Social and Economic Roots of Today’s Right

Monday, September 6, 2021 - 1:00pm
Joe Belden & Cliff DuRand

From White supremacists, to evangelicals, to White nationalists, to racist police, to anti immigrant groups, to insurrectionists, to QAnon, the political Right has risen to prominence in recent years. Many says it was President Trump who brought the cockroaches out into the open. But they have been there all along. Indeed the far Right seems to have now taken over a major political party. And on January 6 they sought to violently prevent an orderly transfer of power in the Executive.

The 2016 election brought them into the national spotlight. At that point in time they were mobilized against the political establishment of both parties. Urban and rural White voters were angry at leaders who had betrayed them for years. As Michael Moore observed, they just wanted to throw a human Molotov cocktail into the political machinery. Donald Trump took advantage of the fear and rage and they came to love him for that.

Where did all this anger come from? What was the economic and political soil that enabled it to grow? And what has sustained it to this day among 20 to 30% of the electorate? These are the questions that will be examined by Joe Belden and Cliff DuRand. Belden is a Washington, DC- based writer and lecturer, specializing in rural issues.  From 1989 to 2015 he was Deputy Director of the Housing Assistance Council, a nonprofit that helps low-income rural communities build affordable housing.  He is the principal author of Dirt Rich, Dirt Poor: America’s Food and Farm Crisis (Routledge 1986; rev. ed 2019) and Housing in Rural America (Sage 1998). Cliff DuRand is a retired social philosophy professor and co-founder of the Center for Global Justice. His recent article “Social & Economic Roots of Today’s Right” provides background for his talk is available HERE.

For further reading:

Christopher Achen & Larry Bartels, Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016)

John Allen & Darrell West, Ways to Reconcile & Heal America, Brookings Institution, 8 Feb. 2021

Joe Belden, “Who Needs to Go North – or West or Anywhere — to the Big City?” Daily Yonder, 12 January 2017

_______, “’Rural’ Is a Big Red Bowl of Tomato Soup -- Or Is It?” Daily Yonder, 13 March 2018

Timothy Bella, “Some in Miss. Taking Livestock Meds as Covid Treatment,” Washington Post, 22 August 2021

Bill Bishop, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart (Boston: Mariner Books, 2009)

Ben Bradlee, Jr., The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump & Changed America (New York: Little, Brown, 2018)

Patrick Carr & Maria Kefalas, Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain & What It Means for America (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009)

Anne Case & Angus Deaton, Deaths of Despair & the Future of Capitalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020)

Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century (Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2020)

Katherine Cramer, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin & the Rise of Scott Walker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016)

Richard Florida, “Revenge of the Rural Voter,” Politico, July/August 2017

Thomas Frank, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2020)

William Frey, “Census Shows Nonmetropolitan America Is Whiter, Getting Older, and Losing Population,” Brookings, 27 June 2017

Beverly Gage, “How ‘Elites’ Became One of the Nastiest Epithets in American Politics,” New York Times Magazine, 3 January 2017

David Goodheart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt & the Future of Politics (London: Hurst & Co., 2017)

Marc Hetherington & Jonathan Weiler, Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018)

Arlie R. Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger & Mourning on the American Right (New York: New Press, 2016)

Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics & Other Essays (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965)

Housing Assistance Council, Rural America Is More Diverse Than You Think, 4 June 2021

Olga Khazan, “Middle-Aged White Americans Are Dying of Despair,” The Atlantic, 4 November 2015

Ezra Klein, Why We’re Polarized (New York: Avid Reader Press, 2020)

Joel Kotkin, “America’s Heartland Is Critical to Our Future,” Real Clear Politics, 17 May 2017

Paul Krugman, “The Quiet Rage of the Responsible,” New York Times, 19 August 2021

Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (New York: Broadway Books, 2018)

German Lopez, “The Radicalization of White Americans,” Vox, 18 August 2017 Gary Marx, “The ‘Cracker Barrel vs. Whole Foods Gap’ Threatens Democracy,” Daily Yonder, 23 Dec. 2020

Jonathan Metzl, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland (New York: Basic Books, 2019)

Rich Morin, “Behind Trump’s Win in Rural White America: Women Joined Men in Backing Him,” Pew Research Center, 17 November 2016

Ernest Moy et al., Leading Causes of Death in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Areas—US, 1999-2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, 13 January 2017

Diana C. Mutz, Status Threat, Not Economic Hardship, Explains the 2016 Presidential Vote, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 23 April 2017

Jesse Myerson, “Trumpism: It’s Coming from the Suburbs,” The Nation, 8 May 2017

George Packer, Last Best Hope: America in Crisis & Renewal (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021)

Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse & Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000)

Robert Putnam & Shalyn Garrett, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago & How We Can Do It Again (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020

Jonathan Rodden, Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide (New York: Basic Books, 2019)

______, “This Map Will Change How You Think About American Voters—Especially Small-Town, Heartland White Voters,” Washington Post, 31 October 2016

______, “’Red’ America is an Illusion. Postindustrial Towns Go for Democrats,” Washington Post, 14 February 2017

Kevin Roose, “What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?” New York Times, 15 June 2021

Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020)

John Sides et al., Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Crisis & the Battle for the Meaning of America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018)

Jennifer Silva, We’re Still Here: Pain & Politics in the Heart of America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019)

US Census Bureau, Race & Ethnicity in the United States: 2010 Census & 2020 Census, 12 August 2021

Darrell West, Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2019)

Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent (New York: Random House, 2020)

Joan Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2017)

Salena Zito & Brad Todd, The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics (New York: Crown Forum, 2018)




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