Read What′s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was by Joan Walsh Online


How scapegoat politics is dividing America and bankrupting the middle classThe size and stability of the American middle class was once the envy of the world. But changes unleashed in the 1960s pitted Americans against one another politically in new and destructive ways-while economically, everyone fell behind except the wealthy.Right-wing culture warriors blamed the decliHow scapegoat politics is dividing America and bankrupting the middle classThe size and stability of the American middle class was once the envy of the world. But changes unleashed in the 1960s pitted Americans against one another politically in new and destructive ways-while economically, everyone fell behind except the wealthy.Right-wing culture warriors blamed the decline on the moral shortcomings of "other" Americans-blacks, feminists, gays, immigrants, union members -to court a fearful white working and middle class base with ever more bitter "us" vs. "them" politics. Liberals tried but mostly failed to make the case that we're all in this together. In All for None and None for All, MSNBC political analyst and popular Salon columnist Joan Walsh traces this deeply disturbing dynamic as it has played out over the last forty years, dividing the country, poisoning its politics, jeopardizing its future-and splitting her working class Irish Catholic family as well.* Connects the dots of American decline through trends that began in the 1970s and continue today-including the demise of unions, the stagnation of middle class wages, the extension of the right's "Southern Strategy" throughout the country, the victory of Reagan Republicanism, the widening partisan divide, the increase in income inequality, and the drop in economic mobility.* Shows how liberals unwittingly collaborated in the "us" vs. "them" narrative and failed to develop an inspiring, persuasive vision of a more fair, united America* Explores how the GOP's renewed culture war-one which could conceivably make Rick Santorum president, and produced radical changes in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia-now scapegoats even segments of its base, as it blames the troubles of working class whites on their own moral failings rather than an unfair economyAs the United States becomes a "majority-minority" culture, while the GOP doubles down on racial and cultural appeals to rev up its demographically threatened white base in 2012, Walsh talks about race in honest, unflinching, unfamiliar terms, acknowledging not just Republican but Democratic Party political mistakes-and her own. This book will be essential reading as the country struggles through political polarization and racial change to invent the next America in the years to come....

Title : What′s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781118141069
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

What′s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was Reviews

  • Laurie Gold
    2019-07-10 09:57

    Joan Walsh, editor at large for, writes persuasively about how the Republican Party co-opted the white working class and how the Democrats helped them do it in her new work, but it's a book for true believers. I doubt it will be read by those outside the progressive movement. Further, my guess is that the first part of the title–What's the Matter with White People?–will be a point of attack by those on the other side of the political spectrum. It's a shame...though an imperfect read, Walsh makes some strong points.An Irish-American who grew up Catholic in a Democratic family filled with the sort of blue collar Democrats that populated urban centers in the East and Mid-West for decades, Walsh bought into her father's romantic view that the Black Irish share an affinity with African Americans because of how the Irish had been mistreated, first by the English, and then in U.S. as immigrants, for centuries. Bias against the Irish in the US was a result of their Catholic faith and heavy drinking, which eventually put them on the wrong side of the abolitionist movement, which also had strong ties to the temperance movement. This isn't news, but it provides a great deal of context, and, along with Ken Burn's Prohibition documentary last year for PBS, helped me put this part of U.S. history in proper perspective. It is against this backdrop that Walsh moves forward in time, detailing the strong ties between Catholics, the white working class, and the Democratic Party. She discusses the development of unions, the New Deal, and how Nixon's Southern Strategy worked not only in the South, it created a wedge between the white working class and the Democrats in urban America. Republicans and an increasingly active lobbying effort by pro-business forces used unions and race and a dissonant progressive movement to break the long-held ties altogether by the 1970s.I liked a great deal of the book. Walsh's immediate and extended family histories as well as her work in progressive politics and advocacy journalism make the history personal, and by doing so it becomes more easily understandable and accessible. That said though, by the time she reaches the 2008 primaries and general election, I began to lose interest. Walsh never waivers, but offers no solutions. Perhaps this is her point. After all, the subtitle of her book is “why we long for a golden age that never was.” To offer solutions, then, would lead us to a non-existant promised land, a mirage. Maybe so, but the litany of what went wrong becomes intolerably depressing.Even more so, though, Walsh's personal connection to her thesis–what actually made the book for the most part more interesting and accessible–shifts the narrative too strongly from history to her story. Her attempt to meld the macro with the micro is not entirely successful. Yes, through her daughter's choices she begins to bridge the gap, but it's simply not enough because of that lack of prescriptive measures. A small ray of sunshine just isn't enough.What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was remains a book worth reading if for no other reason than the history, context, and perspective it provides. Walsh's attempts to integrate her personal and familial experiences with history as a whole may not work as well as she expected, but it takes the reader part of the way. My recommendation would be to take a breather by the time she reaches 2008 in her analysis, letting what came before fully process before tackling the last sections of the book.(The digital download of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley.)

