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The U.S. Working Class Explained (and Why They Voted for Trump)

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An employee uses a mig welder to create a welding beed on the inside seem of a Pioneer coal stove at the Leisure Line Stove Co. facility in Berwick, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. (Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
An employee uses a mig welder to create a welding beed on the inside seem of a Pioneer coal stove at the Leisure Line Stove Co. facility in Berwick, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. (Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

 

A fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review helps illuminate the mindset of the U.S. working class. It also explains why so many working-class Americans voted for Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton in the recent presidential election.

Written by Joan C. Williams, a professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, the article begins with the author describing the life of her father-in-law. He worked for 38 years as an inspector in a factory. Writes Williams:

“Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he read The Wall Street Journal and voted Republican. He was a man before his time: a blue-collar white man who thought the union was a bunch of jokers who took your money and never gave you anything in return. Starting in 1970, many blue-collar whites followed his example. This week, their candidate won the presidency.”

The big insight in the article is this: While working-class Americans resent professionals (doctors, lawyers, professors, and their own managers and supervisors), they admire the rich.

A bulldozer smoothes a coal pile in the storage yard at Consol Energy Inc.'s CNX Marine Terminals Inc. coal transshipment marine terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
A bulldozer smoothes a coal pile in the storage yard at Consol Energy Inc.’s CNX Marine Terminals Inc. coal transshipment marine terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

 

As one laborer told the author of The Dignity of Working Men, “I can’t knock anyone for succeeding. There’s a lot of people out there who are wealthy and I’m sure they worked darn hard for every cent they have.”

Williams argues that it’s this mindset that made it easy for so many white working-class Americans to admire Donald Trump and choose him over Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, writes Williams, epitomizes “the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite. The dorkiness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorables.”

You can read the article in its entirety here.