FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It

Born and raised in Illinois, a resident of Arkansas, you would think Hillary Clinton would be more in touch with Middle America than New York City elite, Donald Trump or Brooklyn born, Vermont hippy Bernie Sanders. We’ve heard that we can’t trust Hillary Clinton because she’s too ambitious. She’ll do anything to win, no matter who she has to hurt. For many Middle Americans, there’s more to the story than that. It’s that those characteristics are associated with a specific type of person we went to high school with in our towns.

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania—a small town in Appalachia—not the middle of North America but Middle America is more than geography. It’s a way of life, a certain type and sense of community. In my town, there was the small business owner that everyone knew and liked. His name was on a restaurant and a convenience store. There were also the ones we worked for, who pissed us off sometimes because their kids got special treatment, but we still got along with them. We saw them all the time and they lived in our town, not high on some hill above us. Then, there were the people who did live on hills. Some of them were teachers. Yes, many public school teachers viewed themselves as elite and compared to us they were rich. There were doctors and lawyers who lived on “Snob Hill.” They were harder to trust. Outside of their offices, they didn’t associate with our parents and we didn’t associate with their kids. For many of us, HRC represents that upper crust of our towns whose family got to hang out at the country club while we worked in the supermarkets and fast food restaurants. Completely out of touch with the bread and butter issues we faced every day like putting food on the table, she was the rich kid in high school, who would use you for a vote, but look down on you when your back was turned. When we look at her, we see the kid who got to travel, wear nice clothes, and make fun of our torn up hand-me-down clothes. She was the kid who was on every page in the yearbook. She was in all the clubs and the teachers loved her.

In reality, Hillary went to an affluent public high school, but not one as divided by class as mine. She was a member of student council and the school newspaper, and of course recognized for her academic achievements. Like other presidential candidates, she didn’t have to watch her parents struggle or work to bring in extra cash for the family’s survival. But there’s something in the way Hillary talks about us that we don’t like. It’s different from the way that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump talk about us. When she talks about the middle class, we get a picture of those wealthy people in our small towns, who the rest of the world might look down on, but they are the very people looking down on the rest of us.

A lot of people I know in the Northeast say they are from Middle America or they grew up there, but which Middle America? Even if you were just “middle class,” you were probably a lot better off than many of us. Farmers were more middle class than my working class family, because they had land, big houses, and access to food. For a good chunk of my childhood, my father looked forward to hunting season so he could have enough meat to last through winter. Eating out at McDonalds was a special treat. My father would get angry when we got sick, because it was another doctor’s bill he had to pay. And I was always getting sick. Yet we were still better off than the poorer among us.

Many people in these towns don’t identify as middle class but are proud to be working class and they aren’t going to trust a politician who doesn’t speak passionately about the struggles they face every day. In an article on the poor people’s movement in Newark Jack Schuler quotes community activist Allen Schwartz who explains this clearly, “Most middle-class people are sealed off from working-class poverty and avoid seeing it firsthand.” Schwartz goes onto say, “The norm is people working with unstable schedules…People are treated as expendable, and then they begin to feel expendable.”[1] It’s the same reason we couldn’t trust Al Gore. He and Hillary are both too middle class. They don’t sound working class, but ironically, Donald Trump does. We believe him when he states of his father, “It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people. He was a guy most comfortable in the company of bricklayers, carpenters, and electricians and I have a lot of that in me also.” He can describe the work we do. If we quizzed him on the day to day details of working class labor, he’d probably know the answers. When does HRC even mention us? We’re not even on her radar. We know she doesn’t genuinely like us. She doesn’t have our backs. We can’t depend on her if we need help with food, the bills, or childcare. We’d never even ask her because we’re not in her clique.

If Hillary wants to win us over, she has to do something bold. She has to start talking about us like she understands what our lives are really like. She has to show us that she’s not like all the other spoiled, rich kids who make fun of us. Her latest decision, playing it safe with a Kaine VP, is not going to cut it for the people she just flies over and forgets.   There’s a dialogue in North Country that characterizes the problem working class Middle Americans have with Hillary. In it, Charlize Theron’s character, a woman trying to make ends meet by working in the coal mines, says to the lawyer dressed in her nice skirt and blazer, “Lady, you sit in your nice house, clean floors, your bottled water, your flowers on Valentine’s Day, and you think you’re tough? Wear my shoes. Tell me tough. Work a day in the pit, tell me tough.”

Maybe before Hillary speaks at the DNC, she should watch a little North Country or Norma Rae, grow some empathy, and start to inspire us. Maybe she’s afraid that if she really started to connect with us, we’d invite her down to the pit with us.

Angie Beeman is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at CUNY-Baruch College.

[1] Source: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36945-fighting-for-seats-at-the-table-a-poor-people-s-movement-in-a-rustbelt-town

More articles by:
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail