Donald Trump has led white working-class America into a state of war.
Donald Trump claims that he has resurrected the voice of the industrial-age white working class who still cling to the conservative social beliefs of the 1950s. He has stirred up their passions, given them false hope and is leading them to defeat. He is the Jefferson Davis of our time.
One reason the Confederate States of America seceded from the Union was because they believed that they were the real and original United States. They thought the North had taken a wrong path and betrayed the revolution. The Confederate States were largely rural, their economy agricultural and society hierarchical. Protestant white men were at the top and black slaves at the bottom—just like all of America of 1776.
But by 1861, the North was different. Slavery was gone and the economy was industrializing and attracting new immigrants who wanted change. In the opinion of the South, the North was also awash with dangerous liberal ideas that contradicted the vision of the Founding Fathers. But, as we know, the Confederate view of the world has gone with the wind.
Despite the Civil War, most of America in the 1950s was still hierarchical and conservative, with Protestant white men at the top. However, there was now a more diverse but still quiescent mixture of aspiring immigrants, restless young people, independent-minded women and hopeful African Americans—mostly fugitives from the segregated South—at the bottom.
They had yet to realize their political strength, though they would not have to wait long. It was a time when the old industrial economy was vibrant and all could benefit, providing there was no challenge to the social norm. Back then to be a white working-class man was to be part of the dominant culture. This America still exists, not geographically compact like the old South, but dispersed among us.
America of 2016
The America of 2016 is vastly different: White men are no longer the majority voters. The disenfranchised minorities, as well as women, the young and the LGBT community have found their own powerful voices, gained their voting rights and representation. Diversity and a rainbow of liberal social views are the main cultural influences.
The new knowledge and technological economy is booming, and America is immersed in the complexity and challenge of globalization. But not all America. For just as in 1861 there is still that other America, white and hierarchical, trapped in the now-declining old economy and the social conventions of 60 years ago.
And, like the Confederates, many of them feel their way of life—what they believe to be the real America—has once again been betrayed. Of course they want to hang on to their world and, if they could, turn the clock back for the rest of us.
This time they cannot secede, although Donald Trump has nonetheless led them into war—a war they will naturally lose. When they do, like the defeated Confederates, this group will not go away but will continue to simmer and seethe with resentment.
Reconstruction, reconciliation and reintegration of the millions who feel Trump has spoken for them must not be neglected or America will forever be two nations.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Michael Warren