KINSELLA – The rise of the disaffected white working class

TORONTO, Ont. – The guests at the event at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, just down University Avenue from the barricaded U.S. Consulate, were buzzing. Not about Christy Clark’s extraordinary comeback win in B.C., so much, or the restive Ontario Liberal caucus.

About U.S. President Donald Trump, naturally. That’s all anyone talks about at political gatherings these days. Trump, Trump, Trump.

The latest: Trump had fired anyone securing evidence about the connections between Russia and his campaign – and then he and his cabal were insisting there was no evidence. He was clearly gutting the rule of law, by obstructing justice and covering up.

He was a clown show, a circus act, descending ever-downward into Hamlet-like madness. And those were just the nice things said about him this night.

In attendance: the dean of the prime ministers (John Turner), an admired former premier (Dalton McGuinty), several respected cabinet ministers, current and former (Sandra Pupatello, Bob Chiarelli, Jim Bradley), and one quite impressive mayor (Bonnie Crombie). And lots of political hacks, shaking their heads about Trump.

Beneath all the military decorations on the walls, beneath two Victoria Crosses – the highest award in the Commonwealth, awarded to men who (unlike the draft-dodging Trump) had shown gallantry in the face of the enemy, instead of coddling the enemy (like the Vladimir-Putin-loving Trump) – we had assembled to listen to McGuinty’s friend, Justin Gest.

The white working poor are traumatized by the loss of jobs, loss of control and the loss of how things used to be

Gest is an interesting fellow. Born and raised in Los Angeles inner city – by a Holocaust survivor and rural Georgian – Prof. Gest has gone on to be perhaps one of the leading experts in the United States on immigration and, lately, the white working class. And, notably, how the white working class came together to shatter the liberal democratic consensus, and make Brexit and Trump happen.

His new book is The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality. It is the product of hundreds of interviews with white working-class folks in post-industrial London, England, and Ohio, U.S. His resulting thesis: the white working poor are rational but also now radical. They have been traumatized by the loss of jobs, the loss of control and – most of all – the loss of how things used to be. “Nostalgia,” Gest told reporter Jane Taber. “They yearn for how things used to be.”

The white working class – who wanted Britain out of the European Union and wanted Trump in the White House – truly want to “Make America (or Britain) Great Again,” Gest says. Trump’s slogan wouldn’t have worked if it had been “Make America Great,” he says. The white working class want to go back to what they think once was.

Says Gest, as his decidedly non-white-working-class audience listens: “White working-class people were once largely in the centre of the political world. Their votes were coveted by both political parties and their voices seemed to matter. Now, they see themselves as politically alienated and, in some cases, vilified — and this is in a country they once defined.” He pauses. “It’s this sense of loss that motivates so much of their frustration and so much of the politics we’re seeing right now. They are consumed by nostalgia.”

And Trump panders to that. He offers a return to a shimmering, golden time where everyone had a job, children listened to their elders, and there was structure and order. It doesn’t matter that things were never truly like that, says Gest. The members of Trump’s white working-class army are simply satisfied that an outsider, like them. was able to run and win. To them, that’s enough.

Like this writer, Gest agrees that the pointy-headed elites won’t be saved by some Democratic Party St. George, riding a white steed – bearing articles of impeachment – and intent on slaying the twin-headed dragon of Trump and Putin.

What we need to do, instead, is make the white working class feel like they matter. To render them visible. Because they think they’re invisible.

Will we be able to do that? Will we ever be able to satisfy the raging, seething, resentful white working class?

Even Gest – and the coterie of a former prime minister, an ex-premier, some cabinet ministers and some political strategists – don’t know the answer.

But we’d better find it – and fast.

Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.

© 2017 Distributed by Troy Media

About Mel Rothenburger (7569 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on KINSELLA – The rise of the disaffected white working class

  1. Ken McClelland // May 17, 2017 at 8:29 PM // Reply

    In answer to the question “will we ever be able to satisfy the raging, seething, resentful white working class?” Certainly you will. Just don’t dismiss out-of-hand their work ethic and contributions to the modern society we all enjoy as worthless, irrelevant, and insignificant. I grew up in a white working-class family. My Dad worked for the telephone company, and Mom was a part-time clerk at Woodward’s. Remember them? Yes, that’s right, the working-man’s store. We were not wealthy, nor conceited, we just made our way, paid our way, and did not expect to be dismissed as a scourge on society simply because of the colour of our skin, our values, or the lack of a university education. On USA election night, the vote of non-college-educated whites was sneeringly tracked as of no matter, and even made fun of by some “news” (editorializing all the way) organizations. Guess what, it mattered. If the vote of any other socio-economic class had been tracked, it would have been branded as fill-in-pejorative-blank here. Donald Trump is unquestionably a poor choice as POTUS, but he appealed to enough people that had had enough of Kinsella’s brand of elitist condescension that he is now, for better or for worse, the leader of one of the most powerful nations on earth, and with his finger on “the button” as a bonus. Americans elected him at their peril, because they had already had a bellyful of political correctness, never mind Hillary Clinton. Let the chips fall where they may. Four years can be agonizingly long, hazardous to your health, or the blink of an eye, it just depends on your perspective.

    • -Donald Trump wakes up one night at two in the morning; he’s droggy; his hairnet is askew; he has just thought of a ‘good one’ for tomorrow for the “Ol Tweeter Beater.,’ as he likes to call it.

      Hitting the front screen, his phone comes on; he squints down closely and kinda whispers, “Dang, is this the ‘Tweeter’ or that one?” They -government shadow government- has made it easier for Donald: They’ve put ‘the Button’ right beside the Twitter Account button so he won’t have to search the other pages on his phone, in case of the need for quick access -failing the fact that he might wake up one night and need to… tweet.

      “No,” he says, “I think it’s this one…” -BELLS and WHISTLES start going off; two guys with glocks spill into the room; stand at attention and state commandingly out loud; forcefully and in unison: “We’ll Take You To The Command Room, sir, Mr. President.”

      Donald looks up at them surprised and raises one eyebrow: “So that’s what that other button is for…” The television comes on, across the room, and the tv blares, “A nation wide alert has been issued from the White House and the first of many tactical missiles have been fired; overnight we’ve intercepted transmission from N. Korea and are taking this pre-emptive first action, it may not lead America into any full scale….”

      Donald… continues to stare at the television -no facial expression. -He rubs one eye…. (Melania moves slightly, yet silently stays asleep on her side.)

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