8/6/18 (date accessed)
Why do white blue color workers in Pennsylvania support Trump?Breaking News
tags: election 2016, Pennsylvania, Trump
Here's what a historian found when she began interviewing them.
A recent article in The New York Times challenges the idea that economic fears explain the large number of votes for Trump—across the country, and in places like Westmoreland County.13 Instead, it argues, Trump voters feared losing their social status. My interviews with Republicans in Westmoreland County both confirm and complicate this perspective. Rather than differentiating between the two, they reveal the close correlation between people’s perceived sense of economic and social standing.
Many Republicans transmuted their dread of what the Obama government programs would mean for the United States into a visceral horror of those groups they believed would benefit from and be empowered by these policies. Fear of the threatening “Other” permeates these Republicans’ political and emotional imaginations, as demonstrated by the questions the local Tea Party put to candidates seeking its support. For many Republicans in Westmoreland County, the frightful Other comes in the form of people of color: Black people, non-White immigrants, and Muslims, despite the fact, or perhaps precisely because, Westmoreland County is overwhelmingly White. Many Republicans in the county not only want to keep it that way, they want their region to serve as a model for the entire country.
A story Karen Kiefer told me exemplifies the perceived interrelation between status and economics. Kiefer recounted how, one day, several Latino men were working in her yard when she took them sandwiches and water. To her aggravation, they didn’t seem to know enough English to thank her. When she subsequently heard that her neighbor’s daughter had applied to the same landscaping company the men worked for but did not get the job, Kiefer said she felt so mad she vowed to go right down to the border and help build that wall. (Later, reflecting on her lack of construction skills, Kiefer said she decided she would make sandwiches for the wall builders instead.)14
For Keifer, these Latino men had no right to be in the United States. Their failure to speak English or follow what she considered proper codes of behavior violated her definition of who belongs in this country and who does not. She was outraged because their very presence defiled her sense of what the United States is and should remain: a White nation inhabited by people who know the correct way to behave. In addition, she viewed these workers as threats to her neighbor’s daughter’s economic wellbeing, and, by extension, that of other deserving White people. Needless to say, it is unlikely that the neighbor’s daughter, like so many others who complain about immigrants taking their jobs, would accept the conditions or pay the men working in Kiefer’s yard did.
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