Stagnant wages and the lack of quality jobs have led recent college graduates and middle-class workers to resent Wall Street, corporate leaders, and politicians for destroying their jobs and communities in recent years. These workers increasingly share the same concerns as low-wage, contingent workers, forming an emerging political bloc: the precariat. Precariat voters have largely turned to populist candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. As John Russo writes in Working-Class Perspectives, both parties must take the precariat and their struggle seriously to win the election.
Recent polls suggest that almost 60% of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, “don’t identify with what America has become.” According to Cliff Young and Chris Jackson, these “nativist” Americans are older, whiter, and less educated than the rest of the population – more working-class, in other words. For some middle-class professionals, this “nativism,” exemplified in support for Donald Trump’s racial comments, simply reinforces the assumption that the white working class is inherently racist and foolish. They conveniently ignore the way racism is resurfacing among the middle class as they, too, feel resentment over their economic displacement. As Barbara Ehrenreich warns, “Whole professions have fallen on hard times, from college teaching to journalism and the law. One of the worst mistakes this relative elite could make is to try to pump up its own pride by hating on those — of any color or ethnicity — who are falling even faster.”
As our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo brings the Working-Class Perspectives blog to the Kalmanovitz Initiative. The blog is edited by John and Sherry Linkon, a professor of English at Georgetown University. It features several regular and guest contributors.