Tuesday, January 12, 2021


Welcome, blog reader, on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. The national political crisis is worsening by the hour. The President of the United States, who incited a mob to overthrow the constitutional government, has refused to resign. The Vice President has refused to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. The House is Representatives is set to pass tomorrow an article of Impeachment asking the Senate to remove President Trump from office because of the "high crime and misdemeanor" of incitement of insurrection against the United States of America. The Republican majority leader in the Senate is refusing to reconvene the Senate until the last whole day of Trump's term thereby removing any possibility President Trump can be removed from office. The Republican party continues to protect a president who is a clear and present danger to the nation. This is more than a national shame and disgrace, it is one of the two major political parties being complicit in the crime against America. The Republican party will be forever stained by this treachery against our constitutional democracy. My guess of why Republicans are doing this is that after all that has happened, they are still bullied by Trump and afraid of his "base" on election day.

Who were the people in the mob last Wednesday who carried out a violent assault on the Capitol? We know they were almost all white, and included affluent as well as middle class people. However, the bulk of the mob was "The Angry White Working Class Man." On Nov. 1, 2018, on the eve of the mid-term elections, I posted a piece discussing this subject in an effort to understand why TAWWCM is angry and willing to fight for this demagogue. I think it may be enlightening to reexamine this question in light of last week's attempted coup which was driven primarily by white working class people. 

Donald Trump may be a sociopath but he is no fool. He understood innately how to gain power. It worked. He combined economic conservatives and cultural conservatives to rise up against the great democratic movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the traditional Republican core, big money (Wall Street, corporations, the very wealthy) and white working men, white evangelicals, and white southerners. The great recipients of this coalition were the very rich. He gave them a huge tax reduction that led to a colossal transfer of wealth to the top 1%. This shifted the tax burden down to lower classes. To the cultural conservatives he threw bones such as "the wall" which is a charade. In fact, he led white lower class people to act against their own self interest in order to pour more money into the pockets of the very wealthy. Yet, they still do not get it. This is what I cannot understand. So many Republicans are still defending the pretend wizard who has been revealed behind the curtain. I have relatives and friends who are still defending Trump. I will keep talking with them to try to understand their thinking. 

Meanwhile, I am re-posting my Nov. 1, 2018 article on the white working class man. Perhaps it will help us get a little clearer picture of why the mob acted as it did last Wednesday. 

Originally posted on Nov. 1, 2018:    


Why is The Angry White Working Class Man (TAWWCM) angry? This is a question I have been asking myself a long time now. After research and thought, I will share with you my view of this, for what it is worth:

America is now engaged in a great culture war. The war has been going on for several decades and is getting ever more violent. Generally speaking, one side of the war wants to expand democratic rights of equality and inclusion in society while the other side wants to roll back rights. After the Second World War, America went through its Great Democratic Revolution in which the nation extended power to social elements that had long been kept out of power, particularly African Americans, women, the old, the poor, the disabled, homosexuals, and transgendered. In the life cycle of great political revolutions of modern history, this is called the "radical" phase of revolution. The radical phase always produces a backlash from people who oppose the reforms for one reason or another. The period of backlash is called the "reactionary" phase because the opponents are reacting negatively against the changes. We are now in the reactionary phase of the Great Democratic Revolution. Eventually, the life-cycle ends in a sort of settlement between the radicals and the reactionaries that brings an end to the revolution.

The schism of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is part of the culture war. The diocesan leaders objected to the Church's reforms enacting equality for and inclusion particularly for gays but also for women and transgendered. When TEC adopted the blessing of same-sex unions in 2012, the DSC leadership declared the independence of the diocese from TEC. Later, they joined the Anglican Church in North America, a new denomination explicitly set up to institutionalize male power.

What brings up the culture war anew is the impending national election, The vote on Tuesday, November 6, will be very much defined by the culture war.

The pro, or "radical," side of this war is readily apparent. They are the people who most benefited from the reforms, particularly African Americans, women, and gays. But, who are the people on the other side? Who are the "antis," or "reactionaries"? They are the people most opposed to the democratic reforms. The core of this group is TAWWCM.

