Donald Trump and the White Working Class

Alan Tabor
26 min readDec 2, 2016


1. Pain

“Half a million people are dead who should not be dead.”

That was the trigger for me. In Fall 2015, two prominent economics professors, (Angus Deaton (2015 Nobel Laureate) and Anne Case) published results they had stumbled upon and which greatly surprised them: ‘Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century’.

Despite their prominence, it was an effort to get published.

I grew up in a small town in South Dakota. These are my people. I’d been mostly absent, only visiting, for the last 45 years. This likely prevented me from have a more immediate understanding of the situation. I started trying to understand what was going on by clipping articles and making notes. Along the way, Donald Trump happened. More on that below.

First, here’s what they found. The following pulls from a Washington Post article, A group of middle-aged whites in the U.S. is dying at a startling rate, rather than the original journal article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Graph from Deaton and Case — USW — US Whites

The mortality rate for white men and women ages 45–54 with less than a college education increased markedly between 1999 and 2013, most likely because of problems with legal and illegal drugs, alcohol and suicide, the researchers concluded. Before then, death rates for that group dropped steadily, and at a faster pace.

“We both were sort of blown off our chairs when looking at that,” Deaton said. He said they knew that most demographers would look at the numbers and say, “ ‘You’ve got to have made a mistake. That cannot possibly be true.’ ”

The proportion of people who said they were in “serious psychological distress” also rose significantly, the research shows.

“This is the first indicator that the plane has crashed,” said Jonathan Skinner, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, who reviewed the study and co-authored a commentary that appears with it. “I don’t know what’s going on, but the plane has definitely crashed.

Also useful is the corresponding NYT article: Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds

Ronald D. Lee, professor of economics, professor of demography and director of the Center on Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley, was among those taken aback by what Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case discovered.

“Seldom have I felt as affected by a paper,” he said. “It seems so sad.”

[This started out as a short list of sources with a few excerpts and then got long. This is draft 3. I’ll keep trying to boil it down. I suggest a quick scan to see what’s of interest. To help, here’s a table of contents. Hang in there long enough and you’ll find out why most working class women voted for Trump.]

2. Economics

Once Trump started happening, articles examining the underpinnings of the above became easier to find. (A big shout out to Dave Pell who, along with Google News and Hacker News, was a essential filter on the fire house of writing available.)

The most interesting writing, imho, comes from folks that might be considered culturally interstitial. They live emotionally on both sides of the current divide.

The following two articles I consider essential reading in that they capture the pain and probe thoughtfully for the underpinnings. I’ll excerpt a bit from each but I urge you to at least scan through both.

Image from Cody Weber

From How Half of America Lost It’s Fucking Mind — Cracked, David Wong, 10/12/16. (Seriously, check out the full article.)

The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed.

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.” Let’s say you’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walgreen’s and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you’re paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets.

Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.

Image from Cody Weber

From What I Have Learned From Photographing 400 Towns in Iowa by Cody Weber. Also the photos in this section are his. (Hopefully I can get permission. Check out his website

Rural America has taken a real shot to the gut in the past couple decades. What once was the pride of American industry and economy has since dwindled to its nadir.

Long stretches of ma-and-pop shops have been reduced to their sad skeletons and replaced by a Super Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town.

I grew up in the small bluff town of Keokuk, Iowa (pictured above) and I saw the shift happen for myself and in my own family. My experience is not unique, but it is certainly paramount. What was at one time an honest and accessible career possibility for those without a college education seemed to shift dramatically, all at once, and with little explanation or forewarning. This would set the stage to the political and socioeconomic civil war that we seem to be constantly waging today.

Other resources:

3. Let’s Get Personal

Ever since reading Hunter Thompson, I’ve assumed you need to wear your heart on your sleeve. In that spirit, I offer the following.

(This essay is, like everything I write, way too long. You can shorten it by skipping this section entirely. I’d jump back in at the quotation at the end of this part 3.)

As mentioned, I grew up in a small town in South Dakota. The U.S. Senators while I was in high school were Democrat George McGovern and Republican Karl Mundt…who eventually lost credibility by letting the Army-McCarthy hearings careen out of control. Clearly, ideology was not the main factor here.

