Why the Dinner Table Uncle Votes Red

Posted on September 20, 2016 by



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Blue collar workers have historically been the backbone of America and a driving force in American politics. They, like everyone else, vote for who will benefit them the most. Historically, this group has represented the traditional values of America, the Bible Belt, the White Christian South. Yet this election, they feel neglected, forgotten, silenced, and they are taking to the candidate that speaks to them the loudest.

An interesting issue that this Politico article  points out is the phenomenon of “deaths of despair” among whites in middle age. These are deaths caused by suicide, alcohol-related liver problems, and drug overdoses. There was an interesting correlation between middle-aged whites who often died deaths of despair and voting for Trump in the state primaries.

These people represent the traditional aging, conservative uncle at everyone’s holiday meal. The article also points to a deeper historical picture, perhaps explaining what leads to such deaths in these places. States in the deep south or the midwest, with a large portion of white, blue collar workers, were hardest hit by the recession and housing crash. Unemployment in some of these states was well above the national average, and some have yet to recover to post-recession numbers. Princeton University Economist Angus Deaton comments:

“I mean, I think it is pretty clear that Mr. Trump has locked into this group of people who are feeling a lot of distress one way or another. Beyond that, it’s very hard to trace the mechanisms very precisely.”

This distress leads to anger, which leads to blame which leads to heightened race relations, a key in the Trump campaign. White working class workers have historically been pitted against their minority counterparts, taught by their own demographic that “whiteness” leads to success. Freed slaves were pitted against white working class workers in a haves and the have nots way, leaving many working-class whites to pin the blame on freed slaves for taking their jobs and quality of life. Now, white working class workers in economically hard-hit states have other demographics to blame. They blame the immigrants for stealing their jobs, the Muslims for invading their towns with a non-Christian way of life, the government, headed by a black man, for taxing them heavily and not creating jobs. This is the exact fire that the Trump campaign fuels and feeds off of.

Truthfully, the Trump strategy with white working class voters is nothing short of a revamped but brilliant sequel to the GOP southern strategy. He knows exactly where to hit voters where it hurts and make them angry enough to head to the polls. However, will it work this election season? According to the polls, yes. The white working class demographic is very anti-establishment, but not in a Bernie Sanders way. They see Hillary Clinton as the very embodiment of the establishment and Trump as the only way to fight it. The establishment has failed them, and they will do whatever it takes to bring it down.

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