Working class in the US October 20, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Thought provoking piece in the Guardian this weekend from Sarah Smarsh on the perception that the working class in the US, in particular the white components of same, are the basis of the support for Trump.
Hard numbers complicate, if not roundly dismiss, the oft-regurgitated theory that income or education levels predict Trump support, or that working-class whites support him disproportionately. Last month, results of 87,000 interviews conducted by Gallup showed that those who liked Trump were under no more economic distress or immigration-related anxiety than those who opposed him.
According to the study, his supporters didn’t have lower incomes or higher unemployment levels than other Americans. Income data misses a lot; those with healthy earnings might also have negative wealth or downward mobility. But respondents overall weren’t clinging to jobs perceived to be endangered. “Surprisingly”, a Gallup researcher wrote, “there appears to be no link whatsoever between exposure to trade competition and support for nationalist policies in America, as embodied by the Trump campaign.”
Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000 – higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33% among whites or 29% overall. In January, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams reported findings that a penchant for authoritarianism – not income, education, gender, age or race –predicted Trump support.
And Smash points to the manner in which it has become convenient, perhaps even expedient, for the US media or sections of it to put forward the idea that the working class is in lockstep with Trump. And I think this point of hers is well made>
In seeking to explain Trump’s appeal, proportionate media coverage would require more stories about the racism and misogyny among white Trump supporters in tony suburbs. Or, if we’re examining economically driven bitterness among the working class, stories about the Democratic lawmakers who in recent decades ended welfare as we knew it, hopped in the sack with Wall Street and forgot American labor in their global trade agreements.
But, for national media outlets comprised largely of middle- and upper-class liberals, that would mean looking their own class in the face.
And that would be a problem. Indeed I’m struck by how similar this is to Labour in the UK at the last election. Where instantly there was an effort to portray the working class in the UK as the driver of Brexit – rather than an element of it, and perhaps a minority of same, contributing to the referendum result, whereas the LP support, traditional and otherwise overwhelmingly stayed with that party in supporting a Remain. Yet it is the minority that is fixed upon and genuflected to or blamed, rather than the quieter majority who supported Remain (and in the UK continue to support the Democrats in the main rather than Trump).
But is this, in a way, yet anther example of the working class portrayed as ‘other’? In truth the remarkable thing is not that some in the working class support Trump, but rather that the majority don’t. And that’s a lesson with resonance further afield.