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Donald Trump's shock victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 highlighted the growing disconnect between the American working class and the political establishment. The former turned to Trump in droves in response to feeling betrayed by the elites. Now, amid bruising inflation and bitter debates over immigration and climate policies, that divide seems even more pronounced. For her new book, Batia Ungar Sargan traveled across the country to speak with working class Americans to learn what issues and concerns motivate them. In this episode, we sit down with Batia to discuss her book, Second Class: How the Elites Betrayed America's Working Men and Women. I'm Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief John Bickley. It's Saturday, May 11th, and this is an extra edition of Morning Wire. Joining us now to discuss her new book, Second Class: How the Elites Betrayed America's Working Men and Women, is Batia Ungar Sargan, a Opinion Editor at Newsweek, and our guest host this week, Batia, thank you so much for joining us.


Thank you so much for having me.


It's been great to work with you this week, and we're really excited about your book here. You're the Opinion Editor of Newsweek. Before we dig into your new book, can you share a bit of your background for us?


Yeah, absolutely. I'm an Orthodox Jew. I work at Newsweek, where one of the most important parts of my job is to host a very vibrant debate about the issues of importance to our country. We really do our best to get opinion from across the political spectrum, which I think makes our readers feel more seen and heard, no matter what side they're coming at the issue from. I think that's a very Jewish value. I would say that my job is very connected to my background.


I feel like that's pretty rare. Not many media outlets are open-minded and willing to voice diverse viewpoints. Can you speak to that? What's the philosophy there?


Yeah, absolutely. Although I have to say the Daily Wire is really good at that as well.


We like to think so.


Yeah, and it's a lonely field out there because a lot of media outlets are very afraid of their most engaged viewers and readers. The reason for that is because That's where they make their money. Because when you measure success in terms of engagement, you're really catering to the most engaged readers and viewers, and they really don't like to hear from the other side. But at Newsweek, we really think that that is bad for journalism, and it's bad for the nation. At a time when there are so many forces trying to convince Americans to hate each other, it is our view that more unites us as Americans and divides us, and that you can only find that common ground by being willing to hear from the other side. We're just deeply, deeply committed to both making our viewers feel seen and heard and not erased, but also in that comfort of being seen, to expect them to hear from the other side and to count it into the viewpoints of people they disagree with. So far, they seem to be responding really well to it.


It's certainly refreshing to hear. So your book, it's an excellent, important book, Second Class: How the Elites Betrayed America's Working Men and Women. You delve into the disconnect between the American working class and the political establishment, and that includes the media, that includes a lot of elements in society. What inspired you to write this book?


In my first book, Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy Mercy, I found that the real divide in America is not really left versus right. It's really the class divide. This manifestsates in the media, especially in the left-wing media, which I argued in the book, is not bad because it's left, although it's certainly left. It's bad because it's woke. It's woke because the people who become journalists today are all from the elites, the economic elites, the cultural elites. They go to really fancy schools, and they come out of those schools with an ideology that really snears at people who work with their hands for a living. Having uncovered this class divide, much to my dismay, I really wanted to have something I could send people to read to explain to them some of these big differences between how working class Americans see the world and how they see the world. And especially when I was promoting bad news, I found myself reaching for a to be like, look, this is how working class people think, even liberal working class people. And here's why it's so different to how you talk about the issues in the media.


And there was no book like that. There were a bunch of academic ethnographies of the working class, but they were very academic in the way that they were written. And also they were written by leftist academics. And so the conclusion in all these ethnographies was the way we help the working class is give them more welfare, raise taxes and redistribute it. And I knew that that was not what working class people themselves wanted. I decided to embark on this journey and travel around the country and find out who is the American working class and do they still have a fair shot at the American dream. Those are the stories you'll find in second class.


Tell us about that process. You say you journeyed across America and talked to people throughout the country. What kinds of conversations did you have? How many people did you talk to? What did that look like?


I didn't keep a full list, but I think by the time I was finished, I'd interviewed between 75 and 100 people. The interviews ranged from an hour on the phone to four days in their community with them. I have a day job at Newsweek, and so there was a limit to how much time I could spend on this. Honestly, people told me not to do it. They said, There's no way that you'll be able to get a representative sample unless you have a team of researchers or if you're willing to spend 10 years on it. I really felt that critique. Obviously, if I had 10 years to spend or 10 researchers at my disposal, it probably would have been better. But I that it was more important to do this project than to put it off for a time in my life where I could spend unlimited resources on it. What I ended up doing was, from those interviews, I called the ones that I felt were the most representative of larger trends in the working class so that each story that you read in the book is not just of a person whose story is very moving and whose personality is very charismatic and who can carry a narrative, which they are, but also that they were reflect larger trends, a larger sector of the working class, so that you really can come away with a feeling of like, Okay, I can really picture in my mind who these people are, and most importantly, why working class people who vote for Democrats and working class people who vote for Republicans actually agree on 90% of the issues.


