Who looks down on who? One of the standing tropes used to explain Trump’s popularity among working class people is that they’ve had it with urban elites looking down on them. They demand respect and willingly give their support to him because he panders to their demand. His pandering appears authentic because he talks and struts like a burlesque imitation of a sit-com version of a working class man who has made it big. Just look at him shoving the elite around, talking trash about the powerful, and bulldozing his way through red tape, regulatory restrictions, and all the refined standards of behavior from which the elite look down on ordinary people.
It’s pandering because Trump has no affection for, and little understanding of what ordinary people go through in their daily lives. As long as his adoring crowds vote for him, they’re useful to him. Otherwise they’re of no use, disposable, every one of them. The burlesque of his behavior is not in imitation of Archie Bunker or Roseanne Conner. It’s who he really is. Ironically, he’s genuine phony, an authentic fake. He’s transparently dependable like no other president. He can be depended on to lie, cheat and betray in plain sight for everyone to see. It’s hard to know how he’ll go down in history, but he won’t be forgotten. It’s a rare thing to find a charlatan who proudly boasts of his charlantry able to rise to the presidency of a wealthy, democratic empirical power such as ours. But I digress.
There’s a long history of the working class bogeyman: the foppish urban elite who got their legacy diplomas from Harvard or Yale, and their money from grandpa. Books, movies, cartoons, and comedy routines are filled with them. Magazines hype their lifestyles. Tabloids exploit their celebrity foibles. The flood of holiday catalogues promises you too can wear what they wear. Do they really exist? Yes, in small numbers who often live isolated lives.
More often, those who have acquired a measure of wealth, success, and power have risen from the ranks. They’re deeply respectful of the value and talents of the working class because they’ve done the work, making life long friends along the way. They’re aware of the advantages they were born into, or came their way, and know that dumb luck played a role in the opportunities they made the best of. Greater in number are millions in the hard working middle class who will never be rich, but are committed to making life better in their communities and the nation. They too have nothing but respect for those who consider themselves working class.
What about the liberals in coastal cities who always vote contrary to the values of real heartland Americans? Cities are big, whether on the coast or inland. The millions who live in them are not elite. They’re working people struggling to make it through life. The greater number came from somewhere else, perhaps the very heart of the heartland. The values they vote for are for better education, more fair justice, decent health care, a cleaner environment, a more efficient infrastructure, and the like. Liberal or not, they’re the values of the heartland. They carry their prejudices with them, just like everyone else, but in a cosmopolitan mix of prejudices, it’s hard to impose one’s own on others. A mythical white middle class ethos drawn from the post war era has dominated urban and rural areas alike. It’s lost the domineering power it once had in big cities, but not without a fight still going on. Smaller cities and rural areas with fewer competing forces can hold on longer, but not forever. It’s not a new thing. It’s been going on since the mid 19th century.
So who looks down on who? The other day, a friend with a union job on the railroad posted a cartoon. One half was of a hard working hard hat, the other was of an impoverished fast food worker. The caption labeled the fast food worker as a graduate philosopher with no practical skills or value to society. It labeled the hard hat as the true backbone of America, and finished with a sarcastic stab at well educated, worthless people who look down on the working class. Who looks down on who?
What it tells me is that some who consider themselves in the working class also assign an inferior place for themselves on a social hierarchy that lives mostly in their imaginations. Their defense is to turn the tables, belittling those whom they consider elite in what ever way they can, to make themselves feel more worthy. It’s a worthiness already theirs, if they will accept it, widely recognized by those who do not consider themselves part of the working class. They are the ones believing themselves to be inferior to others. It’s time to lay it aside, taking pride without prejudice in the work they do.