Much has been made in the media about the white working class who make up the majority of Donald Trump's electoral support. Trump has appealed to the fears of this group of Americans by stoking xenophobia, islamophobia and the worst forms of misogyny. This greatly worries me, as I see the divisions growing in the U.S. over race and class. Yet I have some hope as well. Watching the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns during the primaries, both are tapping into a tradition of liberal Democrats who reached out to both working class whites and minority communities to build bridges between the two communities and bring Americans together.
The eight hour work day, the forty hour work week, the minimum wage, Social Security, work safety standards, child labor laws, collective bargaining rights, and a whole host of laws protecting worker rights were championed in mainstream politics in the early twentieth century by progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt and Robert LaFollette, and later in the twentieth century by liberal Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey, the Kennedys, Jesse Jackson and Paul Wellstone.
These progressives saw that the government has an important role to play in helping its most vulnerable citizens weather the worst effects of a free market economy. I'm hoping that Hillary can look to these early examples to bring Americans together.
The Nation magazine has several articles about ways in which progressives can reach out to the white working class who are now supporting Donald Trump.