In 2016 angry white people were in the news.
Why were they angry?
A November 2015 survey of 3,257 US adults conducted by Esquire and NBC produced the following bits of data: white people are more likely than black people to say their current financial situation isn’t what they thought it would be when they were younger, and they were also more likely to put that down to difficult circumstances rather than “wrong choices”.
When asked whether they ever hear or read anything on the news that makes them angry, white respondents were more likely than black ones to say they felt angry at least twice a day. There were gender differences too – men were more likely than women to say that they felt angry about the treatment of white men.”Esquire
In the 1960s, Southern whites were angry about integration and desegregation.
They hated John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson for using the power of the Federal Government to protect the civil rights and the safety of black students who wanted to enroll in school.
When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, angry white people decided the Federal Government was a ‘problem.’
The Government was too big, they said.
The Government had no respect for individual liberty (white privilege).
In 1969, GOP strategist Kevin Phillips wrote The Emerging Republican Majority.
Newsweek called The Emerging Republican Majority the political bible of the Nixon Administration.
“All the talk about Republicans making inroads into the Negro vote is persiflage. Even ‘Jake the Snake’ Senator Jacob Javits of New York only gets 20 percent. From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote, and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”
New York Times Magazine
In my research of Kevin Phillips and the Southern Strategy, I found image files at the New Yorker website of a 1971 Memo to H.R. Haldeman from Pat Buchanan. Pat Buchanan wrote ‘Dividing the Democrats‘ anonymously.
George Packer, a columnist at the New Yorker, describes how he got the memo:
“I wanted to hear tales of the Nixon years, and Buchanan—between writing his syndicated column and getting ready to drive to the studios of MSNBC for a televised political talk, which he called “bread and circuses”—was happy to oblige. After all, he’d been present at the creation of the themes and tactics that led to forty years of conservative domination of American politics, and he was proud of it. At one point, he mentioned a memo that he’d written for Nixon in 1971 under the heading “Dividing the Democrats.”
“It reminded me of how relatively gentle and civilized the supposedly vicious campaign of 2008 has been.“ George Packer
Journalist Dan Baum wrote in the April cover story of Harper’s about an interview with John Ehrlichman in 1994 while working on a book about drug prohibition.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Harpers
In 1980 angry white people elected Ronald Reagan.
They got their wish, and the government shrank.
Reagan cut funding for public education.
He closed community colleges.
He ended federal grants and scholarships to the poor.
He cut funding for community mental health programs.
They didn’t like Bill Clinton.
They didn’t like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
They didn’t like AmeriCorps and the idea of public service.
And they really didn’t like his uppity feminist wife who wanted to give universal health care to the undeserving (black people).
So they organized, and in 1995, they elected a GOP House that did everything it could to destroy Bill Clinton.
The ‘Gingrich Revolution’ also did everything it could to further destroy economic opportunities for the poor:
More cuts to education.
More cuts to community mental health.
More cuts to federal vocational programs.
Lifetime limits on access to welfare.
In 2000 angry white people fought recounts in Florida to prevent a Gore Presidency:
“As angry as conservatives have felt over the nearly three weeks since Election Day, a clear turning point in this remarkably twisting story line came Friday, when Joe Lieberman stepped up to liken GOP protesters in Miami-Dade County to a “mob” trying to “intimidate” vote counters. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) chimed in, saying the Miami-Dade rally had a “whiff of fascism.” Conservatives see these statements – along with other Democrats’ invoking of the Voting Rights Act – as efforts to silence protests against recount outrages.” The Brooks Brothers Riot
At last, angry white people thought they had a ‘Southern’ President to make sure that no part of the government would go to the undeserving (Black people).
But something went wrong.
An African-American, Barack Hussein Obama, became President in 2009.
He spoke of a nightmare scenario of healthcare for everyone, including the undeserving (Black people).
When the Affordable Care Act was passed and signed into law in 2010, angry white people got furious and formed an angry right-wing Tea Party Movement.
In 2014, with a combination of right-wing activism and liberal apathy, the Tea Party Movement helped elect a partisan hard-right House and Senate.
Angry white people had a racist House and Senate that was openly hostile to the first African-American President. They had Fox News to tell them the lies they wanted to hear, and they used the power of their local governments to make sure that no one in their states got anything they didn’t deserve, and the lives of angry white people got worse, not better.
They have less education, and their children are more likely
to grow up in poverty, sick, and malnourished.
Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote:
“…social collapse in the white working class is a deadly serious issue. Literally. Last fall, the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton attracted widespread attention with a paper showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans, which had been declining for generations, started rising again circa 2000. This rising death rate mainly reflected suicide, alcohol and overdoses of drugs, notably prescription opioids. (Marx declared that religion was the opium of the people. But in 21st-century America, it appears that opioids are the opium of the people.)
And other signs of social unraveling, from deteriorating health to growing isolation, are also on the rise among American whites. Something is going seriously wrong in the heartland.”
On Invincible Ignorance
In 2016 the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin launched a psychological attack on the United States and our 2016 Presidential elections.
Putin had a preferred candidate, and it wasn’t that uppity feminist, Hillary Clinton.
Putin’s preferred candidate won.
The nation’s angry white people finally have a president as white, and as dishonest, and as racist and angry as they are.
His lies have killed 200,000 thousand Americans.
He helps tyrants murder journalists and allows Vladimir Putin to place bounties on the lives of our soldiers.
He disparages members of our armed forces as dopes and losers.
He uses Russian propaganda to pervert the Constitution and subvert the rule of law.
He has destroyed the economy, alienated our allies, compromised our National Security, and brought the United States to its knees.
In 2016 Terrance Heath, a writer for the Huffington Post, compared America’s angry white people to two-year-olds:
“The behavior we’re seeing is basically the extreme of the Republican base kicking and screaming because they believe that if they throw a big enough tantrum, they can hold off change, turn back the transition period already begun, and keep things the way they are — or go back to the way they were.”
He suggested we pick them up and carry them forward with us:
“…we pick up the tantruming toddler under one arm — in such a way that he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else — and carry him forward with us. It doesn’t mean the tantrum ends right away.”
Terrance Heath The Tyranny of the Tantrum
But we have not carried our nation’s angry white people forward; they have dragged us backward and are driving us our graves.
It is 2020.
America’s angry white people are still angry.
And we are dying.
First published March 28, 2016-Revised and updated September 20, 2020
(c) Rob Goldstein 2016 – 2020 All Rights reserved
Header image by Rob Goldstein