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I don't have an opinion one way or the other on this but I know some here will.
Justin Gest is a professor of public policy at George Mason University and the author of The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality. A product of six months of fieldwork, mostly in Ohio, the book is a badly needed primer on Middle America’s political rebellion.
Gest’s thesis is that white working-class voters have been radicalized by a sense of loss. Suspended “between the vestiges” of their power “and its perceived loss,” poor whites are alienated from a system that previously advantaged them but now is seen as “overcompensating” for its historical missteps.
The ascendant nativism, on Gest’s account, is the result of lower-class whites seeing themselves as victims. If they’re angry at ethnic minorities, he claims, it’s not so much due to racism but rather to a belief, a perception, really, that those minorities are afforded social advantages at the expense of the white underclass. Gest doesn’t discount the role of racial animus in white working-class politics (it’s real and no doubt a factor), but he does contend that it’s only a part of the broader story.
I sat down with Gest earlier this week to talk about his new book and about the failures of both parties to productively engage white working-class voters.