  • Elizabeth
    2019-07-03 05:02

    I bought this book because most of the hosts on MSNBC kept mentioning it. First, let me say that the title is misleading, because it has more to do with Walsh than with the larger question her book appears to ask. She begins with a story her dad told her about black Irish and moves into the history of Irish people and the prejudice they experienced. Her and her father shared the same liberal politics, and she uses that as a jumping off point to talk about how her family moved from Democrat to Republican as they moved into the middle class. All of them except for her and her dad, who appeared to remain apologetic about their liberalism. She uses her family's story to talk about the larger story of lower class whites who should have aligned with and remained at the left, but like her family, didn't. She looks at the New Deal rhetoric and compares that with today's Tea Party rhetoric to show how the same politics that was used to divide people by race rather than class is being used now, except for white lower to middle class people don't realize that the Tea Party and conservative Republicans are now including whites in the category of people who are dependent. They are the people whom Rick Santorum rails against when he talks about our nation becoming one of dependency, except she claims that these white people don't see they are supporting politicians who are creating legislation that negatively affects them. In the midst of Walsh's attempts to figure out what is wrong with white people, she also tries to rationalize their politics by blaming liberal Democrats for alienating them. Because she inserts her family into this larger national narrative, I think she is trying to blame liberal Democrats for causing divisions within her own family. She keeps going back to the same story her father told her about the black Irish and how it was a fairytale, but I fail to see the significance of her continuing to rehash her family politics. I initially thought it was just a lead in, but she never let go of her family's political divisions. Yes, her presentation of political history was interesting, but I felt like Walsh was trying to work out some personal issues in this book instead of trying to figure out why white lower to middle class people choose conservative Republican politics. I'd recommend you check it ou of the library instead of wasting your money on a book of personal angst disguised as a socio-political analysis.

  • Maxine
    2019-06-30 10:43

    The title of author Joan Walsh's book What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was is a bit misleading. As much memoir and history of Irish immigration to the United States as political polemic, she uses the example of her own working class Irish family to explain why so many from this group have moved to the right, a move which appears to be against their own self-interest.Surprisingly, given the attitude of most liberals towards the white male working class, Walsh, who is an editor at and very much a liberal, gives an extremely empathetic and enlightening explanation of the causes of the rightward shift. She doesn't completely let the white workers off the hook - she points out, for example, that much of their opposition to Affirmative Action programs lies in their desire to be able to keep the better paying union jobs such as police and firefighters for their own kids. However, she blames most of the shift on missed opportunities by the Democratic party and misinformation from the Republicans.As a working class woman also of Irish descent (albeit Canadian), I found myself nodding frequently at much of what she had to say. She speaks with great love and sympathy for her own Republican relatives. Her story of how she became a liberal Democrat thanks to her father, who was able to live the American Dream only due to being given to the Catholic Brothers when he was thirteen, is both sad and poignant. Her explanation of the sometimes shared, sometimes hostile history between the Irish immigrants and black people of NY is fascinating. Her story of her own journey to understand both her conservative family and her liberal friends and to live within both groups is insightful.Too often, the white male working class is dismissed as 'racist' or 'stupid white men' by liberals while the Conservatives play into their fears (most unfounded) as they quietly dismantle the institutions, like unions, that actually try to protect the working class. Finally, in Ms Walsh's book, someone is actually speaking out for this much maligned group in an honest and sympathetic manner and, if the Democrats ever want to win them back, they better pay attention.

  • Miranda
    2019-07-09 10:07

    it is not often i give up on a book. i wanted to earlier but since i'd waited so long to get it from the library i toughed it out about 80% of the way. for some reason i expected the subtitle to be relevant, that it might be about the perception that the 50s were an upstanding, right-thinking time and that "moral decay" is a fuzzy thing to define and hard to defend. that would have been interesting, maybe?what it's really about isa plea for more class consciousness in lieu of identity politics. she talks a lot about her family's white-ethnic identity and her relationships to people of color (she hates the term, i guess because it unites black physicists with puerto rican peasants, which she rejects as a useful construction, and i'm not sure that i do). there's not much that's new or convincing to me about her argument that the democratic party has been splintered from within by identity politics. this privileges the tragedy of assumed "wins" over democratic process and participation by marginalized people (one of the things i like best about identity politics is *it gets people into politics*). and it assumes some diabolical competence in republican leadership -- was she there for the shitshow that was the 2012 primaries? it's also filled with detailed apologies and defenses of things she personally wrote or said during the 2008 primaries, which seemed so shockingly far from relevant! i flipped through looking for her Larger Point without finding one.this is memoir more than argument. if you want to know more about joan walsh specifically, check it out.

  • Peter Mcloughlin
    2019-07-10 10:12

    This book is a call to reach out to working class whites to bring them into the democratic party and form a new coalition to reverse the stagger wealth inequality that has built up under both the Republican right that has dominated since Reagan and New Democrats who cozy up to business interests (a new trick by the masterful triangulator Bill Clinton himself). Obama couldn't get elected in 2008 if he wasn't beholden to business and wall street(the money for campaigns has to come from these sources). He is clearly better than any Bat Sh-- candidate from the republican party but the idea that democrats or are on the side of little guy has not been remotely true for at least twenty years if not longer. The author is an optimist and appeals to the kind of people like her Irish american relatives to see where there interests truly lie and come back to a more liberal politics. I don't share her hope that the Reagan Democrats will ever come back as red and blue are now living in parallel universes and don't even have the same facts. Being in our own information streams it doesn't matter how economicaly bad red and blue voters conditions get they will continue to fight the culture war and believe whatever their favorite pundit tells them is the source of their misery. So I don't think it is a matter of just coming up with a great economic program. Who is listening anyway certainly not the Reagan Democrats the author speaks of.

