Neglected by Republicans and Democrats alike, vilified by the culture, and preyed upon by globalization, white working-class voters in 2016 cast their lot with the one candidate in a generation who remembered them, and thus became Donald Trump’s base—a constellation of blue, white, and pink collar laborers. This spark ignited what was supposed to be a revolution in party politics and carried Trump into the White House.
The truth about white “dysfunctional, downscale communities,” Kevin Williamson informed us in a March 2016 National Review article, “is that they deserve to die.” A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, an unrepentant Bill Kristol quipped that the “lazy” white working class should be replaced with immigrants. The mask was off what had been the prevailing attitude among establishment conservatives and Republicans until Trump.
And so it was that the cultural, political, and economic depredations these Americans suffered formed the chord of grievance Trump struck to resounding success.
“For white men without a college degree,” Stephanie Mencimer writes, “the average growth in median wages between 1979 and 2017 was a negative number (−0.2 percent a year), even as median hourly earnings for all white workers grew by 11 percent in the same period.” Deaths from suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol-related disease among middle-aged white men and women have soared over the last two decades. Despite popular narratives, whites are actually the biggest victims of interracial violence and police shootings. It seems like maybe there is something to their grievances.
But something changed not long after Trump assumed control of the White House. In the aftermath of the 2020 runoff against Joe Biden, conservative pundits and Republicans appear relieved that Trump’s support among the white working class has slipped.
Trump may have lost, Ben Shapiro cheered, but at least we can declare victory over the “quest by Democrats and the media to paint Americans into racial categories and then declare demographics destiny.”
Shapiro is jumping the gun here, and no one should believe that the wide brush of supposed “bigotry” with which Democrats and the media paint their enemies will require replacement with something finer. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), eager to jump on the bandwagon, heralded the rise of a more diverse “multiethnic, multiracial, working-class” party to Sean Hannity.
Rubio and Shapiro both act as if the mere fact of diversity is, in and of itself, a political good and fail to acknowledge that whites remain the largest component of this coalition or ask why their support is slipping.
Asked why the Trump campaign conspicuously neglected its white base in Florida (and everywhere else), one Republican operative said: “you’ve got to kind of recognize that old white men are dying.” The spiteful spirit of Williamson and Kristol-style “conservatism” evidently also haunts many supposed champions of the new “populism,” and not just in Florida.
“The decided view internally was that white working class men lacked an alternative,” a senior White House official told American Greatness. “There was no need to develop policy that would improve the social or economic conditions in America’s industrial communities. They voted for Trump once, they’d do it again,” this official said of the campaign’s thinking. “From late 2017 foward, the goal was to make the Republican Party the vehicle for blacks and Latinos. They wanted to build off of white working class men and discard them, not build an electoral coalition around them.”
The white working-class “is the ‘forgotten man’ demographic,” A Republican close to the campaign told American Greatness. “The focus on left-wing identity politics has already robbed these people of a home in the Democratic Party, but now also the GOP,” the source reported, referring to the campaign’s pandering. “In the final critical week, instead of holding events focusing on mobilizing cops, miners, steel workers, the campaign focused on PRIDE events in blue-collar areas under Richard Grenell and Jared Kushner, which actually alienates many of these people.”…Continue Reading