A recent study provided a shocking revelation: America’s middle-aged white working class is dying at a record rate. J.J. Goldberg’s analysis of the statistics in Forward is thorough and thought provoking. He concludes:
Here’s one big difference to chew over: The American white working class, unlike those other groups, has become, in the words of centrist political commentator Charlie Cook in his Cook Political Report, “a core element of the GOP coalition.” Over the past two generations non-college whites have switched political allegiances and philosophies in a massive way. They left a political camp that saw the poor as victims of circumstance and mistreatment and government as a tool to help them. Instead they moved to a political camp that sees the poor as victims of their own failings and weaknesses.
Thus while disadvantaged minority Americans and working-class Europeans blame their troubles on the system and respond with anger, all too many working-class white Americans respond by self-medicating, or worse.
He ends the article there, but the harsh reality behind the statistics deserves more than political platforming. This isn’t simply a problem of “Democrats are nice and Republicans aren’t.” What Goldberg tapped into goes far deeper than that, to the core of the human psyche. The working class is dying, not just because they’ve decided they have nothing to live for, but because they have no hope.
It isn’t enough to proffer government programs and social justice as a solution to cultural suicide. If it were, the working class wouldn’t have migrated away from the Democrat Party in the first place. Goldberg asserts that they’ve given up on themselves because they put faith in a political idea that values the individual over the collective. But he fails to admit that they ceased believing in the system that rewards the collective once that system ceased to believe in them. Goldberg avoids NAFTA and affirmative action, two major government initiatives designed specifically to disenfranchise the white working class. His reason for this generational death — that the white working class put their faith in the wrong party — is especially cruel in this light. What’s more, he asserts that to survive, the “working” in working class needs to be replaced by a “welfare” that not only provides for physical subsistence, but for a soul’s salvation as well.
The concept of salvation is the interesting element of the discussion that Goldberg touches upon, but fails to develop. What he bluntly concludes is that the white working class wouldn’t be offing themselves if they had hope in the form of government subsidies to sustain daily living. Their faith in themselves, in their ability to provide for their families, as evidenced by their embrace of Republican ideology, is what’s done them in. Their faith. Since when did a political or economic issue have anything to do with faith?
It is because our culture has separated these two notions, politics and faith, (or, in more common parlance, church and state) that the working class is dying. Their deaths prove that government isn’t the solution. Neither a collectivist nor an individualist narrative will satisfy the human spirit. That is why our working class is dying. Not because they have nothing to work for, but because they have no hope and therefore no reason to work.