Trump And The White Working-Class: Are The Media Telling The Whole Story?

Is Donald Trump the exclusive darling of the American white working-class? The mass media has presented an image that angry white workers, suffering from the loss of manufacturing jobs, hostile and fearful of immigrants and blacks next door, entirely define the Trump constituency. Nearly everyone else is alleged to be running away.

The vast majority of white workers without a college degree do support Trump, though the reasons behind it are not rooted in their actual economic and residential circumstances---still better than average American family incomes and living in white enclaves. But, Trump is preferred over Clinton by the majority of all whites, who have always supported Republican presidential candidates since the Eisenhower era. He may be doing far more poorly with college-educated white women and a good deal better with less educated ones than a Bush or Romney, but Clinton is still losing significantly with the presumably thoughtful and well-behaved college-educated white male population. Moreover, outside the south, the white working-class, especially union members, generally vote Democrat and Clinton will probably retain close to the overall nationwide percentage Obama and other Democrats typically have received during the past generation---35-40 percent.

While the mass media may note Trump's campaign especially appeals to racists, xenophobes, and sexists, it invariably ignores the fact these constituents have been key components of the social base pandered to---albeit hitherto in code---by "mainstream" Republican candidates for local, statewide and national offices since Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. Trump has merely abandoned code---"state's rights" or "law and order"--- in ways previously done only by marginal figures such as Pat Buchanan.

Conservative pundits who vociferously oppose Trump, like neo-con William Kristol, who propagandized for the Iraq invasion, advocates of laissez-faire economics and small government, such as George Will, and Burkean conservative David Brooks, could never expect any Republican to win the White House, or much else, solely based on their unpopular ideologies. Without the dog-whistles---Kristol "discovered" and actively lobbied for Sarah Palin (Trump in drag) as McCain's VP to inflame the base---the Republican Party might cease to exist. The college-educated and corporate Republicans who are disgusted by Trump, some of whom are even supporting Clinton now, are crying crocodile tears to a great extent. They can indulge their taste preferences knowing she can't, as long as Republicans still control either the Senate or House, enact any legislation harmful to their primary concerns: keeping their tax rates low and minimizing government regulation of industry. They also know Clinton favors free trade and is a hawk on foreign policy. Their current focus is on preventing Trump's increasingly manic campaign from harming down-ticket Republicans and losing the firewall preserving their narrow economic interests.

What explains the mass media's persistent refusal to acknowledge Trump's campaign is merely the current form that bigotry has taken in the Republican party during the past half century and not some working-class mob suddenly hijacking an otherwise benign political entity? While Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes were stylistically unlike Trump, they were perfectly willing to do what was necessary to cater to those who were when it came to dog-whistles, the tolerance of racial and sex discrimination, and the neglect of the needs of the disproportionately non-white poor.

One reason for media reticence is because it is a powerful part of the global corporate world and not detached from it. In the 21st century certain ideas cannot be expressed without undermining the legitimacy and smooth functioning of the international economy. Overt racism and xenophobia and, to a lesser degree, sexism, are among them. On a small scale we have seen this happen in the US with homophobia. Corporations are obliged to cancel annual conventions where animosity towards gays has led to discriminatory legislation. Gays, after all, are valued employees and consumers.

Openly invading other counties for plunder is another taboo---Trump has occasionally suggested we should have invaded Iraq and taken over their oil reserves. Thus, when one of the two major political parties, especially one that has been most devotedly protective of corporate wishes, nominates a candidate who violates these norms, it must be seen as an alien invasion---the unwashed masses have taken over an otherwise color and gender-blind, peace-loving institution.

A second factor perhaps operating is based on Michael Jordan's alleged reasoning in refusing to openly endorse a North Carolina Democrat running against Jesse Helms for the Senate: " Republicans buy sneakers, too." Media outlets don't want to offend their more affluent readers and viewers by intimating complicity in social evils.

Third, the mass news media, particularly television, depend on access and appearances by politicians to bolster ratings and harvest advertising revenue. Biting the hands that indirectly feeds them is a poor business strategy. The threats Trump made to boycott networks and his denial of press access to the Washington Post can be intimidating. Why did Megyn Kelly ultimately humble herself before her abuser?

Finally, the failure to look deeper into the Trump phenomenon may also be because working journalists these days no longer have blue collar roots, as they once did. They rarely interact with members of the working-class for more than a few minutes and therefore can easily imagine every one of them as Archie Bunkers or worse. Perhaps the college educated Trump supporters tend to avoid raucous Trump rallies, though no data on the background of attendees exist. The streaming of racial epithets one can see online can thus be attributed to the uneducated, fitting the pre-existing theory. However, disreputable crowd behavior is hardly alien to respectable well-to-do Republicans. The seemingly spontaneous " Brooks Brothers riot" that interrupted the recount in Florida after the 2000 election turned out to be orchestrated and manned by seasoned political operates from the Bush campaign, including Roger Stone, a long time Trump associate. Those enraged Republican party delegates in Cleveland screaming "lock her up" were not fast food workers or working at Amazon warehouses before the convention.