Joan C. Williams, in Harvard Business Review, explains to the national elite why white working class men went overwhelmingly for Trump.
One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that â€œprofessional people were generally suspectâ€ and that managers are college kids â€œwho donâ€™t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,â€ said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad â€œcould not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shystersâ€¦and professors were without exception phonies.â€ Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.
MichÃ¨le Lamont, in The Dignity of Working Men, also found resentment of professionals â€” but not of the rich. â€œ[I] canâ€™t knock anyone for succeeding,â€ a laborer told her. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and Iâ€™m sure they worked darned hard for every cent they have,â€ chimed in a receiving clerk. Why the difference? For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day. 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 â€” just with more money. â€œThe main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else,â€ a machine operator told Lamont. Owning oneâ€™s own business â€” thatâ€™s the goal. Thatâ€™s another part of Trumpâ€™s appeal.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class can treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic.
Trumpâ€™s blunt talk taps into another blue-collar value: straight talk. â€œDirectness is a working-class norm,â€ notes Lubrano. As one blue-collar guy told him, â€œIf you have a problem with me, come talk to me. If you have a way you want something done, come talk to me. I donâ€™t like people who play these two-faced games.â€ Straight talk is seen as requiring manly courage, not being â€œa total wuss and a wimp,â€ an electronics technician told Lamont. Of course Trump appeals. Clintonâ€™s clunky admission that she talks one way in public and another in private? Further proof sheâ€™s a two-faced phony.
Manly dignity is a big deal for working-class men, and theyâ€™re not feeling that they have it. Trump promises a world free of political correctness and a return to an earlier era, when men were men and women knew their place. Itâ€™s comfort food for high-school-educated guys who could have been my father-in-law if theyâ€™d been born 30 years earlier. Today they feel like losers â€” or did until they met Trump.
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