I had been at my job at the restaurant for an hour when I became more well-informed than Brian Stelter.
Actually, scratch that. It was while doing the paperwork before starting the job that I became better informed than Stelter—not to mention Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow, and Bill Kristol.
The restaurant’s manager just kept shaking his head. “They’re giving people free money,” he said. “None of them want to work. The only one working is Biden, who doesn’t know what day it is.”
Then he said it: “You know what? Trump actually did a good job.”
Here was the person that the alphabet networks, the internet sages, and the conservative chin-pullers just never bothered to interview—a Latino man in his 30s who manages a business and who voted for Trump.
I’ve run into them everywhere. In order to support my writing I often take seasonal jobs, a lot of them temporary—washing dishes, selling Christmas trees, working in a deli. At each and every one of them it has taken me about five minutes to discover, or reconfirm, that the working class—particularly young male minorities—is essentially conservative. It’s obvious why the elites don’t know what’s going on, but the grifters of Conservatism, Inc., are equally clueless.
In most professions, there are intermittent periods of tutoring required to sharpen skills. Professional athletes practice in the off-season, studying strategy and doing drills to master the fundamentals. Airline pilots have to take tests to make sure their senses stay sharp. Doctors bone up on the latest illness and treatments.
Journalists, on the other hand, are not required to have such training. As a result, they tend to isolate themselves—living among similar types, hanging out at the same New York and Washington parties or network green rooms, never leaving the small radius of their beat. They lose touch with the people they claim to cover. Their coverage becomes a tape-loop, repeating the same talking points for hours on end.
The solution is easy: Journalists should be required to get seasonal jobs working with real people to be taken seriously. They can work manual labor part time, or for a few months over the holidays. A job in a restaurant kitchen, or at a home-improvement retailer or hardware store, or steel mill or a coal mine, or on a construction crew or in nursing home, can reintroduce journalists to the people they claim to cover. It also might reintroduce them to the concept of humility.
As recent polling has shown, working people and minorities are breaking for the Republican Party. They are turned off by identity politics, punitive liberalism and academic elites. As Henry Olsen argues in The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism, if conservatives understand themselves as for the working class and not opposed to the parts of FDR’s New Deal that genuinely helped people—Social Security for example—they can form a gigantic multiethnic and multigenerational coalition.
If journalists spent any time at all with actual working people, they would realize a couple things very quickly. The first is that most Americans are not race obsessives the way Hollywood and the media are. I worked Christmas season in a large home-improvement store, and my coworkers were from Africa, Ireland, Mexico, the Middle East, everywhere. We were all focused on various tasks and made friends with each other easily, usually bonding in the break room over whatever professional sport was playing on TV. It was, in short, the real world.
Liberals depend on a crisis culture of “breaking news” to give them things to do. They don’t like to hear it, but the American experiment is working fine without their interference and advice. We all tend to respect each other.
The second thing I’ve learned working regular jobs is that most working people have a visceral and authentic distrust of political and social coercion. To be sure, many join unions, but that’s more about strategic and economic self-interest, not the kind of distrust I’m talking about. Workers dislike politicians, celebrities, and professors raising their taxes or telling them a man can become a woman, or that police are racists, or that illegal immigration is not a problem. It’s an often overlooked irony of history that Poland’s Solidarity Movement, a working class party, helped topple communism.
In 2020, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins made a stink when the Trump Administration tried to move her seat to the back of the White House press room. Collins’ tweet about it got over 100,000 likes, and colleague Jim Acosta huffed, “Just to show you the Soviet-style totalitarian-like lengths they were going to, this evening, they were trying to rearrange the seats in the briefing room, so our colleague Kaitlan Collins would be stuck in the back row and another moved to the front of the briefing room.”
Collins and Acosta—and Kristol and O’Donnell and Maddow and Stelter and Stephanopoulos—all need to lay some bricks. It might help them escape their own back passages.