There was broad agreement that Big Business and Big Government were The Problem…with events shifting the emphasis from one to the other and back. Ethnically, the town was very homogeneous. Norwegians were an ethnic group when my father was growing up. Irish Catholics more recently. The towns true minority population consisted of 4 Armenians, an adopted Korean kid, and a few Native Americans. (Most South Dakota Native Americans were in the large reservations west of the river. Nearby, most were concentrated in the relatively tiny Flandreau Reservation.) Class structure was fuzzy at best with very little distance, physically or socially, between social classes. Churches and civic groups, e.g. VFW, Elks, Oddfellows, Kiwanis, were the main forms of social organization and spanned class lines. The richest were doctors and car salesman. Remarkably, I graduated from high school with 26 of the 35 kids in that were in my first grade class. I have good friends from the cohort to this day.

Image from Cody Weber

We were, in short, pretty much in a world of own…a pleasant one. If it wasn’t for winter, I’d likely still be there. I aimed to move to New Mexico and ended up running out of money in Oakland, CA, in late 1976. There I stumbled into job. That was motivation to stay. I’m still in the area.

At some point in the early to mid 80’s, I decided the Middle Class was getting taken out. I decided that part of the motivation was that Middle Class kids proved unmanageable during the 60’s and 70’s and that education had to be made more dear, that the price of ‘failure’ needed to become more severe, and the world more scary. (I have notes from that time for the creation of The Association for the Preservation of the American Middle Class. I had no idea how to go about it. Now, I would throw up a website and starting placing Facebook ads. )

My evidence for this was easy to see. In simplest form, my father as a pharmacist supported a full time homemaker wife and four kids while tithing to the local Methodist church. My sister is a pharmacist and her husband a doctor. They needed two incomes to have the same lifestyle with only two kids. It was clear that things were contracting but that this was hidden as more women entered the workforce.

I’m not sure where I fall on the economic spectrum precisely but I consider myself a Middle Class partisan…the folks Marxists call “unreliable class allies.”

Image from Cody Weber

My opinion of the Republican party was that it has been using a series of cheap fear-based tricks and hot button issues to slowly sell the Middle Class down the river by withering social support, and reallocating the tax burden from the rich to the middle. They argued that government didn’t work and demonstrated that by breaking it. I expected them to disappear after the fall of the Soviet Union but I guess there’s a whole world of things to fear beyond the Rooskies. I consider Democrats to be generally gutless weasels and Bill Clinton to be the last moderate Republican President. Still, the Democrats did support some of the instruments, eg Unions, that served to keep wages higher for everyone and they did, in fact, occasionally try and pass programs that support education and health care for a broader constituency.

I watched in glee as Trump detached the Republican base from its corporate/politician/lobbyist overlords. The clown car had exploded. The money folks were going to end up on their own without their foot soldiers. It did not occur to me that much of the Democrat’s base was equally detachable and for many of the same reasons. I was shocked. Shame on me.

I’ve been comfortable in California for the last 40 years. Let’s return to Cody Weber in Iowa.

My grandfather finds a job at a steel factory after being discharged from the United States Army and will maintain it for over thirty-five years. He builds himself a little nest-egg in this time and is able to retire at a decent age with a real possibility of enjoying his twilight years. It is an accurate indicator that there is indeed an American Dream, and though it might not be as glamorous as the ones described in famous literature and film, it is still vibrant and real. And best of all: it is attainable.

Fast forward to the year 1998.

I am ten years old in a happy middle-class family with a little brother and a little sister. We have a three-bedroom house, a big and open yard, a dog named Apache, and no less than two cars in the driveway at any given time. It is no longer 1965. My mother also has to find work to help support the family. Living off of one person’s salary is the product of a bygone era, but the frame of the American Dream is still intact (we just have more babysitters than in generations prior).

Until it suddenly wasn’t.

I have these hazy memories of my dad coming home from work covered in dust, pacing nervously around the kitchen and living room, hands anxiously covering his mouth. As he put it, there was this company overseas that had decided to merge with the one that he worked for, and he was certain that this was the death rattle for his career.

A month or two after that and my dad’s factory moved to Mexico. Just like that, one flick of the wrist on a dotted line, and hundreds of people were out of work. Our middle class family would spider-web into two distinct versions, both poorer than they were when we entered them. And before long, it would be a real stretch to consider us middle-class at all.

4. Left Behind, Disrespected

We start here with the assumption that the White Working Class (WWC), and males in particular, are the key to Trump’s win and hence it is important to try and understand what they wanted from the election.

