War at Home: Hardhats v. Doves

In “Hardhats Versus Elites Doves,” Lewis describes the popular stereotypes of working-class “hardhats” and elite “doves” during the 1970s. Major American institutions such as political parties, the media, labor unions, and social movements played into these stereotypes that divided the American public into two camps. The “hardhats” were characterized as working-class individuals who were reactionary, pro-war, and resistant to change while the “doves” were viewed as the elite who were anti-war protesters in pursuit of change (165). These strict stereotypes depicted by the media left little to no room for any gray area or flexible identity.

            Both sides of the political spectrum used these rigid stereotypes to their advantage. During his administration, President Nixon focused on gaining the support of the “silent majority” (170). Nixon defined this silent majority as the forgotten Middle Americans who in his view, were against antiwar protesters (170). Nixon used the elite stereotype of doves to counteract the anti-war movement. Lewis writes that Agnew ridiculed college protests by stating that they “take their tactics from Castro and their money from Daddy” (170). Similarly, George Wallace characterized antiwar protestors as “briefcase totin’ bureaucrats,” “bearded anarchists,” and “pointy-headed professors” (171). Nixon, Agnew, and Wallace all used these stereotypes to create inclusion through the exclusion of others. As Lewis explains, it helped create an “us” of the white working class against a “them” of liberal protesters (171). This organization of “us” and “them” helped create a more identified, stronger following as they produced a clearcut enemy.

            Lewis breaks down the stereotype of the working-class America being predominantly pro-war. She writes that despite the media coverage of a consistent “pro-war nature” of hardhats, “it is clear from most of the local coverage…that the working-class people rallying did not share a common response to the war” (173). Instead of being united by support for the war, this group was united by resentment towards the “privileged youth” who took their opportunities for granted. Lewis writes that “these workers had dedicated their lives to getting a leg up for their children, and the college campuses where they sent their children appeared to be closing and coming apart at the seams” (174). Believing that antiwar protesters disrespected the norms of society, held moralistic opposition, were mostly unaffected by the war yet the most vocal about its evil, this group became a source of antagonism for the working class.

            Theoretically, I believe that the Democratic Party could have prevented the working-class political realignment but in actuality, I do not think it was possible. From what I understood of Lewis’ explanation, the policies of the Democratic Party during this time were never “win-win” situations, something always had to give and that was usually the working class. Lewis writes, “Workers simply oppose change that always benefits others and hurts them” (183). To me, it seems that the Democratic Party consistently fought for what they thought the people wanted, rather than what the people actually wanted, and this forced the working class to migrate to the right. In short, I think the Democratic Party of this era was too divided, unorganized, and ill-informed on the needs/wants of the working class to have prevented the realignment.

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