Summary: In 2015, the Nobel prizewinning economist Angus Deaton discovered something strange and shocking: Life expectancies for non-college educated white Americans were declining. That fact is dispiriting enough, but the sources of that decline are despair inducing, too: alcohol driven liver disease, complications from opiate addiction, and suicide. At the same time as their prospects were declining, the white underclass began developing a strong and sometimes destructive variety of identity politics, which contributed to the election of populist-nationalist Donald J. Trump. The relationship between the decline of the white working class and the rise of American nationalism brings together social forces that have been active in American politics since before the candidacy of George Wallace, but in a way that is magnified by current economic and political conditions.
Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent and the author of several books, including The End Is Near and It’s Going To Be Awesome and The Case Against Trump. His work has appeared in publications ranging from the Washington Post to The New Criterion, where he served as theater critic. A longtime newspaper editor, he began his career at the Bombay-based Indian Express Newspaper Group and has served as editor-in-chief of three newspapers. He is from Lubbock, Texas.