartels 11 has documented. So, while the Republicans have pursued economic policies that have increased unemployment, recessions, and inequality, all ostensibly in order to prevent inflation, they have not in fact succeeded in preventing inflation noticeably better than the Democrats have.”
Kindle Locations 850-853
Referring to a more recent period, Daniel Hojman and Felipe Kast14 have shown that during the 1990s (the decade when Clinton was president), significantly fewer people entered poverty and more escaped it than during the 1980s, the Reagan– Bush years.
>but the way the government reports those statistics doesn’t show that.
They’re the same statistics we’ve judged previous presidents by. Funny that you want to change them now. Of course, you can look at Obama’s U6, which is the number you’re likely talking about (instead of the commonly reported U2), or any other unemployment measures if you’d like, but then you’ll need to compare those figures to the SAME figures for previous presidents. But comparing an apple to an apple makes for a terrible talking point.
Actually the key is lag. Policies implemented by a government seldom have immediate effect. It takes time for the results of their actions to show, sometimes not until after their term in office is over.
From that model it is the results of Democrat policies that lead to failure under Republican governance, and visa versa.
“We the People of the United States” are committed to “promote the general Welfare”. It is one of the purposes of our Constitution. What that entails, of course, is a matter of opinion. If you have hard information on how “We the People” interpret that commitment, I for one would be very interested in hearing it
I will not be voting for Bernie Sanders. His ideas for the economy are great, but he simply doesn’t have the experience needed in other areas (foreign policy, terrorism,etc) that we need right now.
You mean like Senator John Kennedy, who ran for POTUS against Vice President Richard Nixon back in 1960, shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis?
Bernie Sanders turned out to be right on many foreign issues, from the Iraq War to the Panama Free Trade Agreement, and it goes back to his being critical of neoliberalism and neoconservatism decades ago long before they were shown to be such failures. That is a successful political record, unless you prefer military imperialism and plutocratic corporatism.
He would have been a great President. I sincerely hope at least some of his ideas will prevail…. perhaps in an advisory capacity to Clinton. And let’s not forget that it’s not just the President him/herself that makes a Presidency great, it’s largely the Cabinet and others in the support circle.
Wow, let’s rally the troops for socialist revolution! (sarcasm, btw). My goodness reading this article felt like reading some pro-Soviet propaganda during the Soviet takeover of Europe. I agree that the current crony capitalism we have isn’t fair, but there is no perfect system.
The idea of the “welfare queen” is true. I worked for my state’s welfare department for a year. There were plenty of people who were scamming the system, or worked within the limits of the system to maintain their welfare benefits. Even illegal aliens could get welfare for their kids, but of course these same illegal immigrants don’t pay their taxes which increases the tax burden of us legal residents who do. This is partly why California is tanking economically.
At the extreme end of socialist/communist success you have people like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao whose policies created a larger divide between rich and poor than we observe in the US now. In fact it really wasn’t much different than the US now except that the government owned all the means of production and those who tried to have their own business were arrested. Since it was illegal in those countries to work for any one other than the communist government or a government approved business, the gap between rich and poor widened greatly. Their policies caused millions to starve to death and barely live with basics.
Venezuela is collapsing because of the big government, communist utopia this author obviously favors.
At least in the US there is some freedom to start the business you want and be moderately successful with it. A person has to do what it takes to achieve success.
The author is also ignorant of the impact of immigration on jobs. Yes, illegal immigration is supported by businesses like Tyson, but so is legal immigration under the H1B visa program in which companies are seeking foreign workers over American workers.
Obviously this author also ignores the facts of what Islamic migrants are doing to Europe, like their rape gangs, and Islamic “no-go zones” where the Muslims have more power than the regional government and the police are afraid to go there, all enabled by “tolerance.” In fact Germany just arrested a group of Syrian immigrants plotting acts of terror. So yes, I’m concerned about Islamic immigration to America.
And I don’t care if that makes me xenophobic in your eyes, but yes, I say secure the borders and stop all further Islamic immigration so the Muslims can leave their jihad in the Middle East.
