Rethinking Middle America
- Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas
- Duke University Press
- Volume 15, Number 3, September 2018
- pp. 31-54
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The emergence of “Middle America” as a meaningful political category is most commonly credited to the populist conservative politics of the late 1960s and to Richard Nixon in particular. This article presents an alternative origin story for the idea of Middle America, spotlighting liberal commentators and national journalists working in the same period. As these observers sought to understand and portray what they saw as a new and growing white backlash against African Americans’ gains and cultural change broadly, they helped to cement one of the most central and enduring claims in the period’s elite political and media discourse: white workers comprised the core of an alienated, traditionalist white majority—a group many called Middle America—separated from liberal white professionals by a deep cultural divide.