Joe BIden


One of the paradoxes of the U.S. political system is how an anti-democratic Trump can win the support of sections of the white male working class, despite Biden’s relatively strong economic policies in support of this class. The present post explores this paradox.

It may not make that much of a difference in the November presidential elections how these workers vote, but their vote totals are still significant because of the number of white male working class people. And  it is worrisome that they are presently a major Trump constituency and have been influenced by his MAGA rhetoric, with its anti-immigrant, racist, anti-democratic, and pro-gun, rants as well as his strongman image. If the trends of the last few decades continue, whether Trump wins in November or not, their support of Trump appears, unfortunately, to be unwavering.

Biden’s State of the Union speech

In his State of the Union speech on March 7, President Biden spent some time lauding his record on jobs, on infrastructure and high-tech, and on a strong overall economy (

Here are some relevant excerpts.

“Folks, I inherited an economy that was on the brink.  Now, our economy is literally the envy of the world. 

“Fifteen million new jobs in just three years.  A record.  A record.  (Applause.)

“Unemployment at 50-year lows.  (Applause.)

“A record 16 million Americans are starting small businesses, and each one is a literal act of hope, with historic job growth and small-business growth for Black and Hispanics and Asian Americans.  Eight hundred thousand new manufacturing jobs in America and counting.  (Applause.)

The President continued.

“Where is it written we can’t be the manufacturing capital of the world?  We are and we will.  (Applause.)”

“On my watch, federal projects that you fund — like helping build American roads, bridges, and highways — will be made with American products and built by American workers — (applause) — creating good-paying American jobs.  (Applause.) 

“And thanks to our CHIPS and Science Act — (applause) — the United States is investing more in research and development than ever before.  During the pandemic, a shortage of semiconductors, chips that drove up the price of everything from cell phones to automobiles — and, by the way, we invented those chips right here in America.

“Well, instead of having to import them, instead of — private companies are now investing billions of dollars to build new chip factories here in America — (applause) — creating tens of thousands of jobs, many of those jobs paying $100,000 a year and don’t require a college degree.  (Applause.)

“In fact, my policies have attracted $650 billion in private-sector investment in clean energy, advanced manufacturing, creating tens of thousands of jobs here in America.  (Applause.)

“And thanks — and thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, 46,000 new projects have been announced all across your communities.”

An example of Biden’s proposed pro-worker legislation

Biden’s administration showed its pro-worker, pro-union stance early in his presidency.

At a presidential press briefing on March 9, 2021, President Biden introduced the
“Protecting the Right to Organize” (PRO) Act of 2021, strongly encouraging the
House to take up and pass the legislation and stating that it would be a major
step, if and when approved, “in dramatically enhancing the power of workers to
organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working
conditions” (

You can access the full proposal at

Biden believes that the conditions and prospects of ordinary workers starts with
rebuilding unions. He states: “The middle class built this country, and unions
built the middle class. Unions give workers a stronger voice to increase wages,
improve the quality of jobs and protect job security, protect against racial
and all other forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, and protect
workers’ health, safety, and benefits in the workplace. Unions lift up
workers, both union and non-union.  They are critical to strengthening our
economic competitiveness.”

And there are almost “60 million Americans [who] would join a union if they get a
chance, but too many employers and states prevent them from doing so through
anti-union attacks.” There is the precedent of strong action by the federal
government in support of unionization, that is, the National Labor Relations
Act, passed in 1935 despite unified business opposition. The president pointed
out that the NLRA “said that we should encourage unions. The PRO Act
would take critical steps to help restore this intent.”

U.S. House of Representatives passes Pro Act

Don Gonyea reports on NPR that on March 13, 2021, House Democrats approved
the Pro Act by a 224-206 vote, “with five Republicans joining Democrats in
favor of it.” Union leaders supported it. The Senate did not (

Gonyea lists five provisions of the Pro Act.

 “1. So-called right-to-work laws in more
than two dozen states
 allow workers in union-represented workplaces to
opt out of the union, and not pay union dues. At the same time, such workers
are still covered under the wage and benefits provisions of the union contract.
The PRO Act would allow unions to override such laws and collect dues from
those who opt out, in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining and
administration of the contract.

“2. Employer interference and influence in union elections would be forbidden.
Company-sponsored meetings — with mandatory attendance — are often used to
lobby against a union organizing drive. Such meetings would be illegal.
Additionally, employees would be able to cast a ballot in union organizing
elections at a location away from company property.

“3. Often, even successful union organizing drives fail to result in an agreement
on a first contract between labor and management. The PRO Act would remedy that by allowing newly certified unions to seek arbitration and mediation to settle
such impasses in negotiations.

 “4. The law would prevent an employer from using its employee's immigration status against them when determining the terms of their employment.

“5. It would establish monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate
workers' rights. Corporate directors and other officers of the company could
also be held liable.”

 Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, described the
Pro Act as a potential “game changer,” saying it would a major step in
correcting the “wages and wealth inequality, opportunity and inequality of

Biden’s record has little influence

Despite this record, Biden remains slightly behind Trump in recent polls, though they are hardly definitive since we are still many months away from the November presidential election. At the same time, white working-class workers are one of the groups that have been unrelenting and increasingly in support of Trump and his MAGA movement. We explore why this is so.

#1 - Recent polls

Rebecca Picciotto considers some of the recent polls (

“In four separate surveys released over the weekend by The New York Times/Siena College, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and CBS News/YouGov, Trump’s lead ranged from two points to five points among registered voters.

“The Fox News and Wall Street Journal surveys both showed Trump with a two point lead over Biden, 49-47 and 47-45, respectively. This was within their 2.5% margins of error.

“In the CBS News/YouGov poll, Trump led by four points, 52-48, outside the poll’s 2.8% margin of error.

“The Times/Siena survey showed a slightly larger lead for Trump of five points, 48-43, also outside the poll’s 3.5% error margin.

“Taken together, they paint a picture of a race that is extremely tight, but one where Trump’s advantage is solidifying.

“In addition to the hypothetical matchup lead, the surveys also hinted at a deeper shift in voter perceptions of two men who have been campaigning against one another on and off for the past five years: They suggest Biden may be losing is long-held likability edge over Trump.”

“Across all four polls, Trump had a higher favorability rating than Biden did with respondents, although some were within the surveys’ margins of error.”

“Biden has been fighting tooth and nail to convince voters that the economy’s post-Covid recovery is the result of his economic agenda, which aides have dubbed Bidenomics. But voters, still feeling the inflationary squeeze on their budgets, have yet to give Biden credit for the objectively strong economy, even as they get more optimistic about its trajectory.”

#2 -The pervasiveness of low-wage jobs

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, leader of the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, offers “the true state of the union,” published in The Nation on March 7, 2024 ( Here’s some of what he writes.

“No one can say that we haven’t seen good and important progress in the state of our union over the past four years. But we would betray the work of the people who’ve struggled to make that possible if we did not tell the truth about the injustices that continue to plague us.

“The true state of the union is not limited to one administration; it reflects the systemic reality that nearly a third of the workforce—52 million Americans—work for less than $15 an hour. Poverty wages, combined with a steep increase in cost of living, have left 135 million of our neighbors poor or low-income, even as unemployment is at a record low. This doesn’t simply mean that some of us are struggling to get by or learning to ‘do without’ luxuries we’d prefer. Poverty is the fourth-leading cause of death—more deadly than obesity, diabetes, or firearms. Low wages are killing people, but Congress has not acted to raise the minimum wage since 2009. We face a crisis of poverty; we know what could fix it, but our political leaders have failed to act.”

Barber continues.

“Poor and low-wage voters in the US today make up a third of the electorate; they are almost 40 percent of eligible voters in every swing state. As a group, these voters have historically participated at a rate 20 percent lower than their wealthier neighbors. If they were to fully engage, they are the single largest group of swing voters in the country.”

“America’s growing inequality over the past four decades has made us increasingly vulnerable to extremist attempts to divide the nation. When people know from their everyday experience that things aren’t working, it’s easy to play on our worst fears and pit Americans against one another. But at a moment when nearly half of the country is poor or low-income, it’s also possible for everyone who’s been left out and rejected to come together as a powerful force for transformative change. Since 2018, I have been working with the Poor People’s Campaign to mobilize a moral fusion movement of people from every race, religion, and region to change the narrative about what is possible in our public life. On March 2, thousands of us gathered at 32 statehouses and in the District of Columbia to declare that our votes are demands for a Third Reconstruction. We are launching 40 weeks of action in our communities to mobilize 15 million poor and low-income voters for this November’s election. Our political representatives have failed to act, but we are taking direct action to change the balance of power and right the ship of state. No captain can save a ship on his own; to make it through this storm, we need all hands on deck.”

#3 - Corporate anti-worker policies

Steve Early, a union rep for 30 years, addresses this issue in his review of two new books, Wall Street’s War on Workers: How Mass Layoffs and Greed Are Destroying the Working Class and What to Do About It, (Chelsea Green, 2024) by Les Leopold and Corporate Bullsh*t: Exposing the Lies and Half Truths that Protect, Power, and Wealth in America, (New Press, 2023) by Donald Cohen, Nick Hanauer, and Joan Walsh


Here are excerpts from one of the books, “Corporate Bullsh*t.”

“When workers try to win collective bargaining rights, employers conduct propaganda campaigns to spread every imaginable falsehood about the union. Once forced into negotiations, management shows up at the bargaining table with a new line of BS about not being able to afford union wage demands or agree to a grievance procedure. And in the legislative-political arena, corporate interests have long used disinformation to thwart labor campaigns.”

