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But his popularity among these voters has also put an unexpected spotlight on their grievances—whether they feel left behind by globalization and immigration or resentful of an elite political class that seems to ignore them. Do poor white Americans suddenly feel more disgruntled than ever, or are the rest of us just now paying attention?
How much of their pique has to do with economic factors versus matters of race or, simply, health? And what does it all mean for American politics—in and beyond? To answer those questions and more, Politico editor Susan Glasser and chief political correspondent Glenn Thrush convened four scholars from our Politico 50 list who have studied the history of white people in America and documented their recent troubles; Thrush also interviewed J.
Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegya bestselling memoir about working-class white culture. In No blacks? WTF? way, they all said, the discontent that propelled Trump to the nomination has been a long time coming. Anne Case, Princeton University economist : Angus and I touched a nerve last fall when we published a piece No blacks? WTF? the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that documented that, among white non-Hispanics in middle age, mortality, after having fallen for large parts of the last century, actually turned up and started to go the wrong way.
Partly the surprise is that it is not just men; it is men and women. And it appears to be happening all over the country. And that resonated in this political season. Glenn Thrush : When I first read it, I was struck by the parallel between that and what happened to males after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Why is this happening to these people? So, this is not something that happened after the financial crash, for instance.
The second thing is that this is much worse for people who have No blacks? WTF? high school degree and no B. As far as the campaigns, the obvious story which everybody sort of seized on, including [the economist] Joe Stiglitzwho is advising Hillary Clinton, was this has to do with the stagnation of wages over a long period of time.
One thing about the Soviet Union, as many people have drawn that comparison, is that the trend there was men only.
In the United States, this is not men only. The Soviet Union was largely alcohol-fueled. Alcohol plays a part here, but opioids and heroin play a much larger part. A lot of what was happening in the Soviet Union was their mortality rates were artificially low before No blacks? WTF? collapse of the Soviet Union. Glasser : Angus, what is your view about how much Trump is successfully speaking to this demographic trend that you have identified? So, I mean, there is correlative evidence, at least, that Donald Trump is doing very well in the No blacks?
WTF? areas that are hardest hit by this. I mean, I think it is pretty clear that Mr. Trump has locked into this group of people who are feeling a lot of distress one way or another. But clearly, the s suggest that women, even less educated white women, are still less inclined toward Trump than white men. Are they working class? We know the working class today has a large portion that are women, that are people of color. Women can often be more critical of other women. What does that do to the narrative that is out there that this is really the working class?
The people who are actually voting for Trump, he argued, were the higher class than the people voting for [Bernie] Sanders and Clinton. Anderson : I agree. We saw it after Reconstruction, during Reconstruction.
I mean, are we sort of seeing the death of this system writ large? Anderson : I would push back on that a bit. But when you look at the differentiation in wages, for instance, when you look at the differentiations in wealth, when you look at who took the hardest hit and rebounded the least after the Great Recession, whiteness carries incredible value in American society.
But you get this language of equality—I mean, this is why, to me, you get Abigail Fisher [the plaintiff in a recent Supreme Court affirmative action case] hollering that, because her father went to the University of Texas, she deserved to get in there. It makes it even more curious, actually, following the Great Recession, that African-Americans continue to make great strides in terms of falling mortality rates; Hispanics have the best mortality rates of the three groups.
Well, of course we had a class system. Isenberg : What we have to realize is that throughout history poor whites and slaves and then free blacks were pitted against each other, and that was used as a political tool. And it even goes back to the foundation of the colony of Georgia, in which James Oglethorpe refused to allow slavery because he assumed it would deprive poor whites of the No blacks?
WTF? to be independent, to make a living, because slavery led to the monopolization of land, the concentration of wealth into an elite. So, I think one thing we have to realize about white supremacy is that it le to an advantage to the elite to pit these two groups against each other. So, there is this paradox. Can you guys address that?
And why do you think that phenomenon exists? Anderson : I would say two things. There is an optimism there that is amazing and astounding. Glasser : Do you feel like this set of macro, long-term trends for white people in America—Angus has pointed out it started really in the s, even though we are seeing it more pronounced now—surprised people? And is that something that has to do with Barack Obama? Why were we overlooking this set of problems or not dealing with them up until this year? We inherited the class ideas from Great Britain. Bill that made it possible to achieve for some but, again, not for all.
I mean, this is why I talk about the rise of trailer homes and trailer poverty at the same time the suburban dream is being put into place. Case : Why did this happen now? I think in part because growth has been very, very slow. First there was the Great Recession and, following the Great Recession, there is slow growth and very slow wage growth. And I think when things start to look like a zero-sum game, then people also start to get incredibly anxious about who has got what. Deaton : Yes, the slowing of economic growth—not just the U.