  • Christoper Johnsen
    2019-07-05 10:56

    I just started this; I'm hoping she'll address one of my biggest pet peeves, the "nowadays syndrome." Listen and you'll hear everyone from political pundits to less-than newsworthy celebrates bemoaning how much things have changed and for the worse. Because "nowadays," things are just worse than they used to be. Things aren't worse, they're just different (arguably). Yesteryear wasn't that great, tomorrow won't probably be that bad and maybe we could all just look at what's in front of us today and simply be grateful for that.

  • Edwina
    2019-07-21 07:04

    I watch Joan Walsh all the time when she is on MSNBC. She seems to be a lovely caring understanding, knowledgeable and intelligent lady. I won't go into detail about her book because I think all people of all race's and religions should read this book. Ms. Walsh goes into great detail and understands both sides of the race issues in America!! I want to understand what's on the minds of White People and how better I can understand them. This country has got to get pass the hate and misunderstandings. I think this book helps with that!!

  • Michael
    2019-07-12 05:04

    I had never heard of Joan Walsh before a week ago, when I saw her on some talking head cable show. Something about what she was saying struck me, so I looked her up and was intrigued by the description of this book. Walsh is not normally the kind of writer who would interest me, but the description of the book struck a chord, so I grabbed it from the library and had at it.What's the Matter with White People? is one of the best books about politics I've ever read. Now, understand, the author is talking directly at me: her book is about working class Irish Catholics in the Northeast (for the most part), and about how they have peeled away from the Democratic party over the last several decades. The author's description of her family was eerily close to what my family looks like, and her insights about how so many of my friends and relatives became defacto Republicans was spot-on. Ms. Walsh writes about the Irish, and their treatment in America during earlier centuries. She echoes much of what other writers have said on this topic, mainly that African Americans and the poor Irish had a great deal in common, but they were played off against each other so that the Irish became 'white' and blacks remained second class citizens. During the Great Depression, and during the decades of the New Deal coalition, African Americans and Irish Catholics made common cause by joining the Democrats and pursuing mutual aims related to economic equality. While there was never perfect parity between the two groups--the Irish were not chattel slaves, nor did they face the indignities and dangers of Jim Crow and segregation--there was much the two groups had in common. All of this was interesting.What utterly fascinated me, though, was the author's analysis of what broke the New Deal coalition in the late sixties and early seventies. I had sort of come to this conclusion on my own, but it was very clarifying to see all of the evidence laid out in front of me. Essentially, the New Left and the cultural/social chaos of the last sixties and early seventies drove a wedge between them and blue collar, working class Catholic Democrats. The New Left abandoned labor, and many of Roosevelt's economic goals, for cultural issues related to what's called (correctly, in my opinion) 'identity politics'). Don't get me wrong: gay people, minorities, the handicapped, Native Americans, women...they all needed to be brought to the table of power in this country, and it was the Democratic Party that did that. But the tension, the shock of it all, created a divide between the cultural/social left and the economic left that remains in place to this day. Richard Nixon, no fool, saw this gap and moved right in, peeling off those who became 'Reagan Democrats' and removing them, for almost forty years, from the Democratic Party. (Tom Frank's mostly excellent book What's the Matter with Kansas? goes into this phenomena in great detail, but he was unable to draw the conclusions about why that Ms. Walsh did). From the book, pg. 101: "In short, prosperity undermined the New Deal coalition, giving white workers the freedom to believe their enemy was black protesters and white hippies, while providing the New Left with the dream it could create a progressive majority collation without big labor. The two groups suddenly had the luxury of hating each other, of focusing on their cultural differences, because their economic battles seemed to have been won." Think about what that says: because of the prosperity created by the New Deal, both factions of the Democratic Party forgot that prosperity was created, not a gift from on high. Why join together to fight for economic issues when the economy is growing by 5% per year and unemployment is nearly nonexistent? Instead of focusing on economic fairness, everyone stood in a circular firing squad and blasted away at each other over abortion, feminism, and the environment. One of the things I liked about this book was the author's refusal to let the New Left off of the hook. She, like me, is Irish. There is a clan loyalty that we feel toward our people, despite their many warts and wrinkles, so for a big time lefty like Ms Walsh to recognize the mote in the eyes of the Progressives was very, very refreshing to me. "It had come to seem to me that the left is never happier than when it can sneer at white working-class people. I mean, who do we think died in those building [on 9/11], Alice Walker and the Dalai Lama?" The answer, of course, is working class Irish and Italian cops and fire fighters. The very people Sarah Palin connected with by waving flags around and talking about the 'real America.' My people. With all of that said, Ms. Walsh does not mince words when it comes to the racism, prejudice, and intolerance many of those working class white Catholics express when it comes to racial, ethnic, and other minorities. I have seen this, too, many, many times, and I have found it an inescapable conclusion that a significant portion of the resistance to President Obama is based in race. While I applauded the author's defense of our families and our 'people,' (for lack of a better word), I acknowledge that there are real, deep, and persistent issues related to race, gender, and sexual orientation. By 2040, 'minorities' will outnumber white people in America. That's just how it is. Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are making up an increasingly large part of the Democratic Party, and--as a group--believe that government (the federal government in particular) should be doing more to make the lives of citizens better. Generally speaking, the white working class disagrees, and will continue to vote against their own economic interests because of the deep cultural divide that exists between the Progressive Left and the old Roosevelt/Truman/Kennedy Left. It is deeply unfortunate that these two portions of our country can't recognize that what they have in common is much more important than what divides them. Were some Democrat to come along and recognize the power of economic populism and tolerance joined together, I think you would see the GOP relegated to a regional power--an inevitability, unless they, too change--much more quickly. Long review, but one final thing: I have wondered, for years, why I have such difficulty voting for Democrats. Generally speaking, I agree with many of their positions, and generally speaking, I like a lot of what they stand for. Reading this book put much of what I struggle with in context for me. Despite the fact that I listen to NPR, have tried yoga, watch Downton Abbey, eat organic food, and have strong opinions about the environment, my people--my clan--are the working class Irish and Italian Catholics of America. People who serve in the military, drive buses, climb electrical poles, fix furnaces, and work in hospitals, schools, fire houses, and police stations. For all of their failings and weaknesses, in the end, I am on their side, and they are on mine. Being in a political coalition with the likes of Al Sharpton and Lawrence O'Donnell is very, very difficult for me. I don't have much in common with Cindy Sheehan and I don't like Occupy Wall Street. But at the same time...the most cursory glance at our nation's middle (and lower)classes lead me to conclude that the prosperity the New Left and Labor Left took for granted fifty years ago is gone. Now, the Age of Reagan is coming to an end. Perhaps something new will be born that re-unites our two bickering, feuding tribes again.As Bruce Springsteen said, "The country that we carry in our hearts is waiting." I hope that's true.