“Don Cohen, co-author of Corporate Bullsh*t: Exposing the Lies and Half Truths that Protect, Power, and Wealth in America, is a former Los Angeles Labor Council staffer who now helps government workers around the country oppose privatization. His collaborators are Joan Walsh, a Nation correspondent, and Nick Hanauer, a wealthy Seattle entrepreneur who has become a critic of income inequality.”

“…Corporate Bullsh*t debunks all the modern-day arguments against job safety and health laws, national health insurance, equitable taxation, climate change legislation, and business regulation, in any form.

“Plutocrats in any era employ politicians from both major parties as their shills and mouthpieces. So Corporate Bullsh*t also dissects the alarmist claims made, now and in the past, by business-backed legislators opposed to stronger legal protections for workers and consumers, homeowners and tenants, or the environment. Corporate America still attempts to discredit even the most modest liberal reforms as failed ‘socialist’ schemes imported from abroad.

In what the authors call our ‘post-fact’ society, the ‘truth purveyed by the wealthy and powerful prevails far too much of the time.’ They warn that corporate elites and their allies have ‘perfected a rhetorical style that relies on deception, fear, and demonizing their opponents.’ The result is a loss of public confidence not only in government, but also in the electoral process itself—and even in essential working-class institutions like unions.”

#4 - The war on workers continued

The title of Les Leopold’s new book says it all: Wall Street’s War on Workers: How Mass Layoffs and Greed are Destroying the Working Class and What To Do About It (publ 2024). The evidence is clear. The percentage of white workers voting for Democratic presidential candidates has fallen from 52.3% for Carter in 1976 to 36.2% for Biden in 2020 (p. 19).

Leopold focuses on “mass layoffs,” “defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistic as fifty or more workers losing their jobs at a single company during a five-week period” (p. 4). According to the BLS, “more than 30 million of us have experienced mass layoffs” and “even more have felt the pain and suffering as our family members lost jobs” (p. 6). This is occurring because corporate elites prefer buying back the stock in their companies to raise the price of these stocks and stock bonuses. This accrues to the benefit of top management and stockholders, to the stripping of productive assets in these corporations, and to the dismissal of workers. One consequence: “Working people – especially rural white working people in the border states as well as in the North and Midwest – are walking away from the Democratic Party, their historic champion. And if nothing is done to provide more stable employment, they may walk away from democracy as well” (pp. 6-7).

Leopold defines “white working class as those who identify themselves as white, are in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution, and have less than a four-year college degree” (p. 7). There “are about 52.8 million workers in the white working-class” (p. 42).

Here is more from Leopold’s book

“From 2010 to 2019, an astronomical $6.3 trillion went into stock buybacks, largely benefiting the rich” (p.35). The gap between top CEOs and their average worker has now reached 800 to 1 (p. 76). Corporate debt has risen, ballooning in the 1970s “and accelerating “as the deregulatory policies of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton years kicked into high gear” (p.103).

“In the early 1980s, corporate raiders (today called private equity and hedge fund managers) set about buying up company after company using borrowed money” (p. 105). They often use cheap contingent or even prison labor when they can (pp 110-112).

#5 - Why workers are turning away from Democratic Party?

Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol analyze this question in their book, Rust Belt Union Blues: Why Working Class Voters are Turning Away from the Democratic Party (publ. 2023). In addressing the question, they focus on two unions in western Pennsylvania, The United Steel Workers (USW) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Here the focus is on the USW, which has suffered major job losses in western Pennsylvania – and elsewhere.

The steel mills have suffered from trade policies that encourage companies to invest abroad to take advantage of low-wage and unregulated labor, and have done their best domestically to avoid or curtail unions, cut wages and benefits, and paid new workers lower wages and few benefits than other workers. But they have done more than that. US Steel eliminated its support of social and recreational activities for workers. Without such activities and when faced with an authoritarian corporate bureaucracy, workers are now turning to other sources of identification and participation, which have political effects.

Workers have shifted from support of the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Newman and Skocpol put it this way. “Whereas in the mid-twentieth century unions with many locals tied to workplaces and surrounding neighborhoods provided the underlying structure that made taken-for-granted social and political loyalties plausible, today the old ties and structures are mostly dissolved. They have been replaced by gun clubs that now serve as a communal hub, functioning both as gathering places and as centers where displaced white men can assert physical dominance and familial superiority,” and by mega-churches that focus on right-wing cultural issues. They write: “Activities that local union halls once hosted in industrial communities now may happen at gun clubs or in conservative churches that similarly structure social life for many workers’ families” (p.232). Trump and the Republicans have been the political beneficiaries.

#6 - Despite the risks of unemployment, strikes increased in 2023

Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder reports on Dec. 28, 2023, for U.S. News on why there were so many strikes in 2023 (

“More than half a million workers staged nearly 400 strikes during the first 11 months of 2023, according to Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker.