“In fact it really wasn’t much different than the US now except that the government owned all the means of production and those who tried to have their own business were arrested.”
It seems to me that what we have now is a lot closer to Fascism under Mussolini, under which large corporations controlled the government.
I personally could care less who enters the pointless offices that have become life long occupations for those who feel they’re above the average folk. It’s a bs process fought by bs folk and dirty work done by stupid people with a fan envy. The government needs to go under and people should see the result of bs division when finding food, safety and dwelling the to the point struggle it is. To hell with you all. Enjoy real freedom.
Yes, educated liberals disdain poor Southern whites – and feel no shame in it. The things they say about poor white Southerners would be completely unacceptable in their circles if they said them about black people or any other marginalized group.
They also disdain the military. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, another volunteer, who has a master’s degree from Tufts, was surprised at how intelligent an Army officer in her class had been. Her view was that the military was for poor people who were too stupid to do anything else.
Her boyfriend and I, both of whom are children of career military men, smiled tightly. Our fathers were not too stupid to do anything else and neither were the people they served with.
(OT – but all that preaching about public service? It’s not a sacrifice if you get rich doing it or even have a decent middle-class life with a defined benefit pension and medical. It’s a sacrifice if being shot at is part of your job.)
@the gold digger – “Yes, educated liberals disdain poor Southern whites – and feel no shame in it.”
I’ve come across plenty of educated conservatives who disdain poor people in general, poor Southern whites and otherwise. Paternalistic condescension is common among middle-to-upper class conservatives. Charles Murray is a well known example.
“They also disdain the military.”
Once again, no more than educated conservatives. It’s a class divide, not an ideological divide.
“Her boyfriend and I, both of whom are children of career military men, smiled tightly.”
I’m a liberal and the son of an army officer. There are plenty of liberals in the military or who are children of those in the military. It’s not as if liberals live on another planet.
“but all that preaching about public service? It’s not a sacrifice if you get rich doing it or even have a decent middle-class life with a defined benefit pension and medical.”
Many public service workers make as little or less than many so-called working class people. You grandfather probably made more money as a factory worker than did my mother as a public school teacher. He certainly made more than my brother who is a county naturalist.
I’m with ya Benjamin. I’m a lone liberal in an almost entire extended family on both mother and father’s side of conservatives. My parents owned their own small business in a relatively progressive city in the mid-atlantic South and completely bought into the conservative ideology that liberals want to give everything away at the expense of the “true hard-working, educated Americans.” Seeing as how I have the most education out of anyone in my family I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m liberal. That would be hubris. No, I was raised in a liberal church, attended public school in forced segregation (we loved it!), and consumed any and all knowledge I could with this blessing of a brain I have. (Still hubris, but I do appreciate being intelligent)
In short, I know a rising tide lifts all boats (that’s how it works in nature, at least, but the rich all have their own yachts while the rest of us take on water in our junkers). We’re all in this together, and frankly, divided we WILL fall. We’re falling now…… just hope we can pull out of it before it’s too late.
I learned so much from this read. Very well written and I am sharing where I can. Trump will never look out for the people only the common interests of the elite and himself. If we know what is good for us as a nation he will not win his dream of being top of the game as President because it is clear that it is just a game to him. The people need to learn and wake up and look at our past history and how it is the same in many ways as the present and will not change unless the people come together like Bernie says and other educated intellectuals rich or poor, past and present.
Thanks for the great read. I appreciate your contribution to this conversation.
So I liked Bernie, too, but what’s your Plan B? Also, I was a little disappointed that this article didn’t mention the racist and classist policies of the Clinton Administration (for example, incarcerating millions of black men under “tough-on-crime” legislation or NAFTA). Other that that, decent read.
But seriously, I’m reading this in June, 2016… so what’s Plan B? I was thinking Green Party…
I’m a gay man. My empathy has worn away, and I don’t feel like worrying about the misfortunes of a culture and its people who always wanted me, if not merely emotionally tortured and economically disenfranchised, then actually physically tortured.
