Election – White Working Class Still Misunderstood and Underestimated; Intelligentsia Learned Little From 2016; White Working Class Studies Needed
White Working Class Still Underestimated
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 4, 2020) - Although it's widely accepted that the intelligentsia - professors, pollsters, prognosticators, and politicians - grossly underestimated the discontent and political clout of the white working class (those without four-year degrees) in the 2016 presidential election, early returns showing President Trump doing far better than most had predicted suggest that the misunderstanding continues, argues public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
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In a widely reported controversial analysis of Trump's surprise win in 2016, Professor Banzhaf suggested that a new field - White Working Class [WWC] Studies - should be established, just as many if not most universities have studies, classes, and even professors of African American Studies, Hispanic Studies, LGBTQ studies, etc.
While WWC studies have begun to crop up at a small number of universities, and the discipline has produced some book and many articles, it appears that many with four-year degrees still do not really understand and appreciate the very strong feeling which would cause so many people to vote to give Trump a second term, despite the many obvious problems with his policies and his presidency.
In many cases the problem goes beyond merely a failure to understand, which has been called "class cluelessness," and becomes a "class callousness" of a kind likely to lead to the kind of resentment which put Trump in office in 2016, and is causing him to do much better in 2020 than most expected.
Such Studies Are Long Overdue
Law professor Joan C. Williams, like Banzhaf, suggests that such studies are long overdue, especially in light of the liberal elite's attitudes towards other groups: "During an era when wealthy white Americans have learned to sympathetically imagine the lives of the poor, people of color, and LGBTQ people ... the white working class has been insulted or ignored."
Banzhaf's studies have suggested how these strong feeling of being left out, or of being overlooked by many government programs designed to aid the poor and minorities, can lead to tragedies such as what happened in Charlottesville, and how a better understanding of the views and needs of the WWC could significantly boost the economy.
Fortunately, there has now been significant progress towards understanding this unique group, the only major one in the U.S. with a life expectancy which is declining rather than rising, in part because of what are now being called “diseases of despair” (suicide, alcoholic liver disease, and drug overdoses, including alcohol overdose) and the need for further study.
But much more still remains to be done; a point being driven home by the early returns in the presidential election, and by the warning in the Chronicle of Higher Education that "the Trump era may foreshadow a deep and enduring schism between those of who have a college credential and those who do not."
Indeed, the Chronicle suggested that resentment by WWC Americans has also helped lead to a dangerous and growing distrust of those with degrees and what they try to explain to others; thereby creating a growing distrust of science almost unprecedented in modern times.
Such as refusal to believe credentialed scientists can have catastrophic results if many people refuse to wear masks, decline to get a vaccine when one becomes available, and doubt that man-made climate change is occurring.