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The American White Working Class and Modern Conservatism

For decades, the white working class was key to the New Deal coalition put together by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, but in the more recent past, the political affinity of this demographic has made a significant shift. Many analysts of the 2016 presidential election point to the “white working class”—a group whose definition we will critically investigate—as a key bloc in Republicans’ electoral victories. This course offers a historical perspective on a demographic whose members and political power have seen great change in the decades since WWII. By delving into some of the key issues that animate these voters, including “law and order,” economic dislocation, and religious conservatism, we will explore how political parties have sought to capture—or have failed to capture—their votes in a changing America and a changing world. We will also examine how racial or ethnic identity, as well as gender, intersects with class and geography. Possible readings include selections from Justin Gest’s The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality; Geoffrey Kabaservice’s Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party; Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class; Becky M. Nicolaides’s My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920–1965; and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • A better understanding—through critical investigation—of the definition of the “white working class,” a key bloc in Republicans’ electoral victories in 2016
  • Knowledge of the key issues that animate these voters
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.