Class biases prevent the left from being effective

deer hunting with Jesus

A while back I reviewed Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting with Jesus. He emailed me, saying I was one of the few reviewers who got what he was saying, that the book wasn’t just about those colorful rednecks, but was about how the Democratic Party et al stopped caring about rednecks and poor whites, and ceded them to the Republicans. Unfortunately, not much has changed since.

An Asian college student emails Bageant saying his parent’s are working themselves to death to keep him in college, and wonders, should he go for the money jobs or get involved with progressive causes. But –

And even if I did throw away my thirty pieces and side with the “progressives” or whatever the fuck they call themselves on campus, they just don’t get it. They’re caught up in disdaining Caesar’s mutt people and celebrating diversity and race and specialness and all the little balkanizations. They’re Queer, Fluid, Pinoy, Chican@, Afrikan, not laboristas! Well, some of them are. But they don’t get the point that white labor is labor, too. Everything’s got to be oppressed in some special way before it can join the club.

Worse, they tend to be contemptuous of poor whites. They’d never call a poor latino a ‘beaner’ but have no problem calling poor white southerners ‘white trash.’ Yet in the same breath they claim some mystical solidarity with that same working class. Most illogical. And self-defeating.

Bageant on the white underclass

These uneducated rural whites became the foundation of our permanent white underclass. Their children and grandchildren have added to the numbers of this underclass, probably in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 million people now. They outnumber all other poor and working poor groups, black, Hispanics, immigrants.

The right happily and cheerfully organizes poor whites. They’ve been doing so for decades. And they don’t insult them either. Liberals and progressives need to toss out their unfortunate class biases and do the same.


  1. Where I grew up in NH, we had no minorities (zero) for one simple reason: we had no jobs. I was about 11 when the first black family moved into our (7-town) school district. It set off an uproar among parents, who only knew about blacks what they’d seen on TV. He was an engineer for the government and she was a dance teacher, so gangs and white flight did not accompany them.

    Things have changed a bit now, with Nashua exploding into a huge job generator a few years back, and the interstates making it possible to commute to Boston for work. Also the Powers That Be like Manchester as a place to resettle refugees from all over the world. So it’s more mixed now than it was 40 years ago, but there’s still only 83,000 non-whites in a state population of 1.3 million. There’s also no social services and no income tax. You want something, you go get it. Or you move to Massachusetts, our arch-rival.

    You need help in NH, look to your neighbor (and he or she will to you). That doesn’t mean you have to like your neighbor, but you sure as hell have to maintain a relationship. We DO have socialized liquor stores, which fund education, but on the whole the land of my birth supports neither big-spending Dems nor big-spending GOPs. Their version of conservatism goes back a few generations. It’s more libertarian than neo-con.

    Utah is demographically similar: population 2.7 million, 95% white. Here, the state DOES have an income tax, and it does provide more social services– but many social services are provided by the Church (62% are members). But there’s a great mistrust of the Fed (which once sent an army into Utah to put down a supposed rebellion), and a desire to be left alone. Many Utahns keep a year’s worth of food in storage for emergencies, something the Church has promoted for generations.

    I read DHWJ, and I concur wholeheartedly. Bit look a little farther, and you’ll find that it’s not just white labor that’s been overlooked– it’s the whole non-urban nation, which comprises half the U.S. population. While Dems were focused on the cities, GOP was busily appealing to the rural. Now they’re entrenched– and Dems don’t even want to talk to us anymore, much less win us back. (Unless they can win us back without talking to us, which often seems to be their agenda.)

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