  • Kate Raphael
    2019-06-29 06:08

    I enjoyed it much of the time but the whiny tone got to me after a while. The part about how it was growing up was the best. I don't think it was necessary to go through every moment of the last thirty years in politics. It started to get repetitive. Maybe ultimately, the premise was not quite enough to carry a whole book; it would have been a good essay.

  • Schnaucl
    2019-07-06 07:04

    2.5 starsWalsh has some interesting arguments, and she's certainly right that the Democratic Party has had little interest in representing the poor (of any color). Unfortunately, I got bogged down in her poor white=white Irish Catholic outlook. I understand that's her family history. But it's also a pretty East Coast point of view. As a West Coaster I can say we don't have a large Irish Catholic population (which isn't to say we don't have a lot of poor working class white people or that we don't have our own set of prejudices). But it's hard to relate to her stories of ethnic insularity in certain occupations (again, not to say we don't have that here). It's just a completely different experience and for a book titled as broadly as hers is, I think she really needed to include perspectives from other white blue collar workers as well. In addition, I take issue with some of her complaints about Identity politics. More than once she dismisses people who argue about what should be in history books as focusing on the wrong thing, but is then astonished when Progressive friends don't know the history of Irish Catholic Americans and labor disputes. How does she think those stories get included? And isn't it important to know a people's history so we all appreciate how difficult it was to make some of the gains that have been made? I don't deny that identity politics have plenty of problems of their own, but sometimes it's the best way to get something done. Does anyone really think gay marriage would be legalized in any state if gay groups hadn't been working toward it for years (sometimes with the help of their straight allies)? I think my problem is that I was looking for more of an academic work and less of a personal history.

  • Kelly
    2019-07-20 07:06

    This book is an easy and great read, but because it's so jam-packed with information, it's kind of difficult to review. You just don't want to leave anything out. So, one has to settle to give the reader a taste. (The book contains a very useful index, also.) Being that this book makes so many good points that it's hard to convey the overall direction of it as a whole. It covers racism and class, mostly. It shows how we, the NOT 1-percent, are screwed BY the 1-percent, and how "we" have screwed ourselves out of ignorance, as well. Frank Zappa said that the most abundant substance in the universe is stupidity. This book's content, further proves Zappa's observation to be true, unfortunately. These types of books inspire a belief in improving life for all humanity. But they also, most likely inadvertently, remind us of just how pathetic the human species is.Read the rest of the review on my blog, and don't forget to listen to my relaxing, dulcet compositions as you read!Read the complete essay here.

  • Ben
    2019-06-28 04:46

    Joan Walsh, who I much admire as a regular MSNBC contributor, explains the complicated interplay between race and politics that has brewed and often boiled over in the US over the last 40 years (and in truth, much longer than that). In itself, that would make a compelling read but not a standout among a number of recent political books. But Ms. Walsh also tells the story from her personal viewpoint, which in itself encompasses a number of viewpoints - product of a blue collar Irish Catholic family from New York, Wisconsin college activitist, San Francisco progressive working with poor minorities, single parent with Jewish ex-husband balancing career and family, liberal editor and demon of the right. All of this helps to show that race, class, and politics is not as black and white as the talking heads want you to believe.

  • Stephanie
    2019-06-20 12:05

    I decided to read to read the book because normally I'd dismiss the complaints of White working class republicans. I felt that maybe there was something to their grievances and I should consider being more open-minded.I'm very happy that I read What's the Matter.Chock full of stats, historical references, and personal anecdotes, What's the Matter helped so much in explaining why Reagan democrats feel abandoned by the democratic party. They are a forgotten demographic that could definitely help more in strengthening the democratic party.I think this should be a must-read for every democrats pursuing public office.