I do not seek to critique their experience and how Trump channeled it but, instead, to describe it. I’m using the following sources.

The book: Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, Joan C Williams, 2012.
1. What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class by Joan C Williams, HBR, 11/10/2016. Cited as [HBR].

The book: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Arlie Russell Hochschild, 2016.
1. What a liberal sociologist learned from spending five years in Trump’s America by Brad Plummer, VOX, 10/25/2016. Cited as [AH-VOX].
2. A Berkeley sociologist made some tea party friends — and wrote a condescending book about them by Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, 9/1/2016. Cite as [AH-WaPo].
3. The Stories We Live By: Why the White Working Class Votes Conservative by Theo Anderson, In These Times, 9/7/2016. Cited as [AH-ITT].

The Joan Williams article is the essential one. I’m adding additional material from Arlie Hochschild. If you want more detail on her the In These Times is probably the best.

I started by excerpting the Joan Williams’ article but ended up extracting so much of it, it looked ridiculous. I’ve trimmed that down to a few teasers to illustrate key points. I urge you to read it in full.

Hochschild is a secondary source and provides a key insight. Hochschild made 10 trips to southwestern Louisiana from 2011 to 2016. She interviewed some 60 people, including 40 professed tea party supporters, visiting homes and workplaces. She teaches at UC Berkeley and wrote “The Second Shift” in 1989.

(Note that I’m likely glossing over significant cultural differences and situational differences here. South Louisiana oil country has to have a quite different cultural bias than the Scandinavian upper Midwest with farming towns and meat packing plants or the Southeast with a concentration of military families. I doubt there’s a big Cost of Living wall around Sioux Falls.)

OK, so the WWC, what do they want?

It seems pretty simple on examination: a decent life, agency, respect, a fair shake.

In short, what most all of us want.

Desired: Work…

[JCW] Manly dignity is a big deal for most men. So is breadwinner status: Many still measure masculinity by the size of a paycheck. White working-class men’s wages hit the skids in the 1970s and took another body blow during the Great Recession. Look, I wish manliness worked differently. But most men, like most women, seek to fulfill the ideals they’ve grown up with. For many blue-collar men, all they’re asking for is basic human dignity (male varietal). Trump promises to deliver it.

WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he understands what they need.


[JCW] The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. “The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,” a machine operator told Lamont. Owning one’s own business — that’s the goal. That’s another part of Trump’s appeal.


[AH-VOX] They feel their cultural beliefs are denigrated by the culture at large. They feel that they’re seen as rednecks, that they live in a region that’s being discredited. One person told me, “I watch Fox News, that’s my regular source, but I scan the liberal television programs, and I hear people refer to people like me as rednecks.”

This is a repeating refrain. WWC folks feel disparaged as rednecks, hillbillies, flyover country nobodies.

On a personal note, our good friend David, after graduating with Wendy at St Mary’s, ended up working as a facilities manager and handy man in various capacities. He talks about how Suits in downtown Oakland office buildings would literally sneer at him when he got in an elevator with them wearing a tool belt and working clothes.

This all makes Clinton use of the term ‘deplorables’ particularly unfortunate. It might be accurate in a some cases but was easily be seen as dismissive to the wider concerns of the WWC.

…and a Fair Shake.

[AH-VOX]I think supporters of the Tea Party in Louisiana have a deep story, as do Bernie Sanders supporters in Berkeley, California. We all have a deep story. And it’s important to know what these are.

So the deep story I felt operating in Louisiana was this: Think of people waiting in a long line that stretches up a hill. And at the top of that is the American dream. And the people waiting in line felt like they’d worked extremely hard, sacrificed a lot, tried their best, and were waiting for something they deserved. And this line is increasingly not moving, or moving more slowly [i.e., as the economy stalls].

(Hochschild notes that these folks are very sensitive to anyone that might be seen as cutting in line…of gaining a benefit without paying the price. More on that below.)

Btw, I think Hochschild is overly optimistic about the economy faced by most in the WWC. South Louisiana during the time of most of her research was oil country and was doing okay compared to the rust belt and farm belts. There the economy was moving backwards not stagnating.

