Much of the energy on both the left and the right this cycle is coming from white Americans who are rejecting the direction of America and its institutions. There is a profound disappointment. On one hand, it’s about fear of dislocation of supremacy, and the surrendering of power and the security it provides. On the other hand, it’s about disillusionment that the game is rigged and the turf is tilted. It is about defining who created this country’s bounty and who has most benefited from it.
When it comes down to it, poor to middle class white Americans are scared because:
America has a gauzy, romanticized version of its history that is largely fiction. According to that mythology, America rose to greatness by sheer ruggedness, ingenuity and hard work.
The “American Dream” (the rags-to-riches version) is not real for most people and hasn’t been for a long time. According to Blow:
Much of America’s past is the story of white people benefiting from a system that white people designed and maintained, which increased their chances of success as it suppressed those same chances in other groups. Those systems persist to this day in some disturbing ways, but the current, vociferous naming and challenging of those systems, the placing of the lamp of truth near the seesaw of privilege and oppression, has provoked a profound sense of discomfort and even anger.
The American Dream has been replaced by the dream of being debt-free, which says a lot about our society: one of $1.2 trillion in student loan debt and around $800 billion in credit card debt. Both problems rich people don’t have to deal with very often.
The effects of this inequality are now coming home to roost for many Americans. Blow:
Indeed, the current urgency about inequality as an issue is really about how some white Americans are coming to live an experience that many minorities in this country have long lived — structural inequity has leapt the racial barrier — and that the legacy to which they fully assumed they were heirs is increasingly beyond their grasp.
The conservative side of this white anger is perfectly represented by the anti-political correctness that is sweeping through their ranks — especially Trump and his supporters. As I linked to a while back, being “anti-PC” is a guise to do one of two things: dismiss issues as frivolous in order to justify ignoring them (or) at worse, an attempt to silence the debate and concerns of marginalized people.