Over the past two years, there has been a debate over what has really been responsible for Donald Trump’s rise: Is it racism or economic anxiety among blue-collar white people?
Writing in the Washington Post, University of Oklahoma history professor Steven Gillon says that it’s a mix of both.
On the racism side, Gillon says that many white men resent that the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, and the LGBT rights movement have seemingly lessened white privilege while leveling the playing field for people of different races, genders, and sexual orientations. He also says that the influx of immigrants over the past 50 years has left many white men believing that their culture is under siege.
On the economic anxiety end of the spectrum, Gillon argues that a decline in unionized labor, combined with economic policies and trade deals that have given consistent preference to people at the top of the economic ladder, have given many blue-collar white men legitimate grievances about their declining economic fortunes.
Gillon does point out that many of these policies have hurt people of color in the United States even more than they’ve hurt white men, but he argues that white men are the angriest about them because they have fallen the farthest in terms of past status — and he says this anger has led to “a toxic brew of resentment and victimization.”
Gillon says that while neo-Nazis and hate groups must be unequivocally condemned, he also thinks that Democrats need to aggressively combat income inequality and pay attention to rural white areas where deindustrialization has gutted many communities and left them economically barren.
“Until our political system finds a way to make angry white men less angry, our society will face more turmoil and violence,” Gillon concludes.