Decade after decade since the Second World War, the growth rate has been going down. I mean, again, the levels are different from the rate of growth, but the hope has something to do with the rate of growth. How does that look now, and how much do you see Trump and the broader conversation on the ills of white America changing our view of what it meant to elect the first black president?
Anderson : I think that the fault lines were already laid inif not before, so that by the time the election was done, only 27 percent of Republicans believed that Obama legitimately won the presidency; the insinuation was massive voter fraud, which is translated as black people, particularly, and Latinos doing something wrong in order to ensure that Obama was elected. And this was swirling around amid the delegitimization of his own identity as an American citizen.
And then, shortly after that election, a group of Republicans got together and decided that the way that they delegitimize him is to block everything—just block every bill, every initiative—regardless of what is happening in the country. But, in fact, the hatred and the seething resentment that there was this black man in the White House was very real, very palpable.
We then see it with a series of policies, the most prominent one being the voter suppression laws, the ones that the federal courts are now trying to knock down in state after state because they are so blatantly racially discriminatory.
No blacks? WTF? somehow assuming that he only inherited the thoughts and the traits from his father from Africa, which is what Newt Gingrich even emphasized. It was a class-based rhetoric and a racial rhetoric No blacks? WTF? had a long history in our country, and it was revived and used quite effectively by Trump.
When you look at who took the hardest hit and rebounded the least after the Great Recession, whiteness carries incredible value in American society. How does this manifest itself in the political dialogue? Is this group going to go quietly into the good night?
Anderson : No, we are going to be dealing with it after Trump because Trump merely tapped into what was already there. It was very targeted. It stirred that pot. It told them that your ills, your stunted economic growth and opportunities, are because of them. And this has been a part of the Republican rhetoric for a long time, that there are people who just feed off the system. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Republican Party, because I think there is a kind of populism that is directed against the leadership of the Republican Party, as well.
Donald Trump We have rising inequality. Indeed, the presidency, as we are seeing now, is about the only part of this that is responsive to the people. This problem, I think—the death rates in the U. Case : Certainly the Trump campaign is feeding off that anger, but so was the Bernie Sanders campaign, right?
And I think those No blacks? WTF? magnet of either Bernie Sanders, on one side, or Donald Trump, on the other—just took them by surprise. And unless they begin to see that the parties are working for them, Trumpism will be alive and well for a very long No blacks? WTF?. It was aptly timed amid the election, as frustrated white Americans turned in droves to Donald Trump, whose appeal Vance explains in a conversation with Glenn Thrush. Vance : His apocalyptic tone matches their lived experiences on the ground.
The no-bullshit tone, the anger …. Vance : I certainly think a lot of liberals are able No blacks? WTF? see what these people are going through, but there is this weird No blacks? WTF? preoccupation—with the belief that the Trump movement is all about racism. I really worry if this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I actually think that Donald Trump is changing the way people think about other groups of people in a very negative way.
They like it, and they like him. The hostility of the elites towards No blacks? WTF? just makes [his supporters] love him more. This thread in American politics goes back to Andrew Jackson. Vance : My parents were classic Blue Dog Democrats.
Every person who was a bad person was probably rich [laughs]. Not all rich people are bad, but all bad people are rich. The basic social contract seems to have worked for the white poor for most of the recent past.
World War II was fundamentally a multiclass thing with the rich fighting alongside the poor. There was an incredible sense of pride. And then for the next 20 years, everything seemed to work. There was a lot of shared prosperity. In the past 20 to 30 years, things have gotten much worse. In the absence of any ificant patriotic unity, a lot of these economic cracks are starting to come to the surface.
The big red light to me is the way that these people perceive the military in comparison to No blacks? WTF? elites. They see it as their friends and neighbors, people they are proud of, people who have been wronged by the strategic missteps of the war.
And then the [Department of Veterans Affairs] is not taking care of them. The elites are screwing them in two separate ways: starting wars, and then when our children are coming home, you are not taking care of them. Thrush : Where does this visceral hatred—or at least distrust—of Hillary Clinton come from? I think that Hillary Clinton represents everything the working-class white hates about the political system in a way that Jeb Bush represents that on the Republican side.
And she made those comments about putting coal businesses out of work.
People in Kentucky talk about how coal powers the United States of America. What happens to Trumpism after Trump depends on how the Republican Party answers after Trump gets crushed. And then it just keeps going. Continue to article content. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter. Our guide to the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics. More on Magazine.No blacks? WTF?
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