Straight white American terrorism has made me a one-issue voter, a gun owner, and a smug *uck who smiles at the misfortunes of people who made me their enemy.
I hope it hurts, poor white Americans. I hope it hurts real bad.
@Randy Savage – I find your comment quite depressing. It’s such a heartless response. But it also shows how the liberal class can be so disconnected from reality on the ground.
Not all gay people are middle-to-upper class. Most of the population isn’t particularly wealthy and well educated. That means most gay people also are among the supposed dirty masses.
There are plenty of poor white gay Americans. And they struggle far more than you do. It’s the liberal class who has abandoned them. Being poor and gay, the issues one faces are more fundamental—such as unemployment, homelessness, and hunger.
In a Social Darwinian society dominated by class war, poverty doesn’t care if an individual is gay or straight. It just sucks being poor, in away people like you could never imagine.
Anyway, you are simply being clueless and wrongheaded. You are prejudiced against the poor and projecting your hatred and fear upon them.
Poor whites aren’t particularly bigoted toward gay people, as compared to other groups. Poor blacks and blacks in general, for some reason, are much more anti-gay (maybe because they are also much more religious, although highly religious Hispanics show lower rates of anti-gay views).
In general, the majority of Americans are fine with same-sex marriage. It’s not a class issue, especially among whites. Most whites without a college degree also support same-sex marriage. Most poor people overall support it as well. Even among blacks, it’s almost evenly divided.
There is enough cruelty in the world. There is no reason to add to it. Have a little compassion, especially for those you obviously know nothing about.
Someone please answer this, why is the “B” in blacks capitalized and the “w” in whites is not?
Also, have we ever had a President that was not rich? Or that didn’t go to an ivy league school or run with social elite?
Several comments above explain why ‘Black’ is capitalized and ‘white’ is not. There is a rational explanation for it, whether you agree with it or not. Just look through the comment section and you’ll find some responses about it.
As for your last comments, I guess it depends on what you mean. Many presidents came from humble backgrounds: Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Abraham Lincoln, etc. Those are the ones that come immediately to mind.
Those presidents didn’t grow up hobknobbing with the social elite. Some of them did later go to ivy league schools, but not all of them. Anyway, there is nothing inevitable about elitism, as other countries have leaders who came from modest backgrounds and came to power from old fashioned populist support.
While your historical analysis may expand a lot of the South, I doubt it really applies to Northwest Arkansas, including Benton County. This area was anti-slavery before the Civil War and sided with the North, at least philosophically, during the war. They’ve been Republicans there since it was the true Party of Lincoln.
If po’ white trash wishes to be regarded as other than po’ white trash the very first thing that needs to be done is to stop BEHAVING like po’ white trash.
What do you say to a father that would rather see his pregnant 17 yo daughter in an abusive relationship than go to collage?
He told me that as a consequence of attending University his daughter would then “think she’s better than them that raised her” … WTF?
I wasn’t a Eugenicist before I moved to Tennessee. I am now.
@Nolachucky Jack – I don’t understand responses like yours. You’re stereotyping others based on prejudice and severely limited anecdotal evidence. It’s like saying I met a woman or black once and therefore all women or all blacks whatever.
I’ve lived in various states and have known a wide variety of poor people, white and otherwise. Most of them don’t fit the stereotype you describe. Yet I’ve met plenty of ignorant whites who aren’t poor (present company not excepted). There is plenty of trash that isn’t poor white.
Anyway, it’s safe to say that are society’s problems with neoliberal and neocon politics has pretty much nothing to do with poor whites. Other than that they are one of the many victims of it.
My mind is really blown that you blame you’re becoming a Nazi eugenicist on poor whites. I suspect you were always an arrogant, heartless ignoramus. If you really wanted to improve the human gene pool, you might consider removing yourself from it.
Benny, Benny, Benny my bubala.
These are my people, I know these people, the white(r) 1/2 of me is 100% unalloyed pure white(-ish) trash.