The Sandbar

Hochschild’s “deep story” reminded me of another metaphor that has stuck in my mind since I read it some 30 years ago. From John MacDonald’s Travis McGee in Pale Grey for Guilt (1968) describing life and death:

Picture a very swift torrent, a river rushing down between rocky walls. There is a long, shallow bar of sand and gravel that runs right down the middle of the river. It is under water. You are born and you have to stand on that narrow, submerged bar, where everyone stands. The ones born before you, the ones older than you, are upriver from you. The younger ones stand braced on the bar downriver. And the whole long bar is slowly moving down that river of time, washing away at the upstream end and building up downstream.

Always there is more room where you stand, but always the swift water grows deeper, and you feel the shift of the sand and the gravel under your feet as the river wears it away. Someone looking for a safer place can nudge you off balance, and you are gone. Someone who has stood beside you for a long time gives a forlorn cry…and they are gone.

“A Churchill, fat cigar atilt [stands], sourly amused at his own endurance and, in the end, indifferent to rivers and the rage of waters. Far downstream from you hear the thin, startled cries of the ones who never got planted, never got set, never quite understood the message of the torrent.

Consider the movement of the economy as the current and the Middle Class with it’s work, agency and respect to be another sort of sandbar.

Get swept off and you lose that…and getting swept off, as we’ve seen from Deaton and Case, can actually be lethal. Conversely, stubborn Churchillian traits have definite survival value.

And the speed of this current has been steadily increasing over the last four decades.

Rage and Resentment

[JCW] J.D. Vance’s much-heralded Hillbilly Elegy captures this resentment. Hard-living families like that of Vance’s mother live alongside settled families like that of his biological father. While the hard-living succumb to despair, drugs, or alcohol, settled families keep to the straight and narrow, like my parents-in-law, who owned their home and sent both sons to college. To accomplish that, they lived a life of rigorous thrift and self-discipline. Vance’s book passes harsh judgment on his hard-living relatives, which is not uncommon among settled families who kept their nose clean through sheer force of will. This is a second source of resentment against the poor.

Quoting Vance himself:

Mamaw listened intently to my experiences at Dillman’s. We began to view much of our fellow working class with mistrust. Most of us were struggling to get by, but we made do, worked hard, and hoped for a better life. But a large minority was content to live off the dole.

Every two weeks, I’d get a small paycheck and notice the line where federal and state income taxes were deducted from my wages. At least as often, our drug-addict neighbor would buy T-bone steaks, which I was too poor to buy for myself but was forced by Uncle Sam to buy for someone else.

Back to Joan Williams

[JCW] Remember when President Obama sold Obamacare by pointing out that it delivered health care to 20 million people? Just another program that taxed the middle class to help the poor, said the WWC, and in some cases that’s proved true: The poor got health insurance while some Americans just a notch richer saw their premiums rise.

Example: 28.3% of poor families receive child-care subsidies, which are largely nonexistent for the middle class. So my sister-in-law worked full-time for Head Start, providing free child care for poor women while earning so little that she almost couldn’t pay for her own. She resented this, especially the fact that some of the kids’ moms did not work. One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s. My sister-in-law was livid.

[JCW] Economic resentment has fueled racial anxiety that, in some Trump supporters (and Trump himself), bleeds into open racism. But to write off WWC anger as nothing more than racism is intellectual comfort food, and it is dangerous.

Saying this is so unpopular that I risk making myself a pariah among my friends on the left coast. But the biggest risk today for me and other Americans is continued class cluelessness. If we don’t take steps to bridge the class culture gap, when Trump proves unable to bring steel back to Youngstown, Ohio, the consequences could turn dangerous.

I’d say they have already.

Returning to Hochschild’s ‘deep story’ from South Louisiana.

[AH-VOX] Think of people waiting in a long line that stretches up a hill. And at the top of that is the American dream. And the people waiting in line felt like they’d worked extremely hard, sacrificed a lot, tried their best, and were waiting for something they deserved.

Then they see people cutting ahead of them in line. Immigrants, blacks, women, refugees, public sector workers. And even an oil-drenched brown pelican getting priority. In their view, people are cutting ahead unfairly. And then in this narrative, there is Barack Obama, to the side, the line supervisor who seems to be waving these people (and the pelican) ahead. So the government seemed to be on the side of the people who were cutting in line and pushing the people in line back.