  • Sarah
    2019-07-09 06:07

    Politics is such a game! Life seems like a game as well. The current players of the game of life are the people we have elected. Unfortunately, we may not necessarily elect the candidate that will serve "all", as if that is possible. Money is the winner. Money buys power and power controls the money. That leaves most of Americans out of the game. Is there an answer?

  • James Loafman
    2019-07-13 11:04

    I enjoyed her personal insight when relating her individual story. The political commentary was sometimes spot on, other times a little too political. She obviously learned much from her dad and the whole indentured Irish tale was alone worth the read.

  • Terri Jacobson
    2019-06-21 07:06

    I was very much disappointed in this book. Very slow reading.

  • Cherie
    2019-06-25 06:01

    This is a very useful book to help remind us of how the Dems began to fight among themselves during the Reagan era, and how we have to stop this if we intend to go forward as the party of "forward".

  • Kimberly
    2019-07-06 05:03

    NOTES:Democrats do best when they can unite around a vision of economic improvement for everybody; they get derailed when Republicans toss culture war grenades or play on race.2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney, released 2011 tax returns showing while he made $21 million off investments, he only paid 13.9 percent tax rate - a lower rate than middle-class workers.“What’s the matter with white people?” I found myself asking – in a different way – as in, “Aren’t we part of your multiracial future, too?”Lefty scorn for the working class helped push it right. It will be hard to restore America’s economic potential without the support of the white middle and working class.I was raised to understand that gov’t helped my family rise, that the nation, led by Democrats, made political decisions to spread prosperity and build the middle class. Too many white people think they didn’t have help, that they did everything on their own. Then, predictably, they reject the idea that they got something African Americans and Latinos didn’t get. The GOP continues to make white voters believe Democrats are the party of big government – a corrupt big government that doesn’t work for white people, only for undeserving minorities. I don’t know why it was so hard for so many of my people to see that blacks and Puerto Ricans were playing the role the Irish had before them, filling in the bottom rungs of society, as the white working class climbed.If my father made me a feminist, by pouring his stunted ambition into me and encouraging my every intellectual pursuit, my mother made me a guilty feminist, because I knew from an early age I didn’t want a life like hers.My father cracked the walls of our religious ghetto by telling me all good people go to heaven, whatever their religion; heaven was not a country club, he said. My father pointed to the Serenity Prayer, though he made clear that “accepting the things I cannot change” wasn’t an option when it came to social injustice.“The working-class white man feels trapped and, even worse, ignored... He is beginning to look for someone to blame. That someone is almost certainly going to be the black man.” –Pete Hamill, New York magazine, April 1969I believed and still believe that even a weak Democrat is better for the country than a Republican. That’s what my father taught me.Reagan’s tax cuts did the most damage when it comes to dismantling the machinery of upward mobility. He slashed the top rate from 70 percent to 28 percent, and income inequality has soared ever since. Unionized jobs for people with a high school diploma or less were disappearing. Wages had flattened for all but the highest earners. Families made do by sending a second earner into the workforce.Now they had begun the process of borrowing the money they would have been earning, had wages continued to rise. That rising household debt, encouraged by the way government kept interest rates low and bank regulations flimsy, would culminate in the financial sector meltdown of 2008.Clinton tilted the balance of power at least a little bit back toward the besieged middle and working classes. He determined to use government to make people’s lives better – if he could do it in stealthy ways, people wouldn’t recognize it as a Big Government move.I came to hate the term white privilege, even as I believed it still existed, as colorless and odorless (to white people) as oxygen. White privilege was embedded in that superstructure of government help that white families got to rise that African American families didn’t get. It’s the assumption that your experience is the norm, your culture the dominant one.Clinton left Bush a $236 billion budget surplus; Bush would leave his successor saddled with a $1.2 trillion deficit.Most working- and middle-class whites “worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.” But the anger of both blacks and whites is “counterproductive,” Obama argued, distracting attention “from the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze”: corporate “greed” and “economic policies that favor the few over the many.”“To wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns,” Obama argued, “this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.” Sometimes I tried to write off the madness of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party as mere right-wing ranting, therapeutic identity politics for aging white people. Yet there was something more disturbing going on. At the same time that the Tea Party emerged, to “take our country back” from a president they insisted was illegitimate, several high-profile murders by right-wing crazies made it feel as if the increasingly extreme political rhetoric might be driving the unhinged to violence.Gabby Giffords complained about the violence in an interview, telling MSNBC that she’d been targeted for Sarah Palin’s target list. Nine months later, Giffords was struggling to survive an assassination attempt, the first against a member of Congress since 1954. An unemployed community college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, shot eighteen people and killed six, including a nine-year-old girl, at one of Giffords’s “Congress on your Corner” gatherings.Most of corporate America had recovered. The average CEO got a 23 percent raise in 2010. Corporate profits had climbed 22 percent since 2007. Yet those profits represented 88 percent of economic growth since the recession had ended; wages and salaries accounted for 1 percent. That was the lowest share of growth going to employee income in an any recovery during the past thirty years.Obama sided with the wealthy right after the election, when he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which were set to expire at the end of the year, breaking a campaign promise. In his defense, Obama didn’t have the votes at that point to repeal the high-end tax cuts– in exchange for his “compromise,” he got extended unemployment insurance that helped some of the jobless and a payroll-tax cut that juiced the economy a little.Yet once Republicans realized that even in the whitest states, same-day voter laws and other easy ballot-access regulations empower citizens who are today more likely to vote for Democrats – students, young people, the lower-income of every race, and yes, the nonwhites – they’ve fought these voter laws ruthlessly. About 52 percent of white voters call themselves Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center, as opposed to 8 percent of blacks and 22 percent of Latinos. In 2012 New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait observed that white voters were all that stood between the Republican Party and “demographic extinction.”The United States lags behind all industrialized nations when it comes to direct government funding of health care, family leave, child care, and unemployment benefits.Some in the white working class are finally, belatedly, waking up to the issue of economic inequality and the fact that they’ve been sold out by the GOP.

