I just posted “Poor Whites and Donald Trump” to Wade’s Weekly. It begins:
Since 1990, earnings for men without a college degree have fallen 13 percent. During the same time period, median household income increased by 2 percent.Middle-aged American whites without a college education are the only age-and-ethnic group that is dying at higher rates than they were 15 years ago.White men without a college degree are more likely to say the country’s best days are over and hard work no longer guarantees success.Whites with a high-school education or less are reporting more pain, taking more opioid painkillers, abusing alcohol more, and killing themselves more.In Butler County, Ohio deaths from drug overdoses actually outnumber deaths from natural causes.So it’s not surprising that non-college-educated whites favor Trump over Clinton by a margin of 65% to 25%. Their condition has not improved under eight years of President Obama. Why should they trust Clinton to do better?Progressive activists often take a symbolic stand, engage in moral witness, or cast a protest vote against the rigged system? Why shouldn’t poor whites do the same?Granted, Trump is not proposing measures that will benefit the poor directly and immediately. But when white liberals support progressive taxation, they vote against their economic self-interest. Why shouldn’t poor whites take a stand on principle and try to shake up Washington?Those thoughts have prompted me to look more closely at the divide between those with and those without a college degree. I recently took note, for example, of a public radio report about resentful female prison inmates without a college degree attacking inmates who have a degree. And I’ve reflected on my own “white trash” roots and my experiences living and working with low-income communities.This nation’s prospects for fundamental social transformation will be enhanced if we build a broad coalition that includes poor white people (most of whom have no college degree). But middle-class attitudes of superiority and their disparaging opinions about poor whites aggravate the class divide.In her poignant, personal essay, “Fences: A Brexit Diary,” in the New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith wrote:+++++One useful consequence [of the Trump campaign is] to finally and openly reveal a deep fracture in [American] society that has been [decades] in the making. [Those gaps] are real and need to be confronted by all of us….The left is thoroughly ashamed of [the poor]…. We have a history of ridiculing the poor… for “shafting themselves,” for “voting against their interests [or not voting at all]” …The majority of those [“uneducated” voters] who [support Trump do] so out of anger and hurt and disappointment…. [They are not] in any way exceptional in having low motives…. We might…ask ourselves what kind of attitudes have allowed a different class of people to discreetly maneuver, behind the scenes, to ensure that “them” and “us” never actually meet anywhere but in symbol. Wealthy [America], whether red or blue, has always been able to pick and choose the nature of its multicultural and cross-class relations, to lecture the rest of the country on its narrow-mindedness while simultaneously fencing off its own discreet advantages.
+++++With those thoughts in mind, I’ve recently posted to Wade’s Wire: