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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Angry White Men

One of the enduring legacies of the 2012 presidential campaign, and some may argue the 2008 campaign as well, was the demise of the white American male voter as a dominant force in the political landscape. On election night, after Obama was announced the winner, a distressed Bill O’Reilly lamented that he didn’t live in “a traditional America anymore.” He was joined by others who growled their grief on talk radio, the preferred bellow ground of angry white men. The racist-like din that had previously been stored in back rooms, and spoken of quietly and with a slight look around, has bubbled over and become a ranty ragey roar.

FOX barely hides their disdain. Even those running for office freely throw red meat out at every event, stirring that pot of fear, spreading the seeds of racism and misogyny like a virus, using the power of hate to motivate an uneducated and unevolved sector of the electorate. Changing demographics, however, are shrinking white voters as a segment of the voting population. These developments would, from a realist’s point of view, signify good health in the electorate. But more and more GOP candidates are hoping that their Tea Party followers will come out in force and line up at the polls this November. It’s possible. They did it in 2010. The GOP candidates are making their final pitches in their states, and with today being election day, the field is becoming clearer.

Hate is being used as a weapon of the obstructionists. They hate Obamacare, they hated cash for clunkers, they opposed any kind of New Deal possibility and they have obstructed even the debate of any kind of infrastructure investment. Why are they so angry? Sociologist Michael Kimmel, one of the leading writers on men and masculinity in the world today, spent hundreds of hours in the company of America’s angry white men–from men’s rights activists to young students to white supremacists–in pursuit of an answer. So we recommend his book Angry White Men as a part of our continuing study into the mind of the obstructionist.

Perhaps here is the answer as to why there has been unpresidented push back against this seated President. By any measurement, this President has had it harder than most when it comes to filibusters and blocked nominations. More often than not the calculated lack of productivity on the part of this Congress and the one before that, and the one before that, can simply be chalked up to racism in the guise of partisanship. These angry white congressmen see through brown-colored glasses when viewing the troubling issues at the forefront of America today and, when asked for solutions, they just lay down in the road and nap.

Kimmel’s Angry White Men provides useful insight we so sorely search for: What are these Congressional Republican obstructionists made of, and how have their damaging selective perceptions not dissipated when confronted with our current reality? The economy is doing better despite them. Obamacare is doing well despite them. Imagine what could have been done if Congress woke up one day and remembered they were all on the same team all along.

Kimmel locates this increase in anger in the seismic economic, social, and political shifts that have so transformed the American landscape. Downward mobility, increased racial and gender equality, and a tenacious clinging to an anachronistic ideology of masculinity, has left many men feeling betrayed and bewildered. Raised to expect unparalleled social and economic privilege, white men are suffering today from what Kimmel calls “aggrieved entitlement”: a sense that those benefits that white men believed were their due have been snatched away from them. Snatched, I tell you! And it’s all big goverment’s fault.

Packs of angry white men also like to say that things that are done by Democrats are being jammed down their throats. That brings up a visual that most would agree is horrible, but we are kind of unsure what is being crammed down who’s throat here. Veteran funding, not there, unemployment extensions, not there, jobs program, not there, desperately urgent and potentially fatal infrastructure upgrade requests ignored. Why? Because an oath was taken back in 2009 to block the black man from getting to work.

Angry White Men discusses, among others, the sons of small town America, scarred by underunemployment and wage stagnation. When America’s white men feel they’ve lived their lives the “right” way–worked hard and stayed out of trouble–and still do not get economic rewards, then they have to blame somebody else. Even more terrifying is the phenomenon of angry young boys. School shootings in the United States are not just the work of “misguided youth” or “troubled teens”–they’re all committed by boys. These alienated young men are transformed into mass murderers by a sense that using violence against others was their right.

The future of America is more inclusive and diverse than that. The choice for angry white men is not whether or not they can stem the tide of history: they cannot. We will outlive them. Their choice is whether or not they will be dragged kicking and screaming into that inevitable future, or whether they will walk honorably alongside those they’ve spent so long trying to exclude. By explaining their rage, Kimmel is able to point to a possible future that is healthier, happier, and much less angry.

Can we all evolve? Yes We Can.

Recommend: Angry White Men

The Policy Geek

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