5. Aside: Trump’s Convenient Pathologies

How did Trump end up as the candidate of the WWC? My theory: his internal emotional landscape resonated with this base. It’s all about respect and resentment and a willingness to keep slugging.

What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show NYT, 10/25/16

The recordings reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity, anxious about losing his status…he always seems to return, in one form or another, to the theme of humiliation. Ultimately, Mr. Trump fears — more than anything else — being ignored, overlooked or irrelevant. And when Mr. Trump feels he has been made a fool of, his response can be volcanic.

On the tapes, Mr. Trump describes a passionate enjoyment of fighting, which started during his adolescence in Queens. It did not matter, he said, whether an altercation was verbal or physical. He loved it all the same.

This helps explain why his positions are no more coherent than a cheering mass of supporters with a collection of related but varying concerns and emotions might elicit. He wasn’t interested in presenting a consistent platform. He was going for emotional lift and knew personally what it consisted of.

The net result:

[AH-WaPo]…Hochschild attends a Trump rally in New Orleans, and it feels like a revival. “His supporters have been in mourning for a lost way of life. . . . Joined together with others like themselves, they now feel hopeful, joyous, elated,” she writes. “As if magically lifted, they are no longer strangers in their own land.”

6. Analysis

Why did Trump win? Hopefully the above demonstrates his appeal. One statement stuck in my mind: Trump’s detractors took him literally but not seriously; Trump’s supporters took him seriously but not literally. Maybe. There’s tons of analysis available. Here’s one from another interstitial personality. I think it’s essential and outside most folk’s radar.

When The Shouting Stops from the blog “Archdruid’s Report: Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society”, 11/16/16. The author “lives in Cumberland, MD, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.”

Racism -

Are there people among the pro-Trump crowd who are in fact racists, sexists, homophobes, and so on? Of course. I know a couple of thoroughly bigoted racists who cast their votes for him, for example, including at least one bona fide member of the Ku Klux Klan. The point I think the Left tends to miss is that not everyone in flyover country is like that. A few years back, in fact, a bunch of Klansmen came to the town where I live to hold a recruitment rally, and the churches in town — white as well as black — held a counter-rally, stood on the other side of the street, and drowned the Klansmen out, singing hymns at the top of their lungs until the guys in the white robes got back in their cars and drove away. Surprising? Not at all; in a great deal of middle America, that’s par for the course these days.

Why would women vote for Trump -

The Risk of War. This was the most common point at issue, especially among women — nearly all the women I know who voted for Trump, in fact, cited it as either the decisive reason for their vote or one of the top two or three. They listened to Hillary Clinton talk about imposing a no-fly zone over Syria in the face of a heavily armed and determined Russian military presence, and looked at the reckless enthusiasm for overthrowing governments she’d displayed during her time as Secretary of State. They compared this to Donald Trump’s advocacy of a less confrontational relationship with Russia, and they decided that Trump was less likely to get the United States into a shooting war.

War isn’t an abstraction here in flyover country. Joining the military is very nearly the only option young people here have if they want a decent income, job training, and the prospect of a college education, and so most families have at least one relative or close friend on active duty. People here respect the military, but the last two decades of wars of choice in the Middle East have done a remarkably good job of curing middle America of any fondness for military adventurism it might have had. While affluent feminists swooned over the prospect of a woman taking on another traditionally masculine role, and didn’t seem to care in the least that the role in question was “warmonger,” a great many people in flyover country weighed the other issues against the prospect of having a family member come home in a body bag. Since the Clinton campaign did precisely nothing to reassure them on this point, they voted for Trump.

plus [JCW] WWC women voted for Trump over Clinton by a whopping 28-point margin — 62% to 34%. If they’d split 50–50, she would have won. Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics.

Democrats, WTF -

As for what Ferrett Steinmetz’s side of the political landscape can offer the people who voted for Trump, that’s at least as simple to answer: listen to those voters, and they’ll tell you. To judge by what I’ve heard them say, they want a less monomaniacally interventionist foreign policy and an end to the endless spiral of wars of choice in the Middle East; they want health insurance that provides reasonable benefits at a price they can afford; they want an end to trade agreements that ship American jobs overseas, and changes to immigration policy that stop the systematic importation of illegal immigrants by big corporate interests to drive down wages and benefits; and they want a means of choosing candidates that actually reflects the will of the people.