I know PRECISELY what I am talking about. Half my family has lived in the same Tennessee valley since 1720. Further, I could give two wet farts about saving the race. Humans are a toxic plague. My genes will be kept to myself, thank you.
As someone who had OTHERS in his family go up the chimneys of Europe in the 194o’s, I too regret coming to the above conclusion. But you can only deny truth for so long until the overall preponderance of evidence becomes overwhelming.
These are rock-bottom stupid peasants. Yes. They are.
Multiple generations of poor pre and post natal healthcare. Very low investment in public education and overwhelming poverty have brought us here.
Don’t blame the messenger, Chief.
Don’t be simpleminded. There are poor whites all over the country and they aren’t all the same. They aren’t all your people, you twit. I have poor whites in my family as well. I’m not going to ignorantly stereotype about all poor whites based on the poor whites I’ve personally known. I’m blaming both the ignorant messenger and the ignorant message. Maybe it’s your poor white trash mentality showing, Chief.
…certainly, always a possibility. And there IS no geographic cure, I am sure you are right, idiots are legion.
“…not going to ignorantly stereotype about all poor whites based on the poor whites I’ve personally known.” Well, Sir, just come on down to Tennessee and I will introduce you around. We’ll make ya’ a believer yet.
The Jethro Nashun:
gap-toothed, inbred, uncivilized, violent and hopelessly dumb as ditchwater. No class of people with less honor. Less dignity. No one more ignorant. More gullible.A primitive breed with prehistoric manners, unfit for anything beyond petty crime and random bloodletting. There stunted subhuman minds are mesmerized by cheap alcohol, Lotto fever, NASCAR and the asinine superstitions of their foot-washin’ faith. They cease beating their wives just long enough to let the little woman squeeze out another deformed crumb-snatcher. They scatter their genes in a degenerative spiral of dysfunction. They breed anencephalic children, mouth breathers like themselves.
Inked-up weirdos who occupy trailers out near the superfund cleanup sights. Obese curler wearing women standing unashamed in orange bikinis two sizes too small, sloping boobs hung over caesarean scars. Their unwashed, uncomprehending children with cavity peppered chartreuse colored teeth. The scaly pale-gray skin of buck toothed men who huff turpentine chased with dilaudids and Oxy’s. Skull face after skull face of dull-witted peasantry, zit-scarred with filmy yellow eyeballs. Rolling landfills of curdled whiteness. Cat-piss and dirty diapers. Crusty dishes in the sink. Yellowed armpit stains on the t-shirts. Smelly white trash stinking up the nation. They REALLY bring down the race, don’t you think?
This is because the American southeast IS largely the fourth world.
That is to say, it has developing world standards in so many instances of so very many quality of life issues- e.g.- education, health care, welfare, unionization, inequity, environmental contamination and degradation…and so on. With the result being to the benefit to the few at cost to the many.
Not to put TOO fine a point on it; but the citizenry is, and is consciously kept, ignorant, degenerate and victimized, white (black and red) trash. That IS the status quo.
Any vox populi is kept in check by peonage, preachers, multi-generational poverty and self destructive, willful stupidity, they are not without responsibility for the situation they find themselves in.
Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind
I’ve known poor whites in South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Arizona. There is as much diversity among poor whites as there is among whites who aren’t poor.
I don’t doubt that there are ignorant poor people. After all, they are poor and uneducated in a country that has left them behind and not put much funding into their education. And this problem is a thousand times worse in states of high poverty and inequality. But not all states are that way. Iowa has low rates of inequality, high school dropouts, gun violence, etc. Yet there are plenty of poor whites in Iowa. You obviously need to get out more and meet more of your fellow Americans, most of whom don’t have a college education.
Depending on how you define it, I can be considered a poor white as well. I only make slightly above 20 thousand dollars a year and I don’t have a college degree, but of course I have no wife or kids and my job does offer good benefits. I’ve been way more fortunate than people living in severe poverty. I’ve been fortunate, for example, not to have been raised in a severely impoverished community with high lead toxicity rates that is a known direct cause of permanent brain damage, learning disabilities, psychiatric conditions, behavioral issues, and physical health conditions.
