Love him or hate him, Trump has managed to bring the Republican elite’s seething contempt for the working class to the surface. Back in March, Kevin D. Williamson at National Review wrote that white working class communities deserve to die:
If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy—which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog—you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that…The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible…
Trump’s focus has been on the elite’s policy of driving down the wages of the working class through lopsided trade deals and flooding our economy with cheap foreign labor. Williamson ironically disregards the economic crisis faced by the working class by accurately noting that our elites have done even more damage by creating a new family model that only works for the upper middle class.
The callousness on display here is breathtaking, yet it is commonplace amongst Republican elites. Much of the contempt for Trump stems from the contempt the elite have for the segment of society that he is reaching out to, a segment the Republican elites have done their best to ignore for decades. This shines through even when members of the elite try to learn from Trump’s example.
Yesterday John Daniel Davidson placed this contempt on full display in his Federalist article Like Trump, Right Should Speak To America’s Forgotten Fishtowns. Unlike Williamson, Davidson argues that we can’t just expect these undesirables to die.
And sure, maybe they’re a nasty bunch of old drunks, like the rural white folks we meet in J.D. Vance’s gripping new memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” who can’t seem to get out of their own way long enough to get ahead. But they’re here nonetheless, in our towns and cities, and they’ve been stirred up by Trump…
But even when arguing that conservatives should change course and reach out to this forgotten group, Davidson wears his contempt for the working class on his sleeve (emphasis mine):
If conservatives want a political future, if they want to take back the GOP and lead the country, they’ll need to figure out a way to speak to these people. They will need to persuade them that their best chance for a better life doesn’t rest with the empty promises of a demagogue like Trump—or with Hillary Clinton and the tired old liberal policies that Democrats have imposed on our cities for generations.They will have to go to the Fishtowns of America, to the forgotten and shuttered places, and by word and deed show the people there, however backward they might be, that they can rebuild their lives and their communities, and that they aren’t alone anymore.
This attempt by the Republican elites to minimize the plight of the white working class is not only foolish politically, but is also built on moral quicksand. It is true that the dysfunction we observe typically involves poor choices by all involved. But it is also true that these same elites have reworked marriage to a model that only works for the elite. After gutting marriage, our elites strut around thumping their chests bragging about their ability to make this new corrupt family model work in their own lives. If those poor slobs who work with their hands were more like the elite, moving from a marriage based family structure to a child support based system would work for them too.
Since the only legally meaningful part of our new marriage model is the wedding, our elites could sum up their advice to the working class with a handy slogan:
Let them eat wedding cake.