By Eve Mykytyn
Naomi Klein’s piece “Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and the Rule of Pampered Princelings,” is a thoughtful consideration of how the children of the moneyed classes propagate the ‘self made’ myth in which individual effort is lionized. In this fiction, government ‘interference’ is the enemy, and, as Klein points out, those with a lifetime of safety deride the frail safety net society allows to others. She notes that although these ‘princelings’ may include the less privileged in their rhetoric, they propagate social policies of low taxes and fewer regulations that primarily benefit the very rich.
Klein asks, “But what must it take to pour large parts of a fortune that came to you by accident of birth into a relentless campaign of further affirmative action for the rich?” Klein’s answer is that the rich attribute their riches to what Trump has called, ‘good genes,’ the corollary of which is that those without must have ‘bad genes’ and deserve their fate as ‘losers.’
To Klein, this is the basis of Trump’s bargain: native born whites, although they lack Trump’s wealth, are invited to celebrate “their own, albeit more modest, birthright entitlements as white, middle-class Americans,” and their entitlements as white citizens of a “Christian patriarchal nation.” This is where my disagreements with Klein begin.
Some of Trump’s supporters may well like to identify with (or would like to possess) Trump’s wealth. But whether or not the US is a ‘Christian patriarchal nation,’ I don’t see the evidence that Trump’s support comes from people who would like to see it as such.
First, it is unfair to put all of Trump’s supporters in one barrel. Trump won a majority of votes from all white Americans of every education level. Interestingly, while analysis of votes is broken down by race, education and income, there was no category that includes both race and income. Or to the point, we have little direct data on how whites who enjoy little of the vestiges of ‘white privilege’ voted. An analysis in Medium divides the US by region and finds Trump’s strongest support in the US’s poorest and perhaps whitest regions, Appalachia and southern Louisiana, which he won by 22% and 25% respectively. So the data we do have does not support Klein’s assertion that Trump’s voters support him to protect their white privilege; in fact, it seems that his strongest support comes from whites who have few, if any, privileges.
A glance at any Trump rally shows large numbers of women, does Ms Klein believe all these women want a patriarchy? And, according to Money magazine, women inherit 70% of the assets passed down in the United States and own more then 50% of investable assets. Not much of a patriarchy.
Further, the claim of Trump’s voters as holding on to a Christian nation seems purely speculative. While Jews voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, Orthodox Jews supported Trump by a margin of 29%. The Orthodox would seem to have little interest in preserving the United States as a Christian Nation.
If, as Klein claims, the United States has always been the province and protector of ‘propertied white men,’ wealth is no longer solely in the hands of men or of Christians.
The exclusive classes contain a large number of self-identified Jews. A Jewish newsletter counted 139 of the Forbes top 400 (richest) as Jewish. Despite the so called dog whistling (apparently heard primarily by Jews who found anti Semitic content in Trump lambasting the non Jewish Koch brothers) Trump as president has not been anti Semitic. Far from it. Trump has duly rewarded his Jewish benefactors, and has sicced his Zionist son in law on the Middle East. His appointments have contained so many of the mostly Jewish Goldman Sachs once and future anointed that Goldman’s chair, Lloyd Blankfein stated that having so many Goldman people in the Trump administration made him “a little apprehensive about it because for fear of how it might look.”
Klein’s complaint that Trump has posited himself falsely as a self made man is legitimate. His response that the New York Times’ report on the source of his wealth as being largely his family’s money was that the report was ‘boring.’ This is hardly a repudiation. But the wealth of Trump and other scions of the very wealthy will not enure to the non college educated whites who largely supported Trump.
If Klein’s goal is a change in the administration, her goal might be better served by finding a way to appeal to Trump’s voters rather than smearing them with condescending and unproven shibboleths.