Spiffed-up & Combed-over, Trump’s Breakthrough — as Rich White Trash— Lets a Billionaire Hug Duck Dynasty Fans


If it sneers and distorts and snarls like white trash . . .  why not concede the obvious? Trump the billionaire redneck proves you don’t have to poor and living hard to qualify as political white trash. Count that paradox alongside that slew of other Trump contradictions. Certainly, the world now knows the super-rich can sound as bigoted, anti-minority, mean-spirited and self-absorbed as the most narrow-minded white people living on the edge, without credit, assets or bank balances.

Can Trump pull off this outrageous linkage, wherein rich, white masters of the universe allege common interests with obvious contraries — impotent laborers who do the work and help make the lifestyles of the rich and famous possible? Who said irony is dead?  Just as Trumpism incorporates a white trash mindset, thus exposing the vast gullibility at work, so the most benighted whites spotlight what’s profoundly wrong with cynical, predatory, inhumane TrumpThink. Trump needs rich customers, cheap labor, no unions, and other people paying taxes, quite at odds with endless promises he will enrich and liberate even the lowest (white) working class rung.

Despite residence in a golden universe exactly opposite leaden, downtrodden workers, the Trump persona pushes this totally false equivalence: that what isn’t working for enraged, lower-middle-class whites, including white trash, is equally kaput for billionaires.  Say what as fat cat winnings since ’08 prove historic inequality? Can “everything stink” for both the increasingly rich and increasingly poorer whites, with the American dream on life support, and countless millions already losing what little they have? That is, unless Trumpism takes over.

Grievance Crusade Sputtering

Now beholden to Brietbart dogma, Trump “populism” takes Reagan-Dubya-Rove exploitation politics to the next stage. Despite a few policy deviations, Trump’s coded and uncoded messaging still obeys the Republican playbook: cement billionaire winners with blue-collar losers, seemingly forever inept at knowing friends from enemies. The Trump brew is obvious in retrospect: knee-jerk alt-right on white nationalism, tax reduction, climate change denial and “big-stick” anti-terrorism while dissing “corporate” trade agreements and failed, elitist militarism.

Set aside his richer-than-thou boasting, Trump’s promise to speak for poor people (upgraded this week to include blacks with “nothing to lose”) only signals more arrogant hypocrisy. What in Trump’s tiresome pandering will benefit lives of the poor and unfamous, some gulled by Republicans for decades? Trump’s luckily-timed grievance crusade covers a multitude of sins, offering zero job re-training programs that could improve working class options.  More status quo does not. More mere talk does not.

Brothers Under the Skin(head)

“White trash” implies less privileged, under-educated, often bigoted white folks living on the edge (thus front yards pockmarked with rusting cars and appliances) — renowned for scoffing at how they appear. They answer, so they claim, to no higher up. Most live across the Midwest and South, though pockets exist everywhere. Added to evangelicals and the socially conservative, white trash thrives within the gun-crazed, NRA-fed rightwing. That Trump, with privilege and alleged superior schooling, ends up sounding dumber than dumb rightwingers only speaks to his amoral, infinitely flexible role-playing.

Trump is anything but poor, disempowered or living in filth (in fact, a germaphobe), and his narcissism insists on a shiny, perfectly coiffed image (conceding only to that joe sixpack hat). Trump attended top schools but his campaign misbehavior (bad lying, flip-flopping, pointless tweeting) proves his life-long resistance to actual learning from experience.  Background aside, Trump has mastered sounding like those who never finished high school, who lack self-awareness, and who thus overcompensate by trusting their most counterproductive gut instincts.

A Marriage Made in Hell

Here are overlapping characteristics that expose ties between Trump the rich redneck and extremist, disadvantaged whites, no small number who qualify as white trash:

  • heavy-handed, absolutist demands (“jail Hillary”) that exhibit willful blindness, ignorance of the judicial system and conviction all opposition is illegitimate,  conniving, and corrupt.
  • fondness for blunt, ill-mannered vulgarity, implying that belligerent loudness reinforces the strength of your argument. Easy with physical violence, decoyed and excused as only “counter-punching.”
  • insular, defensive, black and white attitudes (on race, women, foreigners, and elitism) undeterred by worldly experience, evidence or nuance. Rejection of expertise, historical trends, plus the letter and spirit of the Constitution (beat ‘em up, ban ‘em, torture ‘em, bomb ‘em).
  • proclivity for reductive, untenable non-solutions to complex problems.
  • rabidly patriotic — America right or wrong — hatred of outsiders, quick to scapegoat.
  • biased, if not racist, when asserting white American exceptionism.
  • naive, unworkable “solutions” to terrorism; confusion of terrorism with one religion; intolerance to “others” outside the tribe.
  • breathtaking ignorance about global dynamics, let alone foreign alliances, agreements, and relationships.
  • seemingly anti-war (though not when wars start) while incredibly militaristic (mesmerized by power and non-starters like “bomb the shit out of Isis”).
  • nostalgia for some lost, non-existent golden age when men were men and underlings knew “their place.” Outrage at changing norms makes them seek the impossible: redo the past.
  • an extraordinary leap of faith that favors a grossly incompetent, amateur “strongman” who “tells it like it is,” yet can’t stand a knowledgeable, if distrusted veteran politician.
  • conviction “the system” (conveyed only in sound bites) is rigged unless they win, then it legitimately mirrors the majority.

Compared even to rabid Republicans, Donald Trump surpasses modern politicians in pitching the “we-don’t-know-and-we-don’t-want-to-know” gang, ready to throw punches and hurl invective at minorities, protestors, or loser liberals. Sure, the GOP for decades fed racial stereotypes, conspiracy thinking, and radical resistance to anything more intellectually complex than hunting, fishing or distilling backwoods hooch. Even Trump’s older, more affluent whites embrace the politics of scapegoating because they refuse to blame themselves or their children for not keeping up with global economics.

And Trump is a natural-born scapegoater for he, too, blames everyone but himself for whatever bad happens, refusing responsibility (thus no honest apologies) for indiscretions and blunders galore. He’s the most conspicuous nominee to adopt backward, white trash rhetoric, so he does represent like-minded scapegoaters. Was this prospect obscure, that American factory labor, inevitably more expensive than starving foreigners, had to lose out when capitalism went global? When do Democrats start dramatizing the huge irony that today’s “wage slaves” (stuck with low minimum pay) support the pyramid that awards lords of industry fabulous treasures? Trump is no expert at campaigning but his oddly narrow background (with father aligned to racist extremists) intuitively prepared him to pull off today’s exceptional pandering across classes.

Thus Trump campaigns like a redneck, white trash billionaire, even though that term defies logic, history and reason. But then his benighted audience, with nods to irrational white supremacy, isn’t expert at logic, history or reason. Not getting truly educated, thus not able to keep themselves better-informed, elevates emotion over thinking, thus making them vulnerable to a hustler who does PT Barnum proud. A marriage, as they say, made in hell — but still, the steady majority hopes, insufficient to elect a president.


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.