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IPFS News Link • Books

The Real Book About the "White Working Class"

•, By Matt Taibbi

In late February a new book by journalist Paul Waldman and University of Maryland professor Thomas Schaller called White Rural Rage hit the bookshelves. The book was a compendium of Hee Haw! caricatures of hayseed America mixed with a blunt diagnosis: rural Americans are disproportionately racist, conspiratorial, authoritarian, and supportive of political violence, key culprits in the rise of Donald Trump. "Rural Americans," Waldman and Waller wrote, "are overrepresented among those with insurrectionist tendencies."

Media response was instantaneous and ecstatic. Morning Joe hyped White Rural Rage as if it were a cross of What Happened and The Grapes of Wrath; Mika Brzezinski sat rapt as Schaller described rural voters as "the most racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-gay geo-demographic group in the country." Echoing one of the book's constant refrains, Paul Krugman at the New York Times wrote about "The Mystery of Rural White Rage," complaining about the illogic of rural white disdain for Democrats, while Salon's Amanda Marcotte after reading it felt emboldened to take off the "kid gloves" and pop rural America's "racist, sexist, homophobic bubble."

I was grumbling about this book when author

Chris Hedges

connected me with

Les Leopold

, director of the Labor Institute, who'd just written an opposite sort of book called Wall Street's War on Workerswhich turns out to be a thorough deconstruction of most of White Rural Rage:

Leopold has spent much of his career agitating for union causes. and though he's persistently criticized the Democratic Party, it's because he's chiding them for too often advancing interests of wealthy donors over workers, which he sees both as a moral problem and bad electoral strategyWall Street's War on Workers goes further, however, penetrating one of the chief media deceptions of the 21st century, namely that working-class voters are driven by racism and xenophobia, and not by a more simple, enraging motive: they've been repeatedly ripped off, by the wealthy donors to both parties.