Explain to me how poor and disfranchised are to be blamed that the wealthy and powerful choose to poison them by refusing to fund replacing old infrastructure and by placing toxic waste sites in poor communities. And don’t for a moment pretend the poor don’t try to fight against this, even as the deck is stacked against them. The problem, as always, is that those who sow the wind typically aren’t the same people who reap the whirlwind. In a Social Darwinian banana republic like ours, the benefits for the upper classes always come at great costs to the lower classes.
The poor are effed over and then blamed for the results of being effed over. What would you rather the poor do, start a revolution and hang all the evil bastards that cause them so much harm? Obviously, we don’t have a functioning democracy that allows for socially just reforms to happen from within the system.
I agree, BDS.
But these folks (Scott-Irish Celts and Anglo-Normans as well) have been enslaved in one form or another since the enclosures of the commons, five hundred years ago. The victims have had twenty generations to get out from under that.
They were kicked off the commons, herded to Ireland for purposes of ethnic cleansing for a couple of hundred years, then they were then thrown off Irish Estates, herded onto ships bound for “Virginia”, and royally screwed when (if) they got here.
The persistent and perverse avoidance of making short term sacrifices for long term gain and the fear of education and the educated is what I wonder at.
The Jews did it, the Italians too and the Chinese and the Hindu… why not the Oakies?
I have no answer, so why would I NOT examine the possibility of a lack of cognitive capacity?
I’d point out that not all poor whites aren’t limited to a couple of ethnic ancestries.
My mother’s family, largely German ancestry, came through the Upper South before ending up in Indiana. There was plenty of poverty in that part of my family for generations, probably going back to Europe, as at least one line of the family came from the violent borderlands of Alsace-Loraine. Yet eventually good jobs with good benefits along with well funded public education and state colleges helped to pull my mother’s family out of poverty.
That isn’t the world we presently live in. There used to be high economic upward mobility that brought many poor into the solid working class and much of the working class into the lower middle class. But now the lower middle class and below is experiencing economic downward mobility, as the middle class shrinks.
It used to be that hard work counted for something, no matter one’s education. My maternal grandfather went from poverty to his kids going to college and yet I don’t think he even completed elementary school. Still, he was smart enough to get on-the-job training and get promoted. Yes, he was racist for much of his life, he was an alcoholic, and he was on the abusive side toward his wife and children. But he also would literally give someone in need the shirt off his back.
My grandfather did all of that having come from a family that could have been described as white trash. His own father was born in an abandoned house where the family was squatting. None of them were particularly smart. Even my mother is far from a genius. My mother and at least one of my uncles probably have learning disabilities, as I do. It didn’t stop my mother from working hard to graduate from college. The only thing that differentiated my mother from her poor white trash ancestors were the opportunities to better herself.
Some of my family lines probably were poor whites for centuries or longer. I don’t descend from aristocracy or monarchy, as far as I know. Where people come from often does limit them, such as being born poor in a poor state. But when given genuine opportunities and the resources to act on those opportunities, most people won’t choose to remain poor. Poverty isn’t a personal failure. It’s a social condition in a society based on class hierarchy.
Escaping poverty is always difficult, unless one lives in a well functioning social democracy like in Scandinavia. Some of my mother’s family is still poor, even severely poor. The difference is that for those born wealthier they can be lazy, stupid, and do everything wrong and yet they’ll get endless opportunities and second chances, third chances, and on and on. Poor people aren’t so fortunate, since a single mistake can ruin their lives. We are a cruel and unforgiving society when it comes to attitudes and public policies directed toward the poor.
The poor have to deal with crap on a daily basis. The condescension and self-righteousness of the economically privileged isn’t helpful.
My Father was born in one of the largest urban ghettos on the eastern seaboard, in the depths of The Great Depression and raised by a single Mom.
He died a retired University Professor. One generation off the boat.
But he wasn’t a cracker.
His was a (foreign) culture that respected education and had great regard for The Learned. To imply crackers are not, in some measure, responsible for their circumstances, is in itself, both paternalistic and condescending.