The fascinating thing is, of course, that these are things the Democratic Party used to offer. It wasn’t that long ago, in fact, that the Democratic Party made exactly these issues — opposition to reckless military adventurism, government programs that improved the standard of living of working class Americans, and a politics of transparency and integrity — central not only to its platform but to the legislation its congresspeople fought to get passed and its presidents signed into law. Back when that was the case, by the way, the Democratic Party was the majority party in this country, not only in Congress but also in terms of state governorships and legislatures. As the party backed away from offering those things, it lost its majority position. While correlation doesn’t prove causation, I think that in this case a definite case can be made.

plus [JCW]”The white working class is just so stupid. Don’t they realize Republicans just use them every four years, and then screw them?” I have heard some version of this over and over again, and it’s actually a sentiment the WWC agrees with, which is why they rejected the Republican establishment this year. But to them, the Democrats are no better.

Why did Trump win?

One analysis is that Trump won because his team, during the last 10 days, took away Twitter access to block his impulse to sabotage his own campaign and kept him busy with a marathon of rallies at the most Trump-friendly locations possible. There he wallowed as happy as a pig in shit.

At a deeper level, he managed to connect to his deplorables on an emotional level against all odds and a massive cultural gulf.

Here’s some more sources:

7. Conclusion

What do I conclude.

1) First, I need to rethink how I think about political strategy. There’s a great game, Twilight Struggle, that models the Cold War over 60 years. At the core is a counter that moves along a number line. Zero is stalemate and getting the counter all the way to your side constitutes a win.

I viewed electoral politics as something similar where we would seek to move the counter to the left opening up opportunities for our kind of politics. Hillary was a logical choice from that perspective.

I’m having to reconsider that model in favor of one that allows for significant discontinuities. The situation is volatile and can tip in a variety of directions. The difference between “way right” and “way left” may be very short. Movement is not along a straight line.

2) I am struck by the paradox at the core of the WWC’s economic situation. A reliance on individual strength and resilience, independence, family, and clan is what stands between many folk and being swept away by the current. (You can see where guns might be an attractive prop.)

At the same time, without class solidarity and group based solutions (unions, NGOs, effective government) aimed at key problems, the current will just continue to speed up. The environment will become harsher and the tools in our hands will become scarcer. Individualist solutions…making the rich richer and destroying the government…hasn’t been an effective solution. Fancy that.

In short, focusing only on personal responsibility, rugged individualism and taking care of me and mine is a great way to thrive out to its limits…and then it kills you.

Along this line, those looking down their nose at the WWC or dismissing their concerns as merely a loss of privilege should be reminded that solidarity is a two way street. Just because WWC folks are now being fucked over just like everyone else doesn’t mean their/our common plight isn’t dire. And all the solutions that I see (free quality education, for example) would float any color boat.

3) There’s a massive amount of misinformation that provides the context for most decisions in America politics starting with the size of our defense and security budgets, climate change, and progressing down to fine grained details.

[AH-ITT ] — Hochschild devotes an appendix to “fact-checking common impressions” that she heard during the course of her fieldwork — for example, the “fact” that black women have more children than white women, and that government employees make up 40 percent of the workforce. These are all greatly exaggerated or flatly untrue. (The fertility rate for white and black women is about even, and workers at all levels of government combined make up less than 17 percent of the workforce, even with the military included.) But the upshot of the book is a reality that Fox News and the rise of Donald Trump have made inescapable: Facts are often impotent, pitched against the deep stories, commitments and (un)truths that people actually live by. In politics as in love, the heart has reasons that reason cannot know.

I agree that deep stories are resilient but, considering the enormous amount of money and resources that have been devoted to spreading misinformation, squashing facts does not seem to be all that easy.

One final article: This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World. BuzzFeed 11/15/2016

Bannon, the Great Satan of the Trump team, is speaking in 2014 via Skype to what could be viewed as his people: a group of ultra-conservative Catholics in a conference room at the Vatican in 2014.

there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. …it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people.

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism.

However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people…

Definitely worth a read. His solution is, of course, more capitalism. And you can see how he massively underestimates the pernicious staying power of racism but check it out. Current ideologies on all fronts are strange, strange things.


I’ve decided if I was going to write I might as well seek readers. I’m replacing my old system (spam everyone I know) with a mailing list. You can sign up for that below. I’ll let you know when I publish something.



Alan Tabor

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at