So I’m a Mexican American from a poor, rural (mostly white) town in Oklahoma. Missing from this debate? How poor whites see themselves.
If you’re wondering how poor, exploited white people could vote for a dude with a golden elevator who will fuck them over, here’s how.
They don’t see themselves as poor. They don’t base their identity on it. They see themselves as „temporarily embarrassed millionaires.“
The stigma against poverty is incredibly strong. It is shameful to be poor, to not have the comforts of the middle class. So they pretend—
That they aren’t poor. They are willing to lie to make it seem like they aren’t poor. They purchase things to make it seem like they’re not.
In my town, wealth wasn’t associated with greed, but with hard work and inherent goodness. You are blessed if you have material wealth.
When they see Trump, they don’t see an extortionist who is rich because of the very conditions that keep their own communities in poverty.
They see someone who worked hard and was justly rewarded with wealth. Most men, especially, think they too could be Trump were it not for
the unfair obstacles put in their way. White men who don’t consider themselves successful enough have so many excuses for their „failures.“
The idea that immigrants are the reason they are poor and not wealthy like Trump is so appealing. It takes all the shame and blame away.
And here we have a man who, they think, „tells it like it is“ and is willing to name the things stealing prosperity out of their hands.
If these people saw themselves as an exploited class of people, if American culture didn’t stigmatize poverty so much, it might be different
But America has so entangled wealth with goodness and poverty with moral deficiency that they can’t build that identity. They won’t.
Trump is rich, and so according to American criteria, he is also:
He *has* to be.
Capitalism and the American Dream teach that poverty is a temporary state that can be transcended with hard work and cleverness.
To fail to transcend poverty, and to admit you are poor, is to admit you are neither hardworking or clever. It’s cultural brainwashing.
So if an exploited class of people don’t want to admit they’re exploited and they blame themselves for their oppression, what manifests?
Xenophobia. Hatred of anyone who is „different,“ queer people, people of color. These people are eroding the „goodness“ of America.
And if they would just stop ruining America, then the perfect design of America could work again and deliver prosperity.
I’m telling you, as someone who has spent almost his entire life in this environment, that if you think cities are a „bubble…“ Good God.
But the reality is, of course, that these people are indeed exploited and they are victims, even while they victimize others. Victimize us.
Still, we need to understand the identity working class white people have built for themselves, one diametrically opposed to, well, reality.
Because Trump won’t make them rich. Even if he deports all the brown people. It won’t bring them what they’re hoping for.