“‘I think it's fair to say that, relative to the rest of the 21st century, this is quite a big uptick,’ says Johnnie Kallas, the project director of the tracker.”

“Many union contracts happened to be up in 2023. But it was more than just that. Workers felt empowered by other highly visible and successful strikes (or threats to strike) and a tight labor market, emboldening them to ask for higher pay and other benefits as inflation claimed more money from their pockets.

“‘It really is the first contract many of these unionized workers are negotiating since the beginning of the pandemic, and I think a ton has changed since the beginning of the pandemic’ Kallas says.

“It’s especially true for health care workers who were in the front lines of the pandemic and who may also be dealing with feelings of burnout and seeking better working conditions. Kaiser Permanente workers, for example, walked off the job in October in the largest strike of health care workers in U.S. history.

“‘Then you combine that with pay increases that certainly pretty much anywhere haven't kept up with inflation over the past few years, and you have a situation where workers are – in a lot of ways, rightfully so – demanding much more in these current contract negotiations,’ Kallas says.

“To be sure, the level of strike activity – while high relative to the 21st century – is significantly lower than it has been in the past. In the 1970s, about 5,000 work stoppages involved more than 2 million workers each year on average.

“Now, Kallas says that employers are ‘much more resistant to both union organizing and strikes than maybe they were in the mid 20th century.’

And it shows. The rate of union membership has declined from 20% in 1983 to 10% last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, unions have the backing of President Joe Biden and potentially most of the public.

“According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll published in September, the majority of Americans regardless of party affiliations say that labor unions have improved the quality of life for working Americans. They also expressed support for the United Auto Workers strike and the Writers Guild of America strike.

“I think the alliance of the public and the labor movement has a potential to influence these dynamics even more in 2024 than we saw in 2023,” says Sharon Block, a professor at Harvard Law School and the executive director of the Center for Labor and a Just Economy.

“The moves, however, come with risks. While the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 protects most workers’ rights to strike for better working practices or wages, striking workers can potentially be permanently replaced at their workplace.”


#7 - What can be done to buttress Biden’s re-election?

Leopold has some answers. He refers to what an equitable and democratic solution  would be for workers generally and one that might attract more voters who are white, male, and with less than a college education, writing:

“For democracy to endure, our nation must provide stable livelihoods for working people. Stock buybacks must be eliminated. Corporate raiders must be removed from boards of directors and replaced by employees and their representatives. Workers should be free to join labor unions without corporate interference. And the federal government needs to create jobs as it did through the New Deal programs and the Marshall Plan. That is what it will take to revive communities and regions that have been left behind, from industrial and coal-mining counties to depressed urban areas” (p. 10).

Leopold also supports four reforms proposed by Professor William Lazonick: (1) end stock buybacks; (2) “prohibit shareholder activists from serving on boards of directors; (3) “Change the way top corporate officers are paid”; and (4) “Place worker and public representatives on the board of directors” (pp. 164-165). Then he offers additional ideas on reform.

  • Follow North Dakota’s example and create public banks.
  • Make sure that contingent and gig workers are “considered employees and receive all the benefits enjoyed by regular employees.”
  • “Limit corporate debt”
  • “Prevent Corporate-Focused Trade Deals”
  • Create “a Marshall Plan for Victims of Mass Layoffs”
  • “Make Unionization Easier and Simpler” (pp. 166-172)

Concluding thoughts

The reform proposals offered by Leopold and Lazonick would make a world of difference if passed by the U.S Congress. But Biden and the Democrats won’t go that far. Still, they have an agenda that is pro-worker, pro-union, and pro-democracy. The question is whether some of the white male working-class can be swayed to support Biden over Trump. They can, but it will take luck, imagination, education, wise use of the media, continuous improvement in the economy, and vigorous election campaigns. If successful, they might curtail the trend of white male workers supporting Trump’s authoritarian MAGA plans.

At the same time, of course, Trump and his supporters represent a powerful political force. Biden faces a Trump-led Republican Party that can use procedural rules in the House (the votes of Republican MAGA extremists) and Senate (e.g., the filibuster) that make it hard to get a budget passed, let alone advancing workers’ rights. And they face corporate boards and executives who would spend vast sums to lobby and advertise against any such reforms, strip companies of assets, use strikebreakers, and move or threaten to move facilities to other places.

If Trump and the right-wing forces that support him prevail in 2024, we can expect
that an increasing proportion of the US population will find themselves
economically insecure, marginalized, and/or poor. They will continue to be
without union representation, and burdened with inadequate employment options,
with jobs that pay low wages, provide no benefits or affordable benefits (e.g.,
health insurance; pensions), and provide little or no job security. In these circumstances, right-wing ideology would have trumped secure and equitable employment.