And there are millions of Americans who are as smart or smarter, as hard working or moreso than your father. Most of them haven’t been so lucky. We have a lottery system where some get ahead while many don’t. Some people get ahead and some don’t, no matter what they do or don’t do. Many poor people seeking higher education right now simply find they end up with massive debt and still facing few job opportunities.
Your father’s good forunte is no excuse to be a self-righteous arrogant asshole about it. You are worse than white trash. I do hope your genetics don’t get passed on because you represent what is wrong with the world, the worst aspects of humanity. You’re life doesn’t even amount to a worthless piece of trash.
Read Joe Bageant. He was a white guy born dirt poor. He got an education and was able to make a decent living. He eventually returned home to write about the people who had stayed in the poor white community he left. But he never became condescending snob. He actually tried to understand the larger conditions that have created the world we live in.
Maybe you could learn something, if you can get past your own willful ignorance.
Self righteously hostile a little?
I’m only self-righteously hostile to the self-righteously hostile. If you don’t like being treated that way, then don’t treat others that way.
Don’t pretend to be stupid and clueless. Your initial comment suggested eugenics. Your either a troll, a sociopath, or simply an asshole. Which is it? In what way do you think suggesting eugenics based on your own sense of superiority isn’t an act of self-righteous hostility? For God’s sake, look in the mirror!
White trash isn’t about being poor. You claim to not being poor and yet you’re obviously white trash. White trash is an attitude that you’ve chosen to take. Just as your willful ignorance is a choice. Stating that has nothing to do with self-righteous hostility. It’s simply true.
You claim the benefits of education while demonstrating immense ignorance. You need to do more reading. Look at the social science research. You’ve obviously fallen into the just-world fallacy. No one who isn’t a complete ignoramus could think that we live in a just world.
I hope I hurt your feelings. You’re a miserable human being. You should take this as an opportunity to contemplate how your white trash attitude makes the world a worst place. If you don’t like white trash, then stop being one. As Smokey the Bear used to say, Only you can prevent white trash.
I must’a hit pretty close to the bone there, eh?
My star and garters, what hateful vitriol.
Of all given choices, I’d gladly cop to being an asshole. No questions there. Which does not rule out the other two options, a sociopathic asshole troll, for example, not mutually incompatible, you see.
YES! I AM PWT, I thought I’d made that quite clear prior to this juncture.
Yer needin’ to read for content, darlin’. And I am an unskilled, working class bum and Union cardholder (CWA & IWW). A perfect illustration of “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” My labor has been exploited my entire working life, ya’ whiner, so this ain’t yer pity party, n’k? And though I did earn a B.A. I didn’t finish paying off my student loans (at 8+%) ’til my late forties.
Your strident overstated outrage is beginning to dim my great enthusiasm for this dialog. Always easier to hate the elitist without than the elitist within, id’nt it, Benny?
Perhaps if’n you lived in Six-Toe County as I do, you too would be somewhat less magnanimous, maybe not. But as I have rhetorically asked before “they really bring down the race, don’t they?”
So long as the proles continue to vote, enthusiastically, against their own interests, I can only regard them with little more than thinly veiled contempt. That, and not let my daughters marry one of ’em.
Burn a fattie, have a beer and unknot the panties, Ben. You’re runnin’ a bit hot.
♪ We both feel the same, just saw things from a different point of view, tangled up in blue. ♫
Hypocrisy, immorality, and ignorance always hits a nerve for me. You like to attack other people’s moral character while lacking any moral character yourself. If your father was a truly worthy man as you claim, then he should have raised you better than that.
Are you really so obtuse and depraved as to think that eugenics is acceptable? You should be ashamed. And then you should publicly apologize. What you suggested was utterly disgusting and morally reprehensible.
There is no place for people like you in society. I’d suggest you remove yourself from society by any means necessary. That is the best way you could improve society, if you’re really concerned.
