There is no such thing as the White working class and no one is ignoring White workers
By Matt Sedillo
The Southwest Political Report
Apologists for White nationalism from economic left to right have been quick to explain away the White nationalist victory of Donald Trump as being delivered by anything other than what so plainly delivered it: White nationalism in crisis. Apologists are quick to point to issues of trade, to issues of deindustrialization. They are quick to say formerly blue bases are war wary. Apologists are quick to say that the Democrats have abandoned their base and left these poor souls vulnerable to demagoguery. They are quick to say that the “white working class” has been abandoned by the Democratic party and so they have nothing to vote for, so Trump makes sense to them. This is quite puzzling as to how this might work. I am uncertain how the wheels of this logic might turn, perhaps something like, “gee I once voted for the Democrats because they supported unions but now they gone corporate so I am going to vote for the guy who calls Mexicans rapists, wants to ban all Muslims and is caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, you know working class bread and butter issues.” The argument seeks to obscure White nationalism in favor of working class frustration. This is nonsense. While it is true that Trump won the rust belt it is also true he lost the Black vote within it by a large margin. Were Black workers not hurt by free trade agreements and the disappearance of industry? And regardless of who voted for him would that at all have changed what he said?
There is a grain of truth that much of Trump’s supporters have been in large part abandoned by the Democratic party. In so much as politics are often rhetorical and the Democrats were once the party of open White supremacy there is some truth to that statement. The Democrats have by in large conceded the extreme White nationalist vote to their counterparts in the GOP, preferring instead to promote a brand of multi-cultural inclusion in embrace of empire. The 2016 DNC was the most striking example of this, particularly the speeches of President Barrack Obama and General John Allen. Make no mistake neither of these parties hold much for the working class or any section of the working class anywhere on the planet. The absolute horror show that the rainbow coalition of death that currently forms the Democratic Party should repulse any decent person. However the revulsion White nationalist experience is not one the basis of empire but rather that anyone who is not White should dare speak for that empire. The mere presence of color is anathema to the White nationalist. Left economic critique continues to miss the point on this question as economics are not at the heart of the White nationalist ideological current, the desire for a White nation is. The desire for a White nation is what makes one a White nationalist as opposed to being just a run of the mill White supremacist or being given to bouts of White chauvinism. Make no mistake, Make America Great Again is White nationalism and what’s more it is White nationalism in crisis. It is White nationalism in full backlash.
Make America Great Again= Custer’s Last Stand. Make America Great Again= The South Will Rise Again. Make America Great Again and explicitly Mexico Will Pay= Remember the Alamo. All this fatalism around a lost cause, a fading America, a dying America, a lost America an America quickly losing ground to brown hordes from south the border was at the heart of Donald Trump’s push towards victory.
Apologists for the White Nationalist Zombie Apocalypse that ushered Trump into the White House are also quick to point out the horrific legacy of Hillary Clinton on a great number of issues. Indeed Hillary Clinton The Obliterater of Nations is horrible and her list of crimes numerous, but let the record be clear. Donald Trump did not win because millions of people were disturbed by the criminality of Hillary Clinton. Trump won because millions of people liked that he insulted women and bragged about sexual assault. Trump won because millions of people liked that he called for a ban on Muslims. Trump won because millions of people like that he cheered on the assault of Black protestors. Trump won because millions of people liked chanting “build that wall” and crying out “Mexico will pay.” White nationalism and the desire to restore America at the expense of the “others” was at the heart of the Make America Great Again campaign. Rallies with promises of restoration at the expense of the “others” was a cathartic quasi spiritual experience for the White nationalist. Arch White nationalists heard Hillary Clinton’s dog whistle, and Jeb Bush’s dog whistle for that matter, and ran towards the guy with the bullhorn.
The talk around the nation’s coolers, think piece after think piece all the news coverage and debate were largely around whatever latest offensive thing Trump had said. It was never about trade or war or anything of the like. Still the apologists, who are legion, are quick to find any rationale to explain Trump’s victory that does not shed light on the profound level of White chauvinism that is present in this country. Apologists from the economic left are most absurd of all as their defense appears as defense of the working class. Instead of defending White nationalist members of the working class why not better defend working class children being called the N word or being threatened with deportation? Instead of defending White nationalist members of the working class why not better defend members of the working class having their hijabs torn at?
Defense of White nationalism under the pretense of class solidarity is White supremacy. White supremacy emerges out of a culture of conquest. The fact that all workers are subject to exploitation does not negate the history of conquest that is constantly reaffirmed in US culture and plays out in today’s economy and statecraft.
