Brow Beat

Samantha Bee Heads to Pennsylvania to Meet the Working-Class Voters Trump Doesn’t Care About

It turns out they’re not all white men in hard hats.

Since the election of Donald Trump, we’ve seen no shortage of profiles of the white, working-class voters who supported him, either out of economic anxiety or out of “economic anxiety.” Over on Full Frontal, host Samantha Bee decided to go on a Cletus Safari of her own to talk to some of those coal miners and factory workers we’re always hearing about, the ones who voted for and stay loyal to the president. But when she got to western Pennsylvania, Bee found that liberal reporters had already beaten her to it and that there were no white men in hard hats left for her to interview. So she assembled a different kind of panel of working-class voters no one seems to be talking to—one comprised entirely of women and people of color.

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“Why did you vote for Trump?” Bee asked the panel at large and received a chorus of denials in return. It turns out that not all working-class voters like Trump—and despite how they are usually depicted, they’re neither all coal miners nor all white. (In fact, people of color are expected to be the majority of the working class by 2032.) Bee’s panel included a steel worker, a cook, and a nurse, who all say they feel they aren’t being heard or represented.

“It’s Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Mexicans,” said one woman, a security guard, while talking about the reality of the working class as a whole versus the romanticized image of Jimmy Who Wears a Hard Hat and Overalls. “But nobody wants to see that. All they want to see is a white person, with a white man, a white woman, and white little children.”

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The panel discussed actual economic anxiety—in this case, not a euphemism for racism—including the strain of working long hours and still worrying whether they’ll be able to pay the bills or have health care. The president’s nostalgia for the good ole days when coal miners would mine coal hasn’t translated to concern for workers in other industries, like teachers or warehouse clerks or drywall installers. And it definitely doesn’t extend to working-class women, LGBTQ people, or people of color, like the steel worker on Bee’s panel who says that representatives from her company will talk to the white men around her instead of speaking to a black woman.

The segment was a smart, tongue-in-cheek way for Full Frontal to criticize not only Trump but also the media for enforcing his homogenous image of working-class America. Bee capped it off with a Bruce Springsteen–style working-class anthem, one that urges reporters to remember to include “People who clamp the wires/ And change your tires/ And work the fryers” in their profiles.

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