The White Working Class: Everyone’s an Expert

I have learned a lot since the election.

For instance, I was never aware that so many privileged people I know, who have only lived in big cities, are actually experts on the rural white working class. I guess you put on a flannel shirt and drink one Pabst Blue Ribbon in a Brooklyn bar and you are down with the plight of the rust belt.

This whole election, the spotlight has been on those left behind by declining manufacturing and economic globalization, and this is important. A major narrative has emerged: rural and exurban working class voices are not being heard or represented. Those of us on the coasts have nodded our heads and said, “Ah, I see.” We’ve rushed to read works like Hillbilly Elegy and anything recommended by NPR, to try to understand.

Months later, we are letting out a collective, “Hey, wait a minute!” The truth is that in the electoral college, a voter in Wyoming has 3.6 times the weight of a voter in San Francisco. Rural and exurban parts of the country are actually over-represented.

After all, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. But those votes were accumulated in California, the most populous state, so who cares? L.A., New York City? That’s not really America. It’s amazing. We in the coastal cities are told we are too elitist and think we count too much, when in fact, we barely count.

Still, since we are not getting rid of the electoral college and Democrats do need to make more inroads with the rural white working class, we must try. Many on the far left, especially the Bernie or Buster/Jill Stein contingent, think they have the answer to hook these voters: a much more progressive, even socialistic message. Some say that this is clear path to victory and insist Democrats like me just don’t get it.

I applaud them for trying. And I sure don’t have the answers. I do, though, have reservations on whether the far left’s message will work and whether they are the best ones to do this outreach. To test it, we should drop them off in Appalachia and tell them to use the word “socialist” a lot. I also recommend that they act like they did at the Democratic Convention and boo Medal of Honor veterans. I’m sure both will go over well in the heartland.

But here I am sounding arrogant, again. In fact, a few folks on the far left, who went to expensive private schools, yet are newly down with the white working class, have lectured me about this. They say that I act too smug to reach red state America.

Suddenly, I had a revelation. Okay, it’s true. I am a terrible pick to be a political liaison to rural counties. However, I would still be a better choice than many of the people lecturing me. I bet I can relate more to life outside the coastal bubble than they can. At least I watch the Country Music Awards every year and have songs by Brooks and Dunn on my iPod. I could do karaoke from Amarillo, Texas, to Bloomington, Indiana. Can they?

I have also watched three full seasons of “Dancing with the Stars.” Name me a Jill Stein voter who has done that. I like the Rumba and Paso Doble dances the best. Yes, I read the elitist New Yorker, but I’ve also been to Cracker Barrel five times in the last year and a half. Sure, it was never my choice and there are hardly any vegetarian options (even the vegetables come with meat), but their biscuits are delightfully doughy.

So, to the far left, until you have rushed out to get tickets to Bob Seger, seen Alabama in concert, and have a mother from West Texas, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t need your lectures about how too-out-of-touch I am to reach red state America. I can’t even hear you. I’m too busy listening to George Strait and figuring out what I’m going to order from IHOP.

Hilary Schwartz is a comedian and writer based in NYC with love (and hate) for politics. She is a regular contributor to Political Storm.