Displaced white men are a newly discovered political group. As a demographic cohort, they are often credited with electing Donald Trump.
I am a white man, but not displaced, at least not currently. I’m not a Trump supporter.
Robert Putnam, in his book “Our Kids” convinced me of the idea that we have a split and polarized America based on class. The idea is that each of us prefers to associate with people like him or herself. I experience some truth in that idea. I get anxious when I am hanging out with people who’s incomes greatly exceed my own and I also avoid communities of lesser affluence. This phenomena of hanging with our own kind is called homophilly. It segregates us by class, race, religion and any other identities we may have.
A game called Parable of the Polygons showa in a very interesting and compelling way, just how little of a tendency toward homophilly we need to have in order to totally segregate our communities.
So, it comes to pass that I don’t have much contact with people we would call white blue collar with a high school or less education. I am the closest person I know to that classification of all the people I routinely hang out with. I have what is called “some college”. I work in a newsroom for a daily in a large metropolitan area. Everyone here is college educated. No one hangs out in blue collar circles. None of had the personal context to see Donald Trump’s sucess coming. I think that is why the media failed to see what was going on in the past election. America is fragmented and we could not see into other fragments.
Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian psychoanalyst who wrote “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” back in the day when Adolf Hitler came to power in Nazi Germany. He spoke about the displacement of young men in the cultural changes of that era and the economic crisis in Germany between World War I and World War II.
Adolf Hitler’s ideas to make Germany great again appealed to these people.
They wanted to take Germany back from the immigrants and ethnic minorities
that they thought were polluting the German character. Hitler was able to
galvanize these displaced men and turn their shame into anger.
Most displaced men view their poverty and immobility as a personal failing.
The experience is one of deep shame. They also become unmarriagable. In
America, we have some 40 million angry white men carrying the Trump banner.
In her book See Poverty, Be the Difference, Donna Beegle points out that that “Even if they verbally blame others, to try to save face, they keep internalizing the poverty.” I think that the shame is like the lid on a pressure cooker. It can blow up if we are not careful. We need to address displacement much better than we have. The safety net we string under the coal miner or factory worker actually keep all of us safe.