The Exploitation of the White Working Class

Updated: Sep 12, 2019



During the 2016 presidential campaign white working class Trump supporters were offended at the slightest insinuation that their vote was based solely on race and I somewhat agreed. While I absolutely believe that their vote in large part was affected by race and gender due to the insidious bias that has been sowed into the very fabric of this nation and therefore our collective consciousness...I also saw their pain.


The pain of job loss, the pain of rampant drug addiction and the pain of mind numbing hopelessness. I recognized it because I've seen it before in America's inner cities, home of the original "forgotten people". Black and brown folks plagued with job-loss and a system rigged against us. Oh yes...I know it well. The difference is, this time it is happening to white Americans at alarming rates. Still,  no matter what your race, religion or gender, being forgotten and forsaken feels the exact same way to everyone who experiences it. It feels bad, very very bad. 


 So yes, though it enraged and saddened me, I understood how poverty ridden families ravished by addiction, lack of income and desperation could easily be beguiled by a charlatan claiming to not only SEE their distress but promise to do something about it. Never mind that he groped your cousins daughter or relentlessly disparages the neighbor that doesn't look like you or pray like you...at least he see's you and has vowed to end your suffering. Pain can be blinding and despair will make you foolish.


And so the choice was made, the white working class of America gave Donald Trump their trust...and the White House. In return he has given them bombastic speeches reliving his presidential victory, an administration bathed in controversy and absolutely not one campaign promise kept. For those of us who saw Trump clearly, his ineptitude comes as no surprise, what does come as a surprise however, is the support Trump continues to receive from the voters he has disregarded in every way but as a story prop in his bridge to the White House circa 2020. 


So what is it? The support obviously isn't policy based because Trump has not made good on any of his proposed policies. It is no longer about pain and suffering because Trump has done nothing to alleviate that either. And if it isn't racially motivated, it is absolutely based on gross ignorance and self sabotage. The GOP proposed health plan (that was initially kept secret to circumvent dissenting voices and then promptly voted down both the late great John McCain) detrimentally effected communities where Trump garnered most of his support. It would have wreaked havoc on their well-being, their finances and their lifestyles. The rural communities that supported Trump benefitted from Obamacare more than any other demographic in this country. Many of them receiving coverage for the first time in years. Yet at every rally they yelled chants of "repeal!", never once considering what an actual repeal with a replacement that left them out in the cold would do to their families.


Likewise, Trumps promise of jobs and pie in the sky rhetoric of restoring a coal industry that technology buried, is about as valid as his vows of monogamy to his wives. The Trump administration and republican congress initially put their time and energy into removing healthcare from white working class voters who need it the most while guaranteeing huge tax cuts for corporations that need it the least. Then into a failed hostage situation regarding 'The Wall", that they were willing to compromise the financial well being of their core supporters for. And finally in tariff's that hurt farmers and small business owners. The voters Trump swore to protect and prosper. 


So in the face of this, I have to ask, why are those communities still supporting an administration and congress who craft legislation that goes against their own self interest and survival?


I have always viewed racial fear as an insidious disease that hurts the lives of everyone it touches. Not just those who are overtly effected by it but those who bare the burden of the lie as their truth. The lie that they are some how superior and those who are not like them should be feared and despised.


These days bigotry isn't perpetuated by the person in the white sheet burning a cross on your front lawn. Its more duplicitous than that. Now-a-days its the willingness of people to compromise their well-being, to protect the lie they've held fast too their entire life that divides us. The truth is working class white voters actually have more in common with the black and brown people in their same economic situation than with the uber elite and corporations that thrive on the division the lie creates.


When the working class people of this country come together from every ethnic and cultural background and realize that they can gain far more ground united in their common cause than they can fighting each other over small differences, we will have an opportunity to facilitate the kind of change that allows ALL of us to experience the great American dream. But as long as working class folk are divided by the fear mongering of the wealthy we will remain on this path of the rich getting richer...at the expense of the disenfranchised.

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© 2019 Erin Wiley Sands.