Some conservative pundits, upon seeing working-class and poor white people voting for Trump and cheering him on, have formed a theory to explain it: poor people are pond scum.
"The economic changes of the past few decades do very little explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America," according to National Review
’s Kevin Williamson
. "The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good." Dying working-class communities deserve to die because "morally, they're indefensible."
After Williamson took some flak for that, National Review
's David French backed up his colleague, asserting that the poor "aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they're barely trying."
If Williamson and French are seriously arguing that "the white American underclass" is somehow uniquely making horrible political choices, I would suggest they remove the beam from their own eye first. Sure, Trump's a horror, but he's within the Republican mainstream in a lot of ways. And other politicians with similarly repellent views get resounding cheers from educated conservatives like the National Review
Take Trump supporters' enthusiasm for an authoritarian leader. It's shocking, but not that far removed from the enthusiastic support for George W. Bush a few years back. You know, the president who claimed the legal authority to lock up anyone he declared was an enemy combatant, without trial, due process or habeas corpus. NR staffers were big supporters, even after it turned out a majority of the prisoners Bush had locked up in Guantanamo were innocent. Even when White House lawyer John Yoo declared that the president had the Constitutional and legal right to do anything he thought necessary (including torturing a terrorist's child to get information), lots of right-wingers were cool with that.
And that brings up another resemblance: Trump's pro-torture
, but so were most of the Republican establishment during Bush's tenure (there were exceptions, such as John McCain), including NR's Andrew McCarthy.
Bigoted? Trump's not unique there, either. "Keep out the Mexicans" has been a rallying point for the right-wing for at least 20 years now. Anti-Muslim? Marco Rubio tried to be even harsher than Trump
and now Cruz has topped them both, calling for the government to patrol and secure
Muslim neighborhoods even if there's no evidence of a threat. And of course there are plenty of right-wing pundits (and SF author Orson Scott Card) who've accused Obama of deliberately whipping up black-on-white
Trump's an idiot? Again, see Bush. The Iraq war was ineptly run, cost tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars — and it wasn't even against anyone we needed to fight. Yet plenty of conservatives cheered that one on. So if the "underclass" supports Trump because it has a "vicious, selfish culture" it would seem that a lot of educated, middle and upper-class Republicans share in it.
But there's an established right-wing tradition of condemning the poor so I imagine that's fueling Williamson's rage. The poor don't pay enough taxes
. They don't suffer enough
. They have too much sex. They're not moral like rich people. And now the cretins won't even vote the way they're betters tell them to!
On top of that, there’s Trump himself. I don't believe for a minute NR is offended by Trump's positions (except stuff like raising Social Security income) but unlike Bush — Yale man, son of a president — Trump is a genuine political outsider. And no political insider really wants an outsider to come in and shake things up. They have too much to lose.
And Trump is brash. Loud. In your face. According to Jeb Bush, he's bringing vulgarity
to the presidential race. I think that matters a lot. Many conservatives have shown they're fine with authoritarians — but they want the bigotry, war-mongering and bullying carried out with elegance and understated good taste.