Generally I agree with your analysis, but I think you’re the one who has missed the point in this essay. I’m a Mississippian, so I’m quite familiar with people who have problems similar to say, a poor West Virginian. There are politicians, particularly at the local level who offer real solutions. At the local level they make some headway. At the national level they’re drowned out by a drumbeat of bigotry and hate.
No one wants to talk about or admit this, but it’s at the heart of Trump’s appeal. Again, many politicians offer these people real alternatives, but they reject those solutions because they would also be available to “Cadillac Queens.”
Liberals, of course, are imperfect and by no means deserve exoneration for the current circumstances, but as you point out this pattern repeats itself at certain points historically. Perhaps that’s because we’ve never properly diagnosed the cancer: racism and intolerance, and continue to offer excuses for such hatred wrapped in the veneer of “economic empowerment.” Historically we see how well this works…temporarily until the next inversion.
It’s time to stop sugarcoating the issue. The overall standard of living enjoyed by white Americans may have slipped somewhat lately, but it is still better higher than that what nearly everyone in history has experienced. That comparative metric may be meaningless to the white American, but that’s exactly my point and part of the problem. We told these people that they are so privileged that they ought to be handed a good life (the same way they criticize minorities for expecting to be handed food stamps). They have no sense of how lucky they are to live in a country that lets them punish others with their political voices when they feel wronged.
You are correct that we need to build a sustainable economic base to promote longterm peace and stability, but you overlook that we have torn down such sustainable bases in the past when goaded by fear of the other. It’s time to acknowledge and address the real problem, for until we can eliminate the scourge of racism future economic models that seem good will, like past ones, erode when the benefits are extended to those who look different. A sustainable economic model can only be built on a foundation of tolerance. Until we’ve established that, other successes will be ephemeral.