Posts Tagged ‘White Working Class’

Jesse Jackson on identity politics

November 16, 2016

During the Presidential campaign of 1988, the Reverend Jesse Jackson was asked, “How you are going to get the support of the white steelworker?”  He replied: “By making him aware he has more in common with the black steel workers by being a worker, than with the boss by being white.”

Source: It’s Class, Stupid, Not Race by Marshall Auerback for Counterpunch.

Economic anxiety and Donald Trump voters

November 1, 2016

A lot of Hillary Clinton supporters say that Donald Trump’s supporters are not white working people who are worried about their jobs and their economic future.  No, Trump’s supporters are all racists and bigots.

Trump in NH in 2015. Source: Reuters

Trump in NH in 2015. Source: Reuters

It’s true that Trump has sought to appeal to white nationalists, gun-toting private militias and paranoid conspiracy theorists.

In the primary election, he talked a lot about unfair trade treaties, industrial decline, immigration and unwise military interventions.  He still talks about immigration, but his emphasis now is on law and order, the threat of unauthorized voters and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

But all kinds of people support Trump for all kinds of reasons.  Some no doubt vote for him because they fear Muslim terrorists, unauthorized Mexican immigrants and illegal African-American voters.  Others see him as the last hope of making American industry great again.  And many others see him as the lesser of two evils.

If you say that all Trump supporters are racists and bigots and nothing more, then there is no reason for Democrats to try to appeal to them on economic grounds.

And if you say that, there is no political reason for Democrats to appeal to black and Hispanic working people in grounds of economic self-interest either, because Donald Trump’s candidacy provides sufficient reason for voting Democratic.


Dean Baker on white privilege

June 6, 2016

violentTrump-RallyThe rise of Trump has provoked a considerable outpouring of commentary from the pundits.  Most of it centered on the chief complaint that the white working class is upset about losing its privileged position and see Trump as the ticket to setting things right.

There is considerable truth to this story.  Trump’s strongest support comes from white men without college degrees, although he also does quite well among small business owners.  But before we condemn these workers as hopeless Neanderthals, it is worth stepping back a bit to consider what led them to support Donald Trump’s candidacy in the first place.

The “privilege” that these working class whites are looking to defend is middle-class factory jobs paying between $15 and $30 an hour.  These jobs generally came with decent health care benefits and often a traditional defined benefit pension, although that has become increasingly rare over the last two decades.

Trump-Iowa-supporters-Getty-640x480This is certainly a privileged position compared to billions of people in the developing world who would be happy to make $15 a day.  It is also privileged compared to women, whose pay still averages less than 80 percent of their male counterparts.  And, it is privileged compared to the situation of Americans of color who have frequently been trapped in the least desirable and lowest-paying jobs.

But these factory jobs and other blue collar occupations are hardly privileged when compared to the high flyers in the financial industry, the CEOs and other top level managers, or even professionals like doctors and dentists.  These groups have all seen substantial increases in their pay and living standards over the last four decades.

If you want to see “privilege,” look to the CEO making $20 million a year as they turn in a mediocre performance managing a major corporation.  Or talk to a cardiologist, an occupation with a median annual salary of more than $420,000 a year.

The pundits all know about these disparities in pay, but they want us to believe that they have nothing to do with privilege; rather, they reflect the natural workings of the market.  And they tend to act really ridiculous when shown evidence otherwise.

Source: Dean Baker | truthout


The race card and the economic issue.

May 23, 2016

Barbara Fields, co-author of the newly-published Racecraft: the Soul of Inequality in Amerian Life, had this to say about racism and inequality:

Barbara J. Fields

Barbara J. Fields

Racism and inequality have the same central nervous system.  They’re a part of the same process.  People should not think, for example, Bernie Sanders isn’t addressing the problems of black people because he doesn’t have a black label on it, with a bow tied around it, saying this is for black people.  But, when he speaks for a new minimum wage and for higher-education to be within everybody’s reach, these are the inequality problems that plague everyone.

And they’re one of the reasons why racism, not race, is intense and resurgent in this country.  We have a white working population that, by and large, expected to be taken care of, to be treated fairly, so long as they abided by the rules.  And now, with good reason, they feel left out.  Not just since the crash but, in years probably going back as far as the 1970s (certainly from the 80s), they’re watching the situation deteriorate.

