I am very excited to see my article appear in HNN today. Many thanks to editor Rick Shenkman for making this happen. This article provides a detailed perspective on the white, working-class, and its historical relationship with racial resentment, anti-intellectualism, economic mobility, and government policy. Through numerous examples dating back to the Virginia slave codes, Indian Removal, the development of mass political parties, and the American Civil war, I show how wealthier whites successfully employed a “divide and conquer” strategy that brought together whites of all social classes under a common racial identity. The consequences, which prevented the formation of interracial class-based alliances, were profound. Poor whites benefited from government policy in multiple ways that accumulated over time, contributing to the long-standing paradigm that freedom for some segments of the population came at the expense of others. As the Democratic Party began to embrace the modern civil rights movement in the middle decades of the twentieth century, the Republican Party capitalized on the racial anxieties of the white, working-class. But whereas racial resentment may have been subtle under the Nixon and Reagan presidencies, it has become painfully and irredeemably toxic under the bombastic authoritarian, Donald Trump. Meanwhile, neoliberal policies supported by Republicans and corporate Democrats have left today’s working-class with many legitimate grievances, but a comprehensive understanding of American history suggests that they have more often been beneficiaries of the state, and not victims. In addition to citing multiple academic studies, this article engages the recent work of many prominent commentators, including Thomas Frank, Emmett Rensin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Amanda Taub. Deeply researched, trenchant, and clearly written, this article contains important implications and context for the upcoming November elections and promises to be an enriching story.
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Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. I neither speak for my employers, nor do I require my students to agree with the thoughts expressed here. Opinions are my own.