  • Diane
    2019-06-30 06:04

    I'm the only white person in my home, so I'm asked the title question or a variation of it -- particularly since we live in a very white and conservative area. I thought Ms. Walsh might have some insights to help me answer the questions posed by my children. The main trust of her book, however, is in the subtitle "why we long for a Golden Age that never was". She comes from an Irish Catholic family, a group that historically was the ire of "white Christian Americans", and the book takes for its framework the history/background of her Irish Catholic family in NYC. Ms. Walsh goes into great depths explaining the last 40 years of history of the Democratic and Republican parties which was incredibly informative. I now understand my late father's frequent comment, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me." Ms. Walsh goes into great detail explaining Democratic infighting as well as fights with Unions and the consequences of such actions. For these insights alone, Ms. Walsh's book is worth a read. Her book is NOT inflammatory, even as much as her title seems to be. Actually much of what she means is not "why do white folks act like that" but is more "why aren't white people (particularly the white working class) included as a 'special interest group' within the Democratic Party". She discusses the success of the Republican party to woo the white working class by addressing and catering to their racial fears while at the same time dismantling the structures that have allowed white (immigrants and native born) workers to move into and stay within the middle class. She addresses the recent conservative and Republican attacks on these same folks, i.e. Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 and John Kasich and Scott Walker's union-busting attempts and comments made by Republican primary candidates -- unfortunately and obviously, Mitt Romney had not yet made his 47% comments and were not included. She does not leave Democrats off the hook in her discussion and discusses they whys and hows of white folks, in general and working class in particular, being left out of the Democratic coalition, whether intentionally or unintentionally. However, this is the area her framework limits her discussion. Not all working class whites are union members, and the white working class is not a monolith. Likewise there is much political disagreement between union workers and non-unionized labor, skilled labor and non-skilled labor. Ms. Walsh also completely ignores the rise of Americanism and the coalition of Evangelical Christians with the Republican party. Unfortunately churches still preach the hurtful comments her mother endured in the last days of her life: (view spoiler)[ "Prochoice Christians are not Christians and will go to Hell."(hide spoiler)] Churches continue to preach politically for the Republican party and encourage single-issue voting. She briefly mentions this, but quickly brushes this aside. Honestly, I don't find it that easy to brush aside. We live in a majority-white, very conservative area, even white folks I know whocurrentlyreceive government benefits such as Earned Income Tax Credit, unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicaid, sing the Republican party chorus and demonize the Democratseven afterbeing told their vote could cause them to lose such benefits. I heard many on the left this past election cycle decry the working class for voting against its own economic interests and, like Ms. Walsh, believe the working class is unaware they are doing so. I do not believe they are unaware and in fact know they are voting against their own economic interests for various social issue and political reasons. As an aside, for those who vote "with purpose" against their economic interests I know well, they believe these economic losses "will not happen" and count on Democrats to keep the status quo in place. It will be interesting for me to listen to them next Presidential cycle, as the Democrats have said and shown recently that nothing is sacrosanct. I walked away from the book thinking that Ms. Walsh has never met such people. I also came way knowing that Ms. Walsh does not have direct contact with whites who are overtly racist and/or who say they want "an All-white America" as my daughters were told over lunch at their high school just prior to the Presidential election this fall. When they pointed out to the speaker, who had been dating one of my girls at the time, that they were not "all-white" (they pass), he simply said "well both of you together make up one white person, so you can probably stay." It should come as no surprise to Ms. Walsh that the family had a huge 5' by 7' sign for Mitt Romney in their tiny suburban front yard. I wonder how many of these people can truly be reached, although I do agree with Ms. Walsh that we must try.Addendum I did like the fact that Ms. Walsh remembered that the US racial identity is not simply black and white but includes Latinos and Asian Americans. However, all day I have been thinking about her comments about Asian Americans. First, Asian Americans are NOT a monolith. "Asian American" is a disparate group that would not include themselves together, ie. Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Bangleshi Americans and Asian Indians would not consider themselves one group. Likewise the intermarriage rates she quotes are not for the individual groups, which varies considerably, although I do think she mentioned the intermarriage rates for Asian women are much higher than for Asian men. Additionally, what disturbed me most was her brief discussion of "Asian Americans as model miniority". Yes, Asian Americans are the most educated racial group, and Asian American median income may be greater than white median income. However, at the same educational attainment, Asian American income lags behind white income levels, that is Asian Americans as a group only appear to make more money because of how much more education they have than whites as a group.

