In his New York Times bestseller What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Thomas Frank examines decades of political discourse to figure out just how it is the once New Deal supporting progressives of the Midwest (and across the whole United States) could have turned, so quickly, to the right. He determined that elitism, at the hands of liberals and mainstream Republicans, caused the simple farm and rural folk (mostly white, working poor people) to adopt more stringent religious views, thus giving rise to (at the time it wasn’t identified as) the modern day Tea Party.
Elitism, coupled with fast changing social norms (the Civil Rights era, abortion, gay marriage), literally changed an entire voting bloc and region of the United States. These Midwesterners figured that Democrats had gone off the rails, and conservatism was their savior. Those within the conservative movement understood their needs, and would defend them against a radical, leftist agenda.
But as it turns out, so obviously in recent decades, the right has been nothing but hostile to the working poor. Their constant votes against farming subsidies, the dismantling of unions, and the rise of corporate conglomerate handouts should have been the first signs that the right hates the working poor, be it black or white workers, but still relies on their socially conservative values for support.
Well if votes don’t get their attention, maybe the National Review’s newest online editorial will. Kevin Williamson, whose most popular book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism was torn to shreds by Libertarian critics for not being factual, recently wrote in his editorial that working poor white communities ‘deserve to die’:
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
Although the article is a resounding critique of Donald Trump and his supporters, progressives should read in horror as this elitist conservative (the same kind of one that gave rise to Trump in the first place) literally tells the working poor to die. And to make matters worse, Williamson brushes off the very real heroin epidemic amongst the white, poor communities as another talking point to discredit their struggles, another example of how the right simply does not understand, nor care, about the poor.
Now we know that the elected conservatives are responsible for the struggles of the working poor. We know why conservatives vote against their own interests. It should come as no shock that after tantalizing them, manipulating them, destroying their way of life, the same elitist conservatives, like Williamson, would be so quick to write them off.
Conservatives need to wake up and realize the GOP is not, has never been, nor will ever be on their side.