No, I haven’t read it yet, but the interviews with the author (and now, this essay) touch on some very important points that are overlooked in the usual high level mentions of the book.
Carson Holloway writes:
Vance’s memoir lends some support to this explanation, but it also points to its incompleteness. From him we learn that his hillbilly ancestors moved into Ohio to work in industry, only to find later on that the jobs that lifted them into the middle class were disappearing. He also reports, however, that these communities now offer other jobs—jobs that sometimes go unfilled because members of his generation lack the responsibility and drive to be useful, successful employees. Some joblessness results from forces beyond the individual’s control, but some of it, Vance suggests, comes from a learned helplessness that he unlearned by joining the Marines, and that he wishes others could unlearn as well.
At the same time, however, we also see that religion is not a social cure-all. After all, most of Vance’s fellow hillbillies—even the most disorderly of them—are professed Christians. If you have ever wondered why some very religious, conservative parts of the country nevertheless have high levels of social disorder—in the form of, say, drug use and domestic violence—Vance provides a kind of answer. These are places where a lot of people lie to social scientists about going to church. In such places, it seems, religion is a socially respectable idea to which almost everybody pays homage. But it does not, for many people, function as a vital force in their souls that can help them to live well.
The first point especially is extremely relevant:
Trump promises a return of manufacturing jobs. This clearly appeals to his rally audiences, and those outside the stadiums.
BUT, as I am getting sick of saying:
If his plan succeeds, we will be faced with millions of people bitching about how much they hate these jobs once they get them.
Again: I grew up in a factory town. I know this.
Secondly, and more importantly, a lot of these “forgotten people” are just stupid, lazy or both.
See “I grew up in a factory town,” above.
Like the draggers (even some so-called “conservatives) who are now moaning “I was promised/paid into my Social Security” or whatever “and goddammit, I’m gonna get it” who are contributing to the off-putting of necessary entitlement reforms, many of these unemployed whites have been told for decades that the factories were closing — although only the most blunt told them it was because their unions priced them out of jobs — and they chose to do nothing about it.
They felt they were “entitled” to work in Factory X because their father did, which is a patently stupid way to think.
So it is hard for me to feel as sorry for a lot of these people as Trump clearly does.
I now make more money than my mother and father (and grandparents) combined because I looked around at what they and other people around me were doing and I DID THE OPPOSITE.
(See also my “Yes, If You’re Poor, It Really May Be Your Fault.”)
It’s not easy, but it IS simple.
Anyhow, be careful what you wish and cheer for, Americans, because the return of manufacturing jobs will almost certainly bring with it the return of Big Labour, just as unions were finally losing their century-long grip on society.
RELATED, via Mother Jones:
And from this vantage point, the lives of renters in her trailer park, called Crestwood Community, had both appalled and unnerved her. Some of her tenants, 80 percent of whom were white, had matter-of-factly admitted to lying to get Medicaid and food stamps. When she’d asked a boy her son’s age about his plans for the future, he answered, “I’m just going to get a [disability] check, like my mama.” Many renters had been, she told me, able-bodied, idle, and on disability. One young man had claimed to have seizures. “If you have seizures, that’s almost a surefire way to get disability without proving an ailment,” she said. A lot of Crestwood Community residents supposedly had seizures, she added. “Seizures? Really?” (…)
Still, it was a difficult thing to reconcile. How wary should a little-bit-higher-up-the-ladder white person now feel about applying for the same benefits that the little-bit-lower-down-the-ladder people had? Shaming the “takers” below had been a precious mark of higher status. What if, as a vulnerable blue-collar white worker, one were now to become a “taker” oneself? (…)
In this feint, Trump solves a white male problem of pride. Benefits? If you need them, okay. He masculinizes it. You can be “high energy” macho — and yet may need to apply for a government benefit. (…)
But in another stroke, Trump adds a key proviso: restrict government help to real Americans. White men are counted in, but undocumented Mexicans and Muslims and Syrian refugees are out. Thus, Trump offers the blue-collar white men relief from a taker’s shame: If you make America great again, how can you not be proud? Trump has put on his blue-collar cap, pumped his fist in the air, and left mainstream Republicans helpless. Not only does he speak to the white working class’ grievances; as they see it, he has finally stopped their story from being politically suppressed. We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.