This leads us back to the original question. Why is he angry? For an answer, we have to go back into history. We have to consider the traditional understanding of masculinity in American culture. Society had a definite concept of masculinity from the start to about 1960. The masculine man was to be strong, confident, assertive, fearless, and dominant. This is now what we commonly call the Alpha Male. The historic American man endured danger to get to America, tamed the wild wilderness, fought wars heroically, particularly the Civil War, conquered the west, subdued the "savage" Indians, and built the railroads. By the early 1900s, he was personified by Teddy Roosevelt, the quintessential rugged individualist. In the First World War, he was the Doughboy who punched out Kaiser Bill. The Great Depression of the 1930s threw him back on his heels but not for long. He was soon called to his greatest challenge ever, fighting two wars at the same time against powerful enemies. World War II brought to the height the traditional view of masculinity, the popular imagination perhaps best represented by John Wayne.

As a reward for this great display of masculinity, the U.S. government rewarded him with the G.I. Bill in 1944 (find here ). This allowed millions of returning veterans to go to college and to start businesses. This was one of the greatest and most consequential laws ever adopted in the U.S. Thus, from 1945 to 1960, the American man, with his traditional understanding of masculinity, enjoyed a golden age. By this point, the Man believed he had a definite role to play, and this was the way society was supposed to be. In popular culture, masculinity was defined by the likes of "Father Knows Best" on TV and the numerous cowboy heroes at the movies. Davy Crockett, the essential frontiersman, was all the rage.

As  much as the white working class man wanted this world to last, it was not to be. In fact, sweeping societal changes affecting the races began to appear soon after WWII: integration of the army, integration of the schools, civil rights and voting rights acts in the 1960s. These led to the incorporation of blacks into public life, such as good jobs. Societal norms for women changed dramatically. In 1960 they got "the pill," In 1973 they got Roe v. Wade. These gave women control over their own bodies for the first time in history. Men lost "control" over women. As for gays, society gradually extended rights and inclusion to them. This was capped by legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. Society gradually removed moral judgment from homosexual activity.

While men's traditional understanding of masculinity was under assault all around by societal changes, it was also being threatened by economic developments. White working class men depended on good-paying manufacturing jobs. In 1947, one in three workers had a substantial manufacturing job with which they could support a family well. Today, only one in eight has such a job (see here ). In the half-century after WWII, the American economy trended from manufacturing to service. The manufacturing work that did remain increasingly went to robots. Thus, the working man was gradually displaced from economic security. Traditional masculinity required a man to provide well for his family. Added to this was a rising fear that immigrants were flooding into the country to take good jobs away from working class whites.

Thus, two uncontrollable factors collided at once to challenge the traditional societal understanding of masculinity, equality of social elements long under his "control," and the disappearance of his economic security. At the same time, a third factor entered, the military defeat in the Vietnam War. Traditional masculinity required mastery of the enemy. Unable to control the enemy, the U.S. simply left Vietnam to its own fate, the first such case in American history. This was another crushing blow to the old understanding of masculinity in America. 

By the 1970s, things had changed drastically for the American working class man. He had lost control over social elements, lost good manufacturing jobs, and lost a war. This was a crushing, even devastating blow to his understanding of  his masculinity, what it meant to be a man in American life. He became disoriented, frightened, even desperate. Many men wanted to lash out against their real or perceived enemies. This was what real men did. When confronted by challenges they responded with force and dominance. They fought back. In America, this meant guns. America is a land of guns, a romanticization of the rugged individualist and the wild west. Unwelcomed change, fear, and guns created a toxic stew of danger ahead.

In the 1970s, popular culture began to reflect the plight of the angry white working class man. The morality plays of the cowboy movies and TV programs common in the 1940s and 1950s gave way to white man rage films. The loner takes to violence to right what he sees as wrong. The movie "Dirty Harry" (1971) started this genre. "Walking Tall" (1973) accelerated it. (see here )

So, the anger of the working class white man goes back at least to the 1970s. By then, American society no longer defined masculinity as the Teddy Roosevelt, or John Wayne-type. Society now expected these once-dominant men to share power with blacks, women, and gays. The old dominator was supposed to become the new cooperator. Many white men did not take the changes in societal expectations lightly. Some responded by retreating to what they knew, the role of the forceful dominator. As self-perceived victims, they sought revenge.

As a political factor, the revenge of TAWWCM began to boil up in the 1990s but in that decade it was largely papered over by the prosperity of the times. The macho conduct of the Iraq War (2003-11) brought back momentarily a bit of the old masculinity. Then, a man of African heritage was elected president, twice, a woman was nominated for president, and Donald Trump entered the scene.

To TAWWCM, Trump was the personification of the old masculinity: aggressive, relentless, unyielding, destructive, dominant, and, most of all, anxious to attack all of the Man's perceived enemies. Trump ruthlessly delivered personalized destruction to a large field of opponents. TAWWCM loved it and quickly became devoted to him as a savior figure. It was not what he said so much as how he said it. They knew he lied or exaggerated a lot. But they did not care. They had found their Alpha Male. Through him, they could restore their own lost masculinity.

