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Monday, Jun 5, 2023

Charles Murray, Middlebury, the Working Class and the Rise of Trump’s America

I saw a handful of signs at the Murray protest that read “Working Class.” Of course, I can’t say with any certainty what the background of the people holding those signs is. They could very well be from the working class. However, given the socioeconomic reputation of Middlebury College, I’m going to postulate that that isn’t true. But it seemed to me indicative of a greater problem here at Middlebury, and presumably in wealthy liberal enclaves across the country – a vilification of blue collar America, more specifically the vilification of people who voted for Donald Trump. (Full disclosure, I find a lot of Donald Trump’s actions reprehensible and believe him fully unqualified to hold the office of President of the United States and as such, I did NOT vote for him.)


I come from a small city northwest of Atlanta, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I come from a county that votes overwhelmingly red in every election and that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. I come from a state that has, in essence, just one liberal enclave. I came to Middlebury to better my prospects in life, to do better than those who have gone before me, and to move up the socioeconomic ladder. I loathe what Trump stands for, but to sit in Ross or Proctor or Atwater or anywhere else on this campus and hear students call the people I love “bigots” or “racists” or “homophobic” or “islamaphobic” is disheartening.


Certainly those people exist, but to claim that they are indicative of blue collar America is a blatant mischaracterization. The people I grew up with are some of the most loyal, kindest, and good-hearted people I have ever known. They are the kind of people who would give you the shirt off their back, who would pick you up on the side of the road at three in the morning. I vehemently disagree with the notion that “a vote for Trump is a vote for bigotry,” an idea oft repeated on this campus. Some people thought a vote for Trump was a vote for a better life.


It’s easy to sit here in our ivory tower and analyze all the injustices present in America (of which there certainly are many), when so many of us come from places of immeasurable privilege. I myself come from the working class, but even I don’t know what it’s like in a dead backwater coal town in West Virginia. The working class is collapsing in on itself. Coal country is going the way of many a coal miner; a slow and painful demise. As is steel country, in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. So while I applaud the wealthy left for being so concerned with the plight of the rest of America, I ask you to consider your position relative to that of the working class. Think for a minute; if you had to worry about whether or not you were going to be able to pay your bills at the beginning of every month, or about how to stretch your paycheck to pay your child’s tuition to an expensive private liberal arts college. Would you hold the same opinions that you do now? I think not. Of course, I recognize that not everyone at Middlebury is well off. If you come from the working class and hold positions completely antithetical to mine, I’d love to talk to you. Perhaps we could learn something from each other.


I want to close this piece by trying to explain how people from blue collar America often react to events like those of last Thursday, during Dr. Murray’s scheduled talk. I think we can agree that there is a general perception in America that college students are entitled and overly sensitive. I do not agree with that perception, though it is especially prevalent in the working class — anecdotally speaking. But when people see headlines like the many that cropped up over the weekend, it only serves to reinforce that notion. By shutting down Murray and refusing to allow him to speak, we as a community have only served to trod all over the ideas of free speech this country was founded upon and to give ourselves a reputation for being a campus of obstinate, intolerant children — or even thugs (given the incident concerning Dr. Murray and Professor Stanger). Besides all that, if Dr. Murray’s work really is as debunked, as people claim, why not let him embarrass himself in front of an audience armed with questions that would do far more damage than physical violence? After all, the pen is mightier than the sword.