  • Anthony
    2019-06-25 10:51

    Sprawling and eccentric, the author looks at the quest for the perceived utopia, and the urgency to hold on to the dream, of a time that never really was in America. Peering through the looking glass of her own extended family she explores how the politics in America, has shaped the attitudes and divided the classes, and masses by the haves, and have-not and developed the us versus them mentality.

  • Samantha Hines
    2019-06-28 08:58

    Sadly prescient. I wish there was more to the conclusion. I’ll have to look to see if she’s written more in light of the 2016 election.

  • Sps
    2019-06-21 09:58

    Like a more personal Nixonland, Walsh's political/family history follows the white working class vote from the New Deal to Obama. Some of what she discusses also connects to themes in Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, like assumptions about privilege, jobs, and wealth: "Too many white people think they didn't have help, that they did everything on their own. Then, predictably, they reject the idea that they got something African Americans and Latinos didn't get. It make a kind of sense: if I believe I didn't get help, how can you say you didn't get something that I don't even know that I got?" (19)Desegregation efforts combined with the economic problems of the 1970s created a problem among the white union ranks, especially building trades:"There they were again, those elite do-gooders, trying to help blacks at the expense of white workers, with remedies that didn't touch their own privilege. At the same time, it was getting hard to ignore that blacks and Latinos were having a hard time grabbing a rung of the ladder of middle-class opportunity that blue-collar unionized work provided to generations of white ethnics." (97) And "Rather like the banking and media 'elites' Meany would attack for pushing integration on the building trades, rather than integrating their own ranks, labor union leaders supported civil rights measures most fervently when they didn't encroach on their own power and status." (100) Soon, "as unions lost power in the private sector, their only gains were coming in the public sector, and this divided the working class even more, into labor haves and have-nots." (128)More recently, "What the Old New Left and New New Left Obama supporters had in common was a desire for a political formula that left out the troublesome white working class. Whatever the formula, white college-educated cultural elites always wind up on top in their dreamy lefty scenarios. And if their standard-bearer doesn't carry the day, it's the fault of racist, benighted working class whites rejecting what they should know is best for them." (194) Yessssss.She's also good on why specifically Irish American working-class voters, such as her extended family, sometimes react the way they do: "It's as if the Irish radar about power relations and snobbery got warped by American politics, so that the enemy became self-righteous liberals...rather than the actual ruling class." (47) Though y'know Rick Perlstein has me convinced that this has Nixonian roots or at least was aided and abetted by Nixon strategists.And Perlstein will remain my favorite on the topic. (I suspect he might be hers too.) I wonder whether her work as an online columnist has led to a kind of writing cadence better suited for brief articles than for a whole book. Within chapters, many sections end with punchy, speechwriting-type zingers instead of smooth transitions from idea to idea. And it seemed like there was a whole lot she wanted to say about the Obama presidential campaign and later administration that didn't always relate to the rest of the book. So: some flaws, but a good book, I book I'd recommend if Nixonland is too dauntingly long or narrowly focused for those interested in the topic.

  • Nathaniel
    2019-07-01 06:09

    I have pretty mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, as a white liberal Boomer Walsh has to be given some credit for writing a whole book that explores the issue of race in a (mostly) refreshingly honest way compared to her peers. On the other, like any member of the "me" generation, she bases it entirely on her own experience, and this entire book is really more of a lengthy combination of personal narrative and opinion piece than a factual exploration of the titular question; the title is misleading because there is no way that one person's experience alone can answer that question, but Walsh spends the entire book attempting to do exactly that. This is a personal story with a broader element, not a universal story with a personal element, and anyone who approaches this book for the broader analysis, as I did, and not Walsh's personal story will be somewhat disappointed. With that said, I think from a scholarly perspective Walsh's framing is often thought-provoking, particularly regarding the historical roots of working class white vs. black animosity and the clueless, dysfunctional role of the postwar liberal elite in that struggle. However, I would've preferred to read an analysis of this topic that was grounded in more direct fact and less "this is what I was doing in 1974". Walsh indirectly cites a number of primary sources in her text, but there are no direct citations and no bibliography, so figuring out where she got her ideas for followup on a factual level is more difficult than it should be. Like many current events-based political analyses, this is also a book that starts out well and can't quite finish as strongly. The final couple of chapters in particular go into blow by blow detail about how as a commentator forSalonWalsh responded to various parochial issues of the 2008-2010 news cycle, and talks way too much about her feelings, as though the 1970's never died. These chapters were painful to read from a modern viewpoint and add nothing to the analysis. Overall, there's some good basic historical stuff here presented in a refreshingly honest way, but it's light on scholarly heft and gets weaker the closer Walsh comes to the present. Still worth a look if you're into the topic, but not really as much more than a secondary source.