Actually, the Trump phenomenon was a combination of three forces: Trump, TAWWCM, and the very rich. Trump has no driving political philosophy. Apparently he is in it to enhance his businesses. The Man wants restoration. The very rich want favors for Wall Street, big banks, the corporate world and the super wealthy. Interesting to note that the only significant law passed in Trump's first two years was a massive tax cut for the very wealthy and big corporations. Of course, that means the national tax burden will shift down to middle and working classes. But, TAWWCM does not see that. He sees only his hero in the culture war. So, Trump has formed a coalition of self, white men in the culture war, and the very rich. He rode this coalition to victory in 2016. He believes it is is recipe for success in 2018 and in 2020. While he plays almost entirely to his "base" of TAWWCM, his ties to the super rich remain almost hidden. It is fair to suspect that Trump is only using the working white man to achieve what he rally wants which is more wealth.

Trump has mainlined, if not normalized, language of demonization and violence. Cases of actual physical violence against minorities have escalated in the last two years. Just in the last week, three angry white middle-aged working class men were charged with killing two blacks at random, sending at least fourteen bombs in the mail to Trump's opponents, and murdering eleven Jews in their own synagogue. These are examples of the culture war, but it is important to note that this is a one-sided war. It is the anti-democratic side that is attacking the pro-democratic side. The charge that this war is coming from both sides, or is the fault of both sides, is flatly untrue. 

Trump has declared that the upcoming election is a referendum on him. He thinks his base will turn out in droves to validate him. He is doing everything he can to energize them. He has made immigrants the target of white anger. We will see next Tuesday what the votes really think about Trump and just how extensive his support is.

Now, back to the schism in South Carolina. The discussion above helps us understand what happened and why. The understanding of masculinity was fundamental to the break. The schism occurred after two big events involving this issue, normalization of church life for non-celibate gays, and authority for women. The first moves of schism occurred after the Episcopal Church adopted the ordination of women. Of the five dioceses that voted to leave the Church, three had refused to ordain women to the priesthood. The dioceses voted to leave after a woman was elected presiding bishop. With its opposition to power for women, gays, and transgendered, DSC's schism from TEC can be interpreted as an attempt to restore the traditional understanding of masculinity: male domination. It is interesting to note that while DSC made a major point of denouncing homosexuality and transgender, it showed little interest in adultery, divorce, and remarriage. The man's ability to control all these things would be crucial to the restoration of old masculinity. The dominant man must be free to divorce and remarry. DSC has never allowed a woman to exercise any office of authority (not even to be a rector of any large parish). Its new parent, the ACNA does not allow women to be bishops. DSC and ACNA believe they have restored traditional masculinity.

Now we have a better understanding of why TAWWCM is angry. He is lashing out at the world in which he has lost control. He wants to restore "the good old days." He does not realize that he really has lost control and he cannot regain it. However, he can, and is, doing harm to those he blames for his losses. Unfortunately for all of us, we have a president who is actively stoking social anger and resentment. No one wants to think about it, but under the wrong circumstances, this situation could develop into a civil war. If the violence continues to escalate, that would be the logical outcome of this crisis. That is why I say we are in a national emergency. That is why we must all go to the polls next week and vote. This is still our country; and we should not allow it to slip into violent disintegration again. We did that once and the results were cataclysmic. We must not allow that again.

There are several books to be recommended for further reading:

Susan Faludi, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Harper Collina, 1999. According to the blurb on Amazon, "The common theme that runs through the book is that men have attempted to live up to the expectations of masculinity established in post-World War II America, only to find society not living up to its end of the bargain as globalization, downsizing and other economic pressures have made it difficult for men to live up to their expected roles as providers...Ordinary men are losing self-esteem and a sense of purpose."

Michael Kimmel, Angry White Men. Nation Books, 2013. Amazon: "Many white men, as members of a historically dominant group in America, have reacrted to increases in social inequality and the loss of economic advantage with overt anger and rage...including domestic violence, shootings, involvement in white supremacist groups, an the men's rights and fathers' rights movements."

Wayne Allen Root, Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon is Changing America---and What We Can All Do to Save the Middle Class. 2016. Amazon: "Root makes his case why he and his brethren have every right to be angry. Millions of angry white males are not on the attack but rather responding in self-defense." While the books above are critical, this is defensive. It is endorsed by Trump, Ann Coulter, and Mike Huckabee.

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