What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class


Harvard Business Review has the excellent article What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class.

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich. Class migrants (white-collar professionals born to blue-collar families) report that “professional people were generally suspect” and that managers are college kids “who don’t know shit about how to do anything but are full of ideas about how I have to do my job,” said Alfred Lubrano in Limbo. Barbara Ehrenreich recalled in 1990 that her blue-collar dad “could not say the word doctor without the virtual prefix quack. Lawyers were shysters…and professors were without exception phonies.” Annette Lareau found tremendous resentment against teachers, who were perceived as condescending and unhelpful.

In my more lucid moments, I understand what this article is saying. Sometimes I am even aware that “professional people were generally suspect”. I know how badly received is my attitude that I know something that someone else does not know. That’s why I would never be as successful as a candidate as Bernie Sanders was and is.

I have learned that using credentials to back up what I write and talk about is a losing strategy for exactly the reasons mentioned in the article. In my more self-aware moments, I do avoid talking about my credentials as proof of anything.

Ironically, the people on the left who came from a working class background but have achieved success through education, see those credentials they earned as proof that they are worthy. Think of Barack Obama or even Hillary Clinton. In the case of a woman politician like Hillary, they are proud of the struggle they succeeded in when they broke through the ceilings men placed over them. It is hard for anyone like Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or even Elizabeth Warren to not want to tout education as the path into the middle and upper classes. What they don’t realize as politicians is that those who are still struggling resent their success.

What people who rise above the statistical norm cannot understand is that they should never let the following words pass their lips: “If I can do it, anyone can.” No, the statistics say that you are exceptional. Exceptional meaning that most people cannot do what you have done.

The frightening thing for Democrats should be that this article appeared in Harvard Business Review. It may be that Republicans will learn the lessons from this article before Democrats will. Maybe this is how political parties trade places in the political spectrum over long periods of time.

Think of how much emphasis Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush placed on the fact that they were only C students in college. They understood the need and the reasons to downplay educational success if you are going to win in the political realm. Even Bernie Sanders is quick to point out that he learned more from living life than he did from college.

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