Historian Penny Lewis argues that the split over Vietnam during the late 1960s and early 1970s between “elite doves” and “reactionary hardhats” was more a stereotype than a reality. This means that the popular perception that the anti-war movement was composed of privileged, liberal elites, and the pro-war movement was made up of working-class, conservative hardhats, was not entirely accurate.Despite this, politicians like George Wallace and Richard Nixon tapped into these stereotypes for political advantage. Both men capitalized on the idea that there was a divide between the so-called elites and the working class, and that this divide was somehow related to the war in Vietnam.George Wallace, a third-party candidate in the 1968 presidential election, used the issue of the Vietnam War to appeal to working-class Americans who felt neglected by both major parties. Wallace’s rhetoric played into the stereotype that the anti-war movement was led by privileged, liberal elites who were out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans. Similarly, Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” campaign in 1968 sought to tap into the same sentiment. Nixon argued that the anti-war movement was not representative of the majority of Americans and that those who opposed the war were undermining the country’s security and the morale of its troops. By framing the issue in this way, Nixon was able to rally support from working-class Americans who felt that their values and way of life were under attack.In both cases, the politicians used the stereotypes surrounding the Vietnam War to their advantage, playing on the fears and insecurities of working-class Americans to gain political power. While the stereotypes may not have been entirely accurate, they proved to be a potent tool in the hands of skilled politicians.
It is important to note that there is no single source of cause for white working-class Americans, and their political views and affiliations are shaped by a variety of factors, including economic, cultural, and social concerns. Some white working-class Americans may feel that their economic prospects have been adversely affected by globalization and the decline of traditional manufacturing industries, leading to feelings of economic insecurity and frustration.Others may be motivated by cultural issues, such as opposition to immigration, changes in gender roles and family structures, or perceived threats to traditional values and beliefs. Additionally, some white working-class Americans may feel that their voices have been ignored or marginalized by the political establishment, leading to a sense of disillusionment and mistrust.