Squeezed

An article in The Nation argues that Trump’s core constituents are the petit-bourgeoisie, the mostly white middle class of small business owners and managers. They seem so close to achieving the American Dream, yet it keeps slipping farther from reach. The source of their economic anxiety is not the poverty and joblessness of lower-income strata but the perceived unfairness of paying taxes so that their hard-earned dollars can be redistributed to the poor, whom they believe undeserving, while tax breaks are enjoyed by the rich, whom they seek to emulate.

They are not quite secure and not quite desperate, and that makes them dangerous: unlike the lower classes, they have just enough time, comfort, and precarious status to watch the news, talk politics with their friends, and vote. A campaign to win over these voters must acknowledge their plight, even if they seem less deserving than the more desperate, less privileged lower classes or the less bigoted and politically self-interested liberal professionals. They have nonetheless been squeezed, duped, exploited.

Their resentment is justified — but their understanding of why is flawed. They suffer under both the hierarchy oppressing the working classes and the delusion that they are on the verge of becoming upper class. The rhetoric of the 99 versus the 1% could perhaps break through this false consciousness.

 

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