You’re obviously of very low moral character and ignorant to boot, what some would call white trash. If you believe white trash should be eugenically eliminated, then by all means begin with yourself. Prove that you actually believe what you say.
But if you don’t actually take eugenics seriously to eliminate worthless people like yourself, then take back what you said and admit your moral failure. One way or another, do the honorable thing.
I might concede I was using a bit exaggeration to draw eyes (think Swift, here)… sure worked.
But it is only a *slight* exaggeration.
And concerned? Not a whit. Homo Sapiens ‘r screwed.
I’ve not got a horse in this race, bubba. I am impartial.
No progeny & I don’t expect to be here but another thirty years, at best.
I am just watchin’ the clock wind down on the genus homo & I don’t gave a FRA.
I am not vain enough to think my opinion & effort would change a bloody thing.
The species has earned its extinction so very, very many times.
Sooner or later they’re g’wine get it right.
I have an extremely dark sense of humor. And my sense of humor is often dry. I understand half-joking about something while others don’t catch the joke and wondering if I’m being serious. Certainly, this kind of humor doesn’t translate well to the internet. But, for me, eugenics isn’t a joking matter.
Like you, I also have a cynical side. Humanity is facing endless problems. And many of them do seem self-created and perpetuated. Let’s just be clear about one thing. The poor have almost no power in our society or in most societies in the world. If the world is going to hell, it has little to do with what the poor are doing or want to do.
I am a total, miserable misanthrope. Taking me seriously is a mistake.
I had never made over 25k ’til I uprooted from my shtstain hometown.
I KNOW, intimately, personally, that you MUST be smart if you are poor, stealing from Peter to pay Paul, shuffling the bills, prioritizing and playing slight of hand with creditors.
I think the biggest mistake made in my lifetime was failure to extend affirmative to working poor, working class whites. It’s been a brilliant way of keeping working people at each others throats.
I do extend an appy-polly-loggy for provoking you. I understand; I am coarse and tend to rub others the wrong way, often unknowingly, though not in this instance.
Your posts have been well observed, wise and spot-on. I would vote for you.
Well…’ceptin’ the parts where you urge me to off myself, that I will decline.
I am already doing it, I’m just on the installment plan.
So we live and quarrel, and; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, we will all be equal soon enough.
I understand the negative attitude you have about life. It’s hard not to with the way the world is. News reporting doesn’t exactly inspire hope.
I do appreciate the apology. I don’t claim to be perfect myself. That is the basic issue. None of us has much reason to be self-righteous, for we all fail in many ways and we all are complicit. The world is of our making, what we do and don’t do, even if no individual person can be blamed alone.
After all my criticisms of you, let me say that I especially liked what you said here:
“I think the biggest mistake made in my lifetime was failure to extend affirmative to working poor, working class whites. It’s been a brilliant way of keeping working people at each others throats.”
I wish more people would come to that understanding. Too many people would rather attack others, sometimes literally, than to take shared responsibility. Scapegoating is easier. And it’s all the more easy when those who are being kicked are already down. It’s the saddest thing in the world.
The well off attack the poor. The poor attack the even more poor. Those with homes attack the homeless. Whites attack blacks. WASPs attack ethnics. Christians attack Jews and Muslims. Natural born citizens attack immigrants. The non-unionized attack the unionized. Workers attack the unemployed.
Everyone tries to their boot on someone else’s throat in the hope of climbing up from the bottom. And those at the bottom of the pile simply get crushed and die, either slowly or quickly. That is the way it is in a Social Darwinian society. If you’re deemed inferior and worthless, you’re supposed to get out of the way or you get forced out of the way, violently if necessary.
I sometimes wish I could slap the country upside the head. Then tell the entire population to cut out the childish bullshit and act like mature adults for maybe one election cycle.
Your acceptance of the extended apology is both gracious and magnanimous and I thank you.
Sometimes the troll comes out from under the bridge, is all I can say, and perhaps, for your part: “A soft answer turneth away wrath”
would be as applicable as well.
Have you read Jim Goad’s “The Redneck Manifesto”?
If not, waste no time. You damn-well