The same has been true for black working people, if anything, to a more intense degree.  Of course the difference is black people never expected fairness.  So they don’t react to unfairness in the same way.



The difference between Trump and Sanders

May 2, 2016

Bernie Sanders promises to address the grievances of American working people.

Donald Trump promises to address the grievances of white American working people.

What is killing middle-aged white men? Despair

November 4, 2015


We take it for granted that, in scientifically advanced countries, the death rate will decline.  But since 1999, there has been a dramatic increase in the death rate among non-Hispanic American white men aged 45 to 54, especially those without education beyond high school.

No such increase occurs among middle-aged white people in other countries or among other American ethnic groups.  Although the death rate for African-Americans is higher, it is not increasing, and, as the chart shows, the death rate for middle-aged Hispanic Americans (USH) is decreasing.

A Princeton University study indicates that the main reasons for the increased death rate are an increase in alcohol-related disease (liver disease), in drug overdoses (heroin and opioids) and in suicide—all diseases associated with depression and despair.

[Note added 11/13/2015: Some experts say the increase is primarily among middle-aged white women.]


Are Democrats a top-and-bottom coalition?

March 7, 2012

When I was a boy (I’m 75 now), my father and uncles told me that the Ebersoles were Democrats because the Democrats were the party of the working man.  We revered the memory of Franklin Roosevelt.  But the legacy of FDR’s New Deal—the social safety net, the defense of organized labor and regulation of financial speculation—is under attack, and the Democratic leadership no longer represents the political coalition that put President Roosevelt into office.

Thomas B. Edsall, a brilliant political reporter, has long contended that that the Democratic Party is a top-and-bottom coalition dominated by a well-educated, culturally liberal, relatively affluent white elite, whose power depends on its ability to mobilize minorities and poor people.

He wrote in November that the Obama administration is resigned to the fact that white high school graduates aren’t going to vote for Democrats, and that the Democrats hope to win with the votes of African-Americans, Hispanics and white college-educated professionals.  More recently Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine that the growth in numbers of the latter three groups will enable the Democrats to defeat resentful white Republican blue-collar and middle-class voters.

The problem with this is that there is little community of interest between affluent white liberals and poor blacks and Hispanics.  And, as Edsall pointed out, there is plenty of potential for conflict between blacks and Hispanics.

To the extent his analysis is correct, the American political outlook is dim.  The Democratic Party, in this view, is run by a socially liberal elite that mobilizes blacks, Hispanics, poor people, students and feminists against allegedly selfish and prejudiced Republican white people, while the Republican Party is run by an economically conservative elite which mobilizes working-class and middle-class white people against allegedly parasitic Democratic minority groups.

What you would have is, on the one hand, a party in which the Haves advance the interests of the Have-Nots at the expense of the Have-a-Littles, and, on the other, a party in which the Haves advance the interests of the Have-a-Littles at the expense of the Have-Nots.  Such a political lineup would be poisonous to American democracy.  It would mean the power of the elites would never be challenged.

To what degree is this an accurate picture of American politics?  I think it is largely true, but I hope for a political realignment, and I believe it is possible.  I found a couple of web sites with charts and statistics that throw some light on this subject.

Click on The usual torrent of graphs and How did white people vote? for data from a statistician named Andrew Gelman on his Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science web log.  He refuted a statement that the upper 5 percent of income earners were political liberals, and published charts showing that, within the different states, the lower income brackets of all ethnic groups tended to vote more Democratic and the upper income brackets more Republican.

His figures suggest that the picture isn’t as stark as Edsall and others say.  But the fact that rich white people are overwhelmingly Republican does not mean that affluent white Democrats are not influential within their part.

Click on White Flight for analysis by Ronald Brownstein for National Journal.  Brownstein’s data indicate that the Democrats have stronger support among white people with college educations than other white people.

Click on The Future of the Obama Coalition for Thomas B. Edsall’s column in the New York Times.

Below are two maps I took from Gelman’s web log and a map from Brownstein’s article.