There is simply no such thing as the “White working class.” The population of The United States of America is estimated to be roughly 63% White, 17% Latino, 12% Black, 5% Asian and less than 1% native (this nation was built on genocide) and it’s working class reflects those numbers. Anyone who must sell their labor in order to eat, or share in wages of someone whose labor is sold in order to eat is a member of the working class. The wide majority of people are workers. The wide majority of White people are workers. It is an offense to material reality however to say that in the United States of America that the presence of the White worker goes ignored. The reflection of White workers in American culture, politics, and society in general is ubiquitous. Reflections of White people, workers included, are everywhere and in everything.
In the US the term working class in common use is made to be synonymous with not quite poor but not far from it, even by those standards the forgotten “White working class” is also a myth.
Images of White poverty or of hard scramble White working life are everywhere. Here is a short list of films off of the top of my head either completely about or prominently featuring the so called “White working class”: Good Will Hunting, The Town, Barfly, The Warriors, Million Dollar Baby, Badlands, Boys Don’t Cry, Bonnie and Clyde, Capitalism a love story ( yeah i said it) Slums of Beverly Hills, Saturday Night Fever, Sullivan’s Travels, Marty, Joy, Midnight Cowboy, Dead Man Walking, Mystic River, The Hunger Games, The entire Rocky series, Raging Bull, The Fighter, The Perfect Storm, North Country, Beyond the Pines, Ant Man, Sherry Baby, Sleepers, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Cinderella Man, Bleed For This, Norma Rae, 9 to 5, The Last Picture Show, Rudy, Hoosiers, Boyhood, Rounders, Summer of Sam, At Close Range, Fargo, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Falling Down, Office Space, The Grapes of Wrath, Modern Times. Clerks, The Wrestler this list could be extended on and on. The TV shows Two Broke Girls, La Verne and Shirley, Cheers, Roseanne, Married with Children, All in the Family, the Netflix series Daredevil, the entire musical career of Bruce Springsteen, John Mellancamp and Jon Bon Jovi, this list could stretch on and on. Some of this stuff is pretty good, but that is not the point. The point is that it is not some hidden truth that there are millions of White people living on a prayer in the United States of America. Everybody knows that.
It is also not true that they are overlooked by politicians. Watch a Bernie Sanders campaign ad. White poverty is featured right alongside the poverty of other people. Listen to a Hillary Clinton speech and the coded language of “middle America.” Recall her 08 run against Barrack Obama wherein she explicitly said “hard working Whites” might not have interest in voting for him. Watch Hillary Clinton just awkwardly attempt to relate to people in the Appalachia just as she does in East LA or in Harlem. White poverty is not ignored by any politician running for national office nor are White workers.
Direct and exclusive appeals to the so called “White working class” is at the center of reactionary politics. Richard Nixon spoke of a “silent majority.” Bill O’Riley asked “Who’s Looking Out for You” Donald Trump promised to Make America Great again. At the center of this appeal is the false notion that no one notices or speaks to this demographic. By branding it the “White working class” it is seen firstly separate and apart from the class as a whole. The direct lie that this section of the class is under-served in any way that the working class as a whole is not, that there is some unique and extraordinary way in which the White members of the working class are being cheated is at the center of reactionary politics in the US. The notion that the White male worker and the White family is being cheated in order to the benefit “others” is what makes up the core of reactionary politics in the US.
It is a White nationalist offense on material reality that certain “others” are getting all the attention and taking all the resources. The unemployment rate of the Black worker in the us is nearly double that of the White worker. The Latina is the lowest paid worker in America. There is nothing that White workers experience as workers that is particularly odious or unique to the working class experience as a whole.
Donald Trump ran an entire campaign explicitly appealing to White workers. That is not unique. What is somewhat unique was the levels of panic he incited. He is not Mitt Romney or John McCain. This is significantly different. The general theme however of White male resentment towards any advance of anyone who isn’t a White male has been played upon by both parties since the inception of American politics. Appealing to a section of White workers who see themselves constantly disenfranchised by the very existence of other people is a constant in American politics. The media has covered Trump’s racism and misogyny ad nausea. Everyone knows who Trump is and what he stands for. One cannot plead ignorance on this vote. The crowd that voted Trump in are essentially Andrew Jackson’s constituency with Twitter accounts.
Trump is a Billionaire who does not like to pay his workers. Trump as President intends to raise taxes on single parents, privatize social security and is essentially a climate change denier. These are direct threats to our ability to feed our kids, survive retirement and breath air. There is no White exemption clause for any of his proposals. We as a class are about to be under a heightened assault.
Along racial and ethnic lines Trump lost the Latino vote. Trump lost the Black vote. Trump lost the Asian vote. The only vote Trump won was the White vote. That is a fact. White nationalists from within the working class and from every income bracket elected a billionaire because White nationalism is an ideological current that crosses class lines. If the working class as a whole is ever to move forward and fight in the name of its own interests, it must be filled with members who fight for class interests. Period. White nationalists won’t do that. A eugenicist is in the White House. A eugenicist is in the White House. A eugenicist is in the White House. No more lies. No more denial.
Photo: NY Times