About that, I wanted to talk to you about the political element of this. We saw the Trump 2016 victory that really shocked the elites and set off a series of actions that I think have disturbed a lot Americans in terms of censorship and suppressing disparate opinions. Trump's victory was fueled by the working class. What changed over the last couple of decades in terms of the Democratic Party's relationship to the working class versus the Republican relationship to it?


Yeah. For much of the 20th century, the Democrats were the party of labor of the working class. In fact, a lot of Trump voters are people who 20 years ago, 30 years ago, voted for Democrats and could never imagined they would vote for a Republican. I think it's actually crucial to underline, they're not voting for a Republican, they're voting for Donald Trump. There's a real difference there between the hardline GOP line that Nikki Haley really represented and the kinds of economic policies that Donald Trump represents. But the Democrats, over the course of the end of the 20th century, certainly since the beginning of this one, have really abandoned the working class. Instead, they cobbled pulled together a new coalition of, on the one hand, the college-educated elites, the top 20%, these multiple-degreed two-income families who live in coastal cities and work in the knowledge industry, and then on the other hand, the dependent poor. When you look at their agenda, each agenda item is either catering to this economic elite, this overeducated economic elite, or to somebody who is not working, someone who can't work or has not to, the dependent poor. Both of those groups, their economic agenda and interests are in tension with those of the working class.


Certainly, that's how working class people see it. They've really cut the working class out of every policy that they put out there. In fact, a lot of their policies are class warfare on the working class. They're an upward transfer of wealth from middle class Americans to these over-credentialed, multiple-degreed elites. You can see this whether it was in opening the border or student loan forgiveness or the Green New Deal. All of these policies are really a plunder of the middle class. Trump showed up and made these people who used to be Democrats feel seen for the first time. That's why he won in 2015, because he talked about economics in a way that the Democrats used to, in a way that they recognized. In the '90s, it was the Democrats who believed in having a strong border to protect labor. I think since then, Trump has, he's really, even from a social and cultural point of view, picked up a lot of what would have been familiar to us as democratic policy in the '90s. I mean, he's really a centrist. If just look at the policy. And working class people really do not have the luxury to look at anything else.


What we've seen over the last three years under Joe Biden is an embrace of arguably the most radical left policies we've ever seen from any administration on a number of levels. This is economic, this is also cultural. Do you see this divide with the elite and the working class also playing out in terms of culture politics, issues like abortion or transgenderism that the Biden administration has really made a point of promoting?


It's so funny because Democrats like to accuse working class people of, quote, unquote, voting against their economic interests. That's why they vote for Republicans. That was the whole what's the matter with Kansas argument. You really see it a lot as they start to realize that Trump's doing really well with working class people of all races. There's a lot of gaslighting at working class people. Oh, you don't know what's in your economic interest. But the truth is working class people vote very much on economics and on economic realities, much less on cultural issues. It's really the left that has the privilege, honestly, the economic privilege to vote on things like climate change because they have that padding, that economic padding heading that is insulating them from the enormous, enormous inflation. But the truth is that the left is also voting in their economic interests. Something like immigration is a really good example of this. The top 20% are the consumers of low-wage labor. Of course, the more illegal immigrants there are in this country, it puts money back in their pockets. They like to dress immigration up as some moral quandry that the working class is on the wrong side of, and they call them xenophobic and racist and what have you.


But the truth is that they are voting in their economic interests. The elites are just like the working class is on an issue like immigration. I think for the elites, the cultural piece and the economic piece are very closely tied together. The reason that their cultural and social agenda has gotten so radical is to mask the ways in which their economic agenda is deeply regressive and extremely rewarding to people in the knowledge industry and extremely punishing to people who are working class. But honestly, working class people that I interviewed, they agreed with the Republicans, by and large, on issues like transgender women in women's sports or something like abortion. They were against abortion, but they were also against abortion bans, and they just weren't going to throw their vote away on the trans issue. They agree with the Republicans, but their economic issues are much more pressing. The two things that I found were most pressing to them were something like immigration, which is a proxy for wages and for the dignity of labor, but also health care. You had a lot of people who agree with Republicans on many, many, many of the issues.


But if they are a person who has a very high health care premium or has a child with a disability, they often felt like the Republicans had a real blockage when it came to recognizing how difficult it is to pay for health care, and so they would vote for Democrats. It's fascinating.


I wanted to ask a question for clarity. You made the distinction earlier between leftist views and woke views, and you said the problem really is the woke elite. What is the distinction there? Is woke a heightened form of leftism or something altogether different?


