Giving credence to the message of poor white otherness and woe is me in Hillbilly Elegy is disingenuous at its core. Liberals don’t need J.D. Vance to tell them that there is a huge contingent in the modern world whose needs are not being met by today’s society, our economy, and our political leaders.
A year ago the staff here didn’t see disenfranchised white working class voters as a homogenous group who would vote as such. We’ve woken to this over the last year or so and said many times that we will have to find a way to address their needs. We didn’t and still don’t think these solutions are vastly different than those needed for other poor demographic groups, they just need to be open and inclusive of this group.
The new post election narrative wants us to believe that liberals didn’t see this group at all. That’s just not true. We just didn’t see their needs as being fundamentally different from other poor and working class voters. The root of liberal politics IS the disenfranchised working class and economically disadvantaged voter. The only thing new this year is that the white part of this group now says ‘we are significant, we are needy,’ and it’s seems like they are saying ‘we are separate’.
The failing of liberals this year was not seeing the poor white unhappies as distinct and separate from the other poor unhappies. The failing of the poor white unhappies and the poor minority unhappies is not seeing themselves, their needs, and their solutions as one and the same.
Drumpf won’t fix things for the poor white unhappies and most likely will try to make things worse for the poor minority unhappies. Unless these groups find a path of unity and work together on their common needs, things just won’t get better for them. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. Poverty doesn’t care what your skin color is and where you come from. It treats everyone in an equally despicable manner.
We have been saying we have to address their needs since we became aware of this seemingly distinct group of white working class unhappies. The staff admits that we were saying it from the perspective of ‘when we win this election’, but we still don’t think this group’s needs are significantly different than those of the minority unhappies.
The right solutions to alleviate poverty aren’t specifically racially different. No amount of conflating the existence of a disenfranchised voting block with the need for different solutions will solve the inequality issue.