Trump excuses the white working class from the politics of personal responsibility

Trump never speaks this way. In fact, he speaks less about personal responsibility than any Republican presidential nominee since Reagan. He’s the anti-J.D. Vance. Vance wants blue-collar whites to blame multinational corporations less for their woes. Trump blames them more than any Republican nominee ever has. Vance cautions that government can’t save Appalachia. Trump, by promising a crackdown on immigrants and outsourcing, vows that it will.

This is the real shift Trump is bringing to the GOP. Under Reagan, Republicans demanded personal responsibility from African Americans and ignored the same cultural problems when displayed by whites. Under Trump, Republicans acknowledge that whites exhibit those same pathologies. Trump, for instance, spoke frequently during the campaign about drug addiction in white, rural states like New Hampshire. But instead of demanding personal responsibility, Trump’s GOP promises state protection. Unlike Vance, who speaks about his poor white neighbors in the way Reagan-era conservatives spoke about poor blacks, Trump-era conservatives describe the white working class as the victims of political and economic forces beyond their control. Sounding a bit like Jesse Jackson defending the black underclass in the 1980s, Trump Republicans say that what the white underclass needs today is not moralistic sermonizing but government assistance and cultural respect.