respect for the White Working Class

Traditional labour and liberal parties have lost much of the vote of the white working class (WWC). FT columnist Simon Kuper writes that lack of respect that drives their rage. For them, respect is more important than income and living conditions. Politicians can learn from Donald Trump and Nelson Mandela, two politicians who successfully courted WWC voters.

Here is a third of Mr Kuper’s essay. There is much more in the other two-thirds. Read it and think, especially if you tend to vote liberal or labour.

[T]he WWC are excluded more often than they are insulted. They get screened out of elite settings based on their accents, first names, clothing, diet, schools, geographical origins (“flyover states”) and sometimes even their body weight. ….

Many in the WWC feel that the elite pays respect to every minority except theirs. ….

Many WWC people now vote populist not because they are racists, nor because they imagine the populists will magically solve their problems, but because populists give them respect while simultaneously dissing the snobs. ….

Trump won’t bring back the old steel jobs. But he knows that winning elections nowadays isn’t about “the economy, stupid”. It’s about language. This is one thing liberals can learn from him. Hillary Clinton’s pro-WWC policies counted for nothing after she called some of Trump’s voters “deplorables” …. It was at another fundraiser in San Francisco in 2008 that Barack Obama spoke of “bitter” jobless small-town Midwestern voters who “cling to guns or religion”.

Respect matters. Mandela understood this viscerally, because respect was one thing apartheid denied to black people. He built a political strategy on respecting his opponents. ….

Mandela also showed us what a realistic, modern, working-class PC could look like. Hardly any working-class people today are steelworkers. Far more of them work as carers, cleaners and cashiers. Mandela grasped that. …. Mandela’s respect was race-blind.

Once, in London, he visited the offices of the PR firm handling South Africa’s account. He said a cheery hello to the firm’s directors, who were lined up at the front door to receive him, but he then continued down the corridor, walked into the porters’ room and greeted the surprised denizens like long-lost friends. It will take a politician like that to win back the WWC.

Simon Kuper, “We need to start being PC about the white working class“, FT Magazine, 25 February 2017 (gated paywall).

Comments are closed.