I really don't think there's anything left about. I mean, it happens to be people who call themselves leftists or woke, but it's a ratification, a re-racialization of American life. I mean, it's very, very right-wing. If you think about how we use these words throughout the history of the 20th century, it's deeply, deeply intolerant. Woke to me is, here's how I would define it, I would say wokeness is when you take the distinction of good versus evil or virtue versus vice. You throw it away and replace it with the distinction between oppressor versus oppressed, powerful versus powerless. You imbue in inherent virtue into whoever you ascribe the position of powerlessness and inherent evil to whoever you imbue with the position of powerful and oppressor. Then what they've done is they've superimposed race or gender onto this divide. You have a situation where to the wokes, all white people have power and are inherently evil and oppressors, and all people of color have no agency and are oppressed and inherently virtuous no matter what they do. Of course, you could see how this ideology would lead to the left defending Hamas after October seventh, because whatever a person of color does is inherently virtuous, including when they rape and mutilate women and children.


That, to me, that's the woke ideology, and it is the defining feature of the higher education in America today. The way that you and I believe in the law of gravity, they believe in law of wokeness. They're totally programmed to see the world through that binary lens. It's a real, real problem because it's obviously bleeding outwards into institutions that hire college-educated people like the news media, for example, which now is completely populated by people with a college degree who have been inculcated into this worldview. To me, left is siding with labor. I mean, I would say somewhat cheekily, perhaps, that Trump is probably the most left-wing president we've ever had because every I think part of his economic agenda was geared towards giving dignity to the people who work the hardest in this country.


That's an interesting take that a lot of people wouldn't like. Speaking of wokeness, Bill Maher is an interesting figure. He's a guy that's left on many issues, takes the left wing position often, but he's also come out more vocally against wokeism and has called out its radical emanations. You appeared on Bill Maher's real-time recently. Can you discuss that appearance and what you feel it illustrates about how the media doesn't understand the American people?


Bill Maher is very smart because he hates the wokeness, and so he gets a lot of conservative viewers, but he really hates Trump, and so he keeps the liberal viewers. That formula is obviously something that he has landed on as something that makes a very interesting show. He talks about class now more than ever before, and I truly appreciate that. He has no truck with this nonsense about how America is still white supremacy and how we're racially divided. But because he is so opposed to Trump, which I believe is very much connected with how much of a financial cushion you have, he cannot see that working class people who vote for Trump are doing so because of real financial concerns that were really actually addressed by Trump. There's a lot of energy in the mainstream media put into disguising that fact. I think a lot of people just genuinely don't understand that. I'll just give you one example of this, but the Trump tax cuts. If you watch the liberal media, the first thing they'll say about them is, well, it was a giveback to corporations and billionaires. They got the most amount of money.


That was his signature policy achievement. They raced the fact that he got rid of NAFTA. They erased the fact that he turned the ship around in America when it came to questions of free trade. They erased the fact that he policed border and passed this 5,000 black men released from prison because of the first step back. Okay, fine. But even when they talk about that tax cut, it's true that the rich got the most amount of money, just the dollar amount. But it was actually working class and middle class people who got the highest percentage of tax cuts from 15% to 35%. That's what they noticed. Working class people do not have class resentment against billionaires who they often admire and see as jobs creators. They saw the money coming back into their bank accounts. It's very hard to get people to see that because so much energy is expended in creating a narrative that obfuscates working class interests because they are in tension with those of the people who get to tell the story.


Final question. What do you hope readers will take away from your book? What do you see as the path forward for bridging this divide between the working class and the political establishment?


I really hope Republicans start talking about health care. I think that would change the game for a lot of people because it would give them real choices. They already have the immigration piece. Working class people agree with them on the woke stuff. They have so much of it. There's people who are feeling like they're being held hostage by the Democratic Party over this issue. It's a really important issue. I know it's hard to start talking about an issue that you've always felt was not in your wheelhouse, but I I really think that could be a game changer. I also hope people understand that we are so much more united than divided in this country, that the polarization is a completely elite phenomenon and hides just the unbelievable unity around the values that this great nation was founded on. I want people to understand that even though I feel that we have broken our contract with the working class, with the hardest working Americans, they have not stopped believing in this country. They're deeply, patriotic. It's unbearable to me that they should keep believing so strongly in this country and that this country would not believe in them and not believe that they deserve the dignity that should come from working really hard, which is one of the most fundamental American values.


Well, Batia, thank you so much for talking with us today and for guest hosting this week. And great luck with this book. It's a terrific book, and I hope a lot of people read it.


Thank you so much. God bless you.


That was Batia Ungar Sargon, author of Second Class: How the Elites Betrayed America's Working Men and Women. And this has been an extra edition of MorningWire.