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Why Poor White Males Are the Core of Trump’s Support

2016 March 17
by Ian Welsh

This is not hard to understand. Wages for working class white males peaked in 1968, forty-eight years ago. Coincidentally, I was born 1968.

I am not young.

For their entire working lives, conditions for working class males have been getting worse.

“Free trade” has not worked for them. China joined the WTO in 2000. Here’s what happened.

Manufacturing Employment

Now, imagine that chart adjusted for population increases.

So, for damn near 48 years, poor whites have done terribly. For forty-eight years, ordinary politicians have promised to do something about it, and nothing has improved.

Do not tell me, or them, that they are “privileged.” Yes, it is better to be poor and white than poor and black, and better to be a poor white man than a poor white woman, but people who are in pain do not react well to some smug, upper-middle-class jerk telling them they are privileged when their lives are clearly terrible.

It is a FACT that working class whites will not see any improvement worth mentioning under any normal politician, including Clinton. They may see an improvement under Trump, they certainly would under Sanders.

They are voting for what they see as their interests, and they are not necessarily wrong. Certainly, Trump is more likely to help than Clinton, as the chance of Clinton helping them is zero. Zip. Nada.

It is insanity to expect poor white males to accept 48 years of decline and not get angry. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to respond to a man who offers them a better life in a way that is different from all the politicians who have failed them in the past.

Trump does not feel or campaign like an ordinary politician. Poor whites read this as: “He might not betray us like all the normal politicians do.”

At the least, it is worth a try.

Now, when I say “poor whites,” smart people should hear “people who are willing to be violent.”

Who mans America’s actual fighting regiments? That’s right, poor whites.

Who are your police? Who are your prison guards?

Right. Even if they make decent money as a cop or guard, they’re poor whites by culture: Scots-Irish core.

These are bad people to alienate to the point where they are willing to turn, en-masse, to a demagogue.

Just saying.

You may not like this, but the cold reality is that you need to keep the people who enjoy violence under control and, ideally happy–wanting other things more than they want to crack skulls. At the least, you make sure that they spend all their time killing and hurting each other and poor brown people, not their “betters.”

You have to be real stupid to lose control of your society’s fighting class. You have to be real stupid to degrade them over a period of decades, to employ them en-masse in jobs where they beat up other people.

Demonizing poor white men as “trailer trash” has simply alienated them. Telling them they are all sexist, racist scum has not “raised their consciousness.” Strangely, they don’t think that all the people who tell them they’re bad are right. Instead, they think those people are assholes.

In many cases, they’d like to give a good beating to said assholes. For example, Kevin Williamson:

If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy—which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog—you will come to an awful realization. … The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die.

You have treated these people like shit. You know how you get treated at bad jobs? Like disposable trash who can be ordered to do anything?

People become how they are treated. You have to feed the better parts of them if you want those parts to win. If half the “good jobs” available to these people jobs that involve violence, if the remaining non-violent jobs (manufacturing) are disappearing, and if the rest of their jobs are ass, you should not be surprised that they become mean.

You make them this way, then you demonize them for it.

Trump does not talk to these people like he despises them. (Neither does Bernie.)

Clinton does. She’s pandering, she knows it, and it comes through. The disdain drips.

The quality of life for the average “white male” peaked in 1968. Then, you call them trash, they have almost no good jobs, and you’re surprised they’re angry? You think they aren’t human? You think they are Jesus, and can be treated like crap for longer than most of them have been alive and that there won’t be consequences? You think that because other people are treated even worse, they will sublimate their own mistreatment?

Worse, you marginalized them and then used them as your primary violent enforcers?

That’s not just immoral, that’s crazy stupid.

Remember, they don’t just hate people who are brown. They hate most rich whites. And by rich, they mean a lot more people than the actual rich.

Treat people like trash, and don’t be surprised when they come back to bite you.

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109 Responses
  1. highrpm permalink
    March 22, 2016

    google george lakoff strict-father

    lakoff argues the strict father — not the nurturant parent — is at the heart of conservative ideology. (luv those right wing authoritarians.)

    what do you think of the jewish dr samuel h dresner’s 1995 book, “can families survive in pagan america?” dresner makes the case “the [post ww2] cultural revolution has endangered our nation….but, we can restore order to our country and our lives using the tenets of jewish family life and faith. (perhaps mr trump should take note. may help him strategize his “make america great again” notion.) dr dresner shows how the strength of the individual family determines the strength of the nation.

    gee, what would happen if the finance, entertainment and media biggies read dresner’s book?

  2. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    March 22, 2016

    *sigh* We now have the usual problem when comments pass the 100 mark. 🙁

  3. markfromireland permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Lisa – spare me please the frankly rather pathetic, and I’m being charitable using that word, special pleading. There are a statistically miniscule and politically impotent number of Americans who are genuinely left-wing or liberal. The remainder of those so described as commenters here repeatedly and eloquently demonstrate belong either to the collaborationist school of American “liberalism” or to the collusionist school. Their structural function is to uphold the current order by providing a useful figleaf and a channel in which those who might genuinely be interested in building a better society can have their energies safely frittered away on matters which have a picayune effect (if any) on the power relations within the American polity. It’s contemptible.


  4. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    March 24, 2016

    Marcus of Olympus has spoken, mortals! Fall down and pay him his due reverence! 😆

  5. leftleaningartist permalink
    March 25, 2016

    markfromireland – I don’t think you have taken into account the millennial generation in the U.S.

  6. Tom W Harris permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Confucius say, blogosphere bolshevik equal biosphere burger flipper.

  7. markfromireland permalink
    March 25, 2016

    @ leftleaningartist March 25, 2016

    Come back and tell me about it if they ever accomplish anything.

  8. Tracy Lightcap permalink
    March 26, 2016

    This post is way too unconditional. You’d get the impression that “poor whites” are all Trump voters. So, some qualifiers:

    • Almost all of Trump’s support is among males.

    • Trump supporters – including “poor whites” – tend to be older.

    • Trump supporters tend to be “non-college educated”, as the present barbarism puts it.

    • There are a substantial number of (now that we’ve specified it) older poor white males who didn’t go to college that wouldn’t touch Trump with a fork.

    • “Anger” is a very poor way to describe the basis of Trump’s support. That’s a much more complicated phenomena involving as much fears about changing demographics as economic distress (though the two can be related) and probably fueled as much by authoritarian personal tendencies as anything else.

    • Right. “Poor whites” would do better as well with Trump as president as with Clinton. You have read what they propose to do, haven’t you?

    All that said, the core of the post does hit on a problem we simply have to address: the declining economic position of working class people – not just whites. Trump has opened the box on grievances stemming from this, just like Marine Le Pen and others have in Europe. In both places the solution is a jobs program; code for having the government spend like a drunk sailor in Macao and begin to do some indicative planning aimed at restoring employment levels for most everybody. Trump won’t do that and we’ll have to really go after Hillary to even make get her to make a start. That’s why the Sanders campaign is so important. The Democrats have their Goldwater. Now all we have to do is follow up.

  9. rom permalink
    March 31, 2016

    how is white being treated worst than blacks and Hispanics here in this situation. in some aspects it doesnt make any sense. your beating the point way too much about how poor whites are treated with manufacturing jobs. Thats not a big enough mistreatment to act like that. Your giving too much excuses to them for acting the way they act just because they took manufacturing jobs away. If your talking systematic mistreatment, you should look at blacks and Hispanics, you cant compare the 2.

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