*EDIT* ok so in re-reading this, I realized that I might sound dismissive of the uniqueness of a lot of the issues that POC face both in addition to, and as a part of, poverty in contrast to white poverty. Not at all my intention, my apologies if it comes off like that. Indeed my point is the opposite: Clinton liberals have GRABBED those differences between white poverty and non-white poverty and made them the dividing line that matters. It’s *highlighting* the differences between the two, at the expense of the similarities, that cost these hand-wringing libs their Queen. Their focus on (the very real!) racism-connected-to-poverty is deliberate of course: they can safely attack it without jeopardizing or even *questioning* their own economic privileges because it doesn’t directly indict capitalism.
And it’s for this same reason that they are hyper-focused on how “dumb” white folk are the problem: if they admit white poverty exists, is systematic, and is not just drug-addled fuckupery, they can’t claim their bootatraps smug victory for having “risen above”. THIS is why they lost, not the lack of education of poor rural whites, but their own fucking smug self-righteousness.
Gah. I’ll leave it there, I’m getting even angrier now.
OK, so I had no intention of writing up anything about the election because I really don’t think there’s a fundamental difference between Clinton and Trump, at least not as candidates. As I said to an irate co-worker of mine asking why I wasn’t voting: if my choices are a fascist record or fascist rhetoric I think I’ll stay at home and play with my cat.
All of that being said, my affluent neolib co-workers have helped me to see something that IS worth exploring: despite their rhetorical flourishes, Clinton liberals (which seems to be the vast majority of them at this point) truly, truly, truly don’t understand poverty to be an economic problem, but strictly a racist one.
I know, that sounds weird, but hear me out.
Before my mom retired she was the volunteer coordinator at a local university (my Alma Mater actually). The Uni is located on sprawling park like grounds, a truly beautiful campus, which just so happens to sit smack dab in a predominantly white poor working class neighborhood. It’s hard to describe how jarring it is to walk across the boundary line of the campus into run-down and decaying neighborhoods, ‘hoods that over the course of the 90’s would be hit with a double whammy of 1st meth and then oxy addiction well before the rest of the country became aware of either epidemic (to whit, three weeks ago the *12th* friend of mine since high school OD’d on heroin, having moved to it from the Oxy’s he was hooked on after they became too expensive. May he rest in peace.)
It’s especially jarring as this is a private university with a largely upper-middle class and above student body that has almost no experience with poverty in any real way. Case in point, a friend of mine from school who was there on scholarships and a helluva lot of working hours, was asked what his biggest worry about attending was during Freshman orientation. He answered ‘paying for school’, to which the girl next to him chimed in saying he just had to be good at budgeting when his parents sent him his tuition check. Riiiiight.
Back to my mom: back in college I was visiting her in her office between classes and she was just finishing up orientation with a new volunteer group. After they left she looked incredibly frustrated, and told me that she *could not* get any of them to volunteer locally. These rich white kids were gung-ho to help out in the black community a few miles down the road – they saw that as worthwhile – but the thought of volunteering where everyone looked like them? No chance. They (correctly) saw the short end of the economic stick that blacks and other people of color have been given in this country for 500 years, but their poor white counterparts?
Naw, they’re just fuck-ups. Addicts. ‘White trash’.
Maybe you see where I’m going here.
My friend Tarzie pointed me to this amazingly articulate article on the rust belt and the failure of everyone in the establishment to understand the economic situation poor whites there find themselves in. I encourage you to read it through, as it draws some incredibly useful parallels between the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s (specifically around the government’s lack of reaction to it) and the current opiate epidemic that seems to be largely poorer and whiter than past drug epidemics.
Where this relates to Trump and Clinton, if you don’t see it yet, is the attitude of affluent liberal whites (read: Clinton’s core demographic) about their working class white counterparts.
In his blistering, breathtakingly wonderful post-election write-up “Cheer Up Liberals: You’re Still In Charge“, Sassy writes:
“A Seattle-area friend who lives in the farther working-class suburbs came to work to his inner-city, wealthy liberal coworkers bitching that his neighbors “voted us into fascism.” In the same breath, this rich shit complained about the passing of a transportation bill that would raise their taxes: “If they want Trump so bad they can pay for their own buses.” Here’s someone who probably calls themselves a progressive attacking actually existing progressivism because their taxes will go up a split hair, and potentially benefit unworthy types, “deplorables.” Maybe these people wouldn’t feel the need to “shake things up” if they had had what they needed to thrive all along. But then your misty piney mossy café-flanked Seattle townhome might have to fit only one Subaru in the garage.”
This nails it (that was me, by the way, and yes I actually did have that very conversation this morning when I came into work).
Trump terrifies liberals. But you have to ask: why does Trump uniquely scare them vs. Clinton? Trump talks about building a wall and deporting ‘illegals’ and banning Muslims and and and… but let’s not forget that Clinton has *actually* contributed to the deaths of a helluva lot of people in the global South; let’s not forget that Obama deported more people than any other fucking president in history; let’s not forget that John Kerry smiled while literal Nazis burned people alive in Ukraine so that Joe Biden’s son could have a board-seat on the largest oil company there. But sure, TRUMP is terrifying as opposed to the paragons of progress in the Democratic establishment.
No, I think that the conversation that Sassy relates above tells you exactly why Trump scares them: because, at least in rhetoric, he threatens their privilege (oh noez! those uneducated whites are running this guy up!), he threatens their self-image (think of those rich white kids wanting to help the poor blacks but not those gross white trash addicts), and most of all he threatens their view of themselves as being bravely progressive.
The core of Clinton’s supporters (white supporters anyway) are VERY concerned about racism, poverty, education, opportunity, etc. Just ask them, they’ll tell you all about it over $9 lattes while they wait for their Uber.
*note: before anyone says it, yes I realize that Clinton has large swathes of non-white supporters. Clearly you’d be hard pressed to vote for Trump when he tells you that you’re a terrorist, or illegal, or whatever. But I’d be willing to bet that most of that support is against Trump, not for Clinton.*