  • Mark
    2019-06-29 09:07

    Walsh is a hard core democrat who tries to explain the history of racial and economic issues from the point of view of the democratic party. However she only speaks of Irish and Blacks and no one else. She comes from an Irish background and laments several times that the persecution suffered by the Irish isn't spoken of much in modern times. She feels that the blacks should be working hand in hand with the Irish to seek racial and economic justice. Walsh hardly gives any time to Latin people or any other minorities. I realize that she comes from an Irish background so it is a bigger deal to her but it seems a little lopsided to raise the Irish above everyone but the blacks in terms of past social injustices. It was an interesting book but she makes no attempt to be neutral and explains things as if it is obvious the democratic party is the right party in all matters of how to run the government. She criticizes the democratic party's political strategies but never their ideas on government. One thing I did find interesting is she talks of how much she has tried to help fight racism against blacks. Yet she was being criticized by blacks all the time for being racist. It wasn't that she was racist but it just shows that many blacks speaking on racism accuse anyone that doesn't think the same way they do as being racism. Even when their is no evidence to show they are. Within the black community lots of blacks disagree on the approach to take to improve racism. This kind of tactic makes it extremely hard for anyone who is white to champion their cause or try to move the cause forward. Sooner or later you will run into blacks accusing you of being racist because no matter what black movement you agree with, some blacks will disagree with you. Walsh found herself being accused all the time, this approach would only seem to alienate those non-blacks trying to help blacks and stagnant the cause.

  • The American Conservative
    2019-07-05 10:42

    'Everybody knows who Joan Walsh is. To liberals she’s a saint, and they just might have a point: her TV guest spots have established her as Joan of Fallen Archness. Editor-at-Large of Salon, she regularly turns up on the People’s Republic of MSNBC, wearing her trademark simper and oozing coyness, and obsequiously recites, “Yes, Reverend Al” to the honkyphobic views of Al Sharpton. But she is likely to appear on Fox News as well, coyness at the ready and wearing the same simper but adding a furrowed brow of troubled understanding as she analyzes and sympathizes with the fears roused by Pat Buchanan’s predictions of an imminent white-minority America.Her signature characteristics hold fast in her new book. She demonstrates her fallen archness by crafting a title that reminds everybody of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” and enlists her coyness and her simper in the service of book promotion to see if it really is possible to fool some of the people all of the time, and who—or all of the people some of the time, and for how long.'Read the full review, "Honky-Talk Woman," on our website:

  • Kita Williams
    2019-06-30 05:57

    Interesting review of America's pastI learned a lot about America's past outside of what I was taught in history books. The memoir style of the book helped me get a good idea of how Joan's family saw the political and racial divide in the US. I really got a sense of how divisive politics is the main culprit behind much of the racial and social division we are dealing with today. This book certainly helped me grasp the complex nature of our political environment and see how even the founding of our country helped create the divisive patterns we see now. Joan also sheds light on how racism can be used deliberately or incidentally to create advantages for both Democrats and Republicans. This also alienates sectors of society, which further fuels racism.Overall, I learned a great deal from this book that I was not aware of in American history. It was a dense read for me, but worth it.

  • Lucile Barker
    2019-07-11 08:03

    165.What’s the Matter with White People? By Joan WalshI had problems with Walsh’s assertions that there was an equivalent prejudice regarding the black Irish. I did find some interesting historical facts that I had not been aware of. Walsh, who is an editor at large at Salon, talks about the divisive politics that have been increasing since Nixon. Her own family is divided into right-wing Catholic conservatives and liberals like her father. Most of her relatives also moved from being Democrats to Republicans. She also gives a good background on the rise of the Tea Party. What’s the matter with this book is that she is blaming liberal Democrats for alienating Republicans. I also feel that she is a bit of an apologist for white men. She is right that the Democrats do not represent the poor of any race. I had hoped that Bernie would be able to smarten them up. I think that Walsh missed some of the corporate influence on both parties.

  • Maron
    2019-07-08 13:08

    Not at all what I thought it would be. Not that I didn't enjoy it, I did, but I thought it would be more about the political shift within America over the years from more of a historic perspective. Instead I found it to be Walsh's own personal political journey starting with her family's early history up until current day. It was written more like a blog, very personal, which made it super easy to read. At the same time it also felt that many details were glossed over and Walsh just focused on events/topics of interest that helped to explain her own rational and journey, not really providing a true historical recap. I still enjoyed reading her perspective, just think the subtitle should have been more indicative of the personal bent rather than the public one that exists. Side note: How many times do you think the word "deride" appears in the book? My guess is 60 times (about 2 - 3 times a chapter). Kinda odd.

  • Ted Magnuson
    2019-07-19 04:49

    Author Walsh raises some good points. She clearly is upset by the problem of class warfare in America. As to whether problem identification is the first step toward problem solving or whether those powerbrokers who truly have their fingers on the levers that shape our world, whether they see a clearer truth while the rest of us simmer in frustration in traffic jams in the transport arteries of our cities, well...interestingly enough and maybe beside the point today I sat in a $60,000 Tesla sedan. I saw the modular assembly line in their fab plant. Is the class warfare finger pointing just a smokescreen for spectators while the innovators are indeed hard at work making a difference in our lives? Thomas Friedman also wrote on the golden age of 'used to be.' His book is titled "That used to be us." Seems like he had more 'action steps,' than Ms. Walsh's book.

  • Kwkslvr
    2019-07-14 06:08

    Loving this... Reading this in tandem with The Maid Narratives. Another book with fascinating content. This one is asking why so many people keep longing for an idyllic past, the world of Ozzie and Harriet, the Cleavers, Father Knows Best and others. Why do so many people dream of a world that never actually existed outside the media? Likewise, why do so many females believe in Disney's happily ever after? Maybe both dreams are a comfort in a changing world, a world where there is no certainty. That isn't new but what is new is folks pulling their comfort from mass media and entertainment rather than religion.