The relationship between social class and the political spectrum have intrigued political scientists and sociologists alike. Over the ages, this relationship has taken a general pattern, with the upper classes usually adhering to right-wing ideologies, and lower classes supporting both sides of the spectrum, with a majority patronising the left. However, recent events suggest that a slight reconfiguration of the spectrum in relation to social structure has taken place. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the election of Pauline Hanson to Australia’s Senate, are but a few almost revolutionary events that have rocked the world of politics, showing a shift in the worldview of various classes.
Traditionally, the upper classes were the main proponents of both right wing economics and social policy. Capitalism and feudalism have been the general choice of the traditional upper class, the former because of the economic freedom and opportunities it provides for humans to advance through the social structure, and the latter because of the security it provided to the landed gentry. Feudalism is long gone, and capitalism now dominates, garnering supporters due to its ability to allow people to accumulate wealth through hard work, risk-taking, and knowledge. While being supported on a massive scale, significant proportions of the working classes have generally eyed capitalism with some animosity due to a false perception that it only helps the upper classes and exploits the workers. Most have supported the introduction of at least some form of left-wing economic principles to society, such as Keynesian or Socialist principles. A Marxist-inspired perspective has motivated the working classes to pursue equality, a concept that the right wing, and especially the upper class, rightly dismissed as unnatural and dangerous.
However, a large proportion of the working class still chose the right wing, mainly because of an acceptance of social inequalities as the natural order and/or due to the right’s advocacy of socially conservative policies. Many people also realised the effectiveness of capitalism in helping to accumulate wealth. And of course, a notable percentage of the working class have supported National Socialism, which is a completely different ideology. Right-wing political parties have continued to successfully garner political support from a large portion of the working class due to a socially and culturally conservative attitude. In Australia and the United States, for example, the Liberal and Republican parties have received support due to their attachment to traditional values and promotion of conservative policies.
Yet, Brexit and Donald Trump represent a readjustment of the social structure and its connection to politics. Donald Trump, for example, sustained a great deal of support from the white working class voter base, accumulating large swathes of traditionally Democratic strongholds during the 2016 US Presidential election. States such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, collectively referred to as the “Rust Belt”, turned the tables by supporting a Republican candidate. But why? The answer lies in Trump’s ability to appeal to the working class, Hillary Clinton’s personality flaws, and the estrangement of the left from the working class in general.
Donald Trump was able to recognise something his opponent ignored, the fact that the white working class was also experiencing hardship. Clinton’s progressive campaign and emphasis on supposed “privilege” experienced by whites over other racial minorities in the United States separated her from the white working class. Along with her reputation of pandering to the Wall Street corporate elite and possession of private and public policy stances, her seeming animosity towards the white population contributed to her ultimate loss. Why would anyone want to vote for a woman with particular policies in private to appeal to Goldman Sachs, and on the other hand a public set of policies that simply function as a method to keep the plebs in line? This resulted in Trump receiving traditionally Democratic voters on his side due to his policies on trade deals and immigration, which were inextricably linked to the unemployment issue.
However, it has to be emphasised that this may have been different if Bernie Sanders was the Democratic candidate instead of a corporatist Clinton. Sanders also possessed very similar stances to Trump, except his solutions were mainly left-wing driven as he was a self-described socialist. If Bernie was the candidate, it is more than likely for the white working class to have supported him instead of Trump. If this was the case, then there may not have been a significant shift in the relationship between class and spectrum in relation to the lower classes.
When considering the traditionally staunch right-wing upper class, it is clear there indeed has been a slight realignment when examining the younger members of this class. Many inner city progressive elites supported Hillary Clinton. One reason for this is because younger generations are more inclined towards self-expression values in contrast to the survival-based values of the older generations. The traditionalism and conservatism characterising the survival mind-set has given way to more environmentalist and progressive self-expression attitudes among the generations born during more recent times. As a result, younger members of the upper class are more devoted to progressive left-wing values, which is supplemented by the fact that they are better positioned financially to accept climate policies and regulations, unlike the working classes who are unable to bear the brunt of such trivial policies. Therefore they view Clinton as more suitable. A similar conclusion is possible of Brexit, which resulted from a more patriotic working class being disillusioned by a quasi-imperialistic European Union in contrast to the more globalist-oriented younger upper class.
It is obvious that the majority of the upper class are still right-wing, as the majority of the upper-class consist of older generations with a more traditional mindset. They also possess a sufficient IQ level to realise the dangers of regulations to both themselves and the economy in general. Unfortunately, their children are not open to such views, and rebel against their right-wing parents in favour of left-wing regressive ideologies. This is fuelled by a sense of “rich guilt”, as a generation driven by feelings is susceptible to left-wing attitudes that criticise the rich, motivating them to portray their commitment to social justice and progressivism by openly supporting a left-wing candidate. It is similar to white guilt, where white people are ashamed of the benefits of so called ‘’’white privilege’’.
The left has fuelled such “rich guilt” sentiments due to its effectiveness in getting them more support from the upper classes. Endorsement from the powerful sections of society would serve them well in spreading their left-wing message, or so it seemed. But lo and behold, this effort came at a significant cost to the left. Rejecting Bernie Sanders through a rigged DNC primary process proved how disastrous this decision was for them. It lost them support from large areas of the country, which switched directly to Trump.
In Australia, the Labor Party’s efforts at appealing to inner city progressives through a push for harmful left-wing ideologies and beliefs, such as radical gender theory, political correctness, and a destruction of tradition, has further shown the ineffectiveness of the left’s desperate attempt to get more supporters. It has estranged the party from the more socially conservative, usually rural voters that have generally preferred Labor who are now switching their vote to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party. This right-wing party not only offers economic hope from a working class perspective, it also signifies an opportunity to revive traditional values and common sense. This has prompted Labor leader Bill Shorten to announce a crackdown on the 457 foreign worker program to try and appeal to the working class. But it is to no avail, as Australian people from all classes are able to see through the surface and examine the true colours of a party that wants to impose destructive climate change mitigation policies and unsustainable immigration stances on this society. Also, the majority of the upper class, driven by conservatism and capitalism, will never support a party hungrily eyeing for opportunities to impose regulations and engineer society.
While a realignment has indeed taken place between social classes and its connection to the left and right of politics, it is mainly confined to the younger generations. The working classes have given attention to right-wing parties and individuals, but that’s mainly because of a disillusionment with the left-wing parties. As said previously, if Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee, then the election result may not have been very surprising, and Bernie may have won. As for the upper classes, the younger minorities of its ranks are pulled towards the left due to a mixture of self-expressionism and “rich guilt”, which themselves have been fuelled by cultural Marxist attempts to subvert the traditionally conservative and capitalist foundations of the upper class. Yet, the majority of the upper class still seem to support the right due to it providing a greater life experience and a devotion to the right-wing in general. The left has realised that the shift in their policies have resulted in its estrangement from the large white working class voter base, but so far their efforts at mending this have hardly been successful.