Each election season brings a stream of punditry about the white working class. As Jack Metzgar observes in this week’s Working-Class Perspective, commentators try to explain their voting patterns by relying on stereotypes for their analyses. In doing so, they reveal their own class biases.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Connie Schultz noted how many reporters and columnists associate Donald Trump and his pal Sarah Palin with white working-class ignorance and bigotry. A Cleveland Plain Dealer writer, for example, complained: “Thanks to Trump, the entire Palin clan is now back in the spotlight they so crave. Come July, Republican National Convention organizers should house the whole dysfunctional family in a trailer park in Ashtabula [Ohio].” As it happens, both of Schultz’s grandmothers lived portions of their lives in trailer homes in Ashtabula, and she commented that “since Donald Trump’s charade of a candidacy caught fire, I have heard many fellow liberals freely toss around the terms ‘white trash’ and ‘trailer trash.’ These are people who would never dream of telling a racist joke, but they think nothing of ridiculing those of lesser economic means. Every group has its ‘other.’ For too many white intellectuals, it’s the working class.”
The Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. It features several regular and guest contributors.