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What′s the Matter with White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  375 ratings  ·  65 reviews
How scapegoat politics is dividing America and bankrupting the middle class

The size and stability of the American middle class was once the envy of the world. But changes unleashed in the 1960s pitted Americans against one another politically in new and destructive ways-while economically, everyone fell behind except the wealthy.

Right-wing culture warriors blamed the
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by John Wiley & Sons (first published 2012)
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Laurie Gold
Jul 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Joan Walsh, editor at large for salon.com, writes persuasively about how the Republican Party co-opted the white working class and how the Democrats helped them do it in her new work, but it's a book for true believers. I doubt it will be read by those outside the progressive movement. Further, my guess is that the first part of the title–What's the Matter with White People?–will be a point of attack by those on the other side of the political spectrum. It's a shame...though an imperfect read, ...more
Elizabeth
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
I bought this book because most of the hosts on MSNBC kept mentioning it. First, let me say that the title is misleading, because it has more to do with Walsh than with the larger question her book appears to ask. She begins with a story her dad told her about black Irish and moves into the history of Irish people and the prejudice they experienced. Her and her father shared the same liberal politics, and she uses that as a jumping off point to talk about how her family moved from Democrat to ...more
Maxine
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
The title of author Joan Walsh's book What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was is a bit misleading. As much memoir and history of Irish immigration to the United States as political polemic, she uses the example of her own working class Irish family to explain why so many from this group have moved to the right, a move which appears to be against their own self-interest.

Surprisingly, given the attitude of most liberals towards the white male working class,
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Miranda
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
it is not often i give up on a book. i wanted to earlier but since i'd waited so long to get it from the library i toughed it out about 80% of the way.

for some reason i expected the subtitle to be relevant, that it might be about the perception that the 50s were an upstanding, right-thinking time and that "moral decay" is a fuzzy thing to define and hard to defend. that would have been interesting, maybe?

what it's really about isa plea for more class consciousness in lieu of identity politics.
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Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
May 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
This book is a call to reach out to working class whites to bring them into the democratic party and form a new coalition to reverse the stagger wealth inequality that has built up under both the Republican right that has dominated since Reagan and New Democrats who cozy up to business interests (a new trick by the masterful triangulator Bill Clinton himself). Obama couldn't get elected in 2008 if he wasn't beholden to business and wall street(the money for campaigns has to come from these ...more
Edwina " I LoveBooks" "Deb"
I watch Joan Walsh all the time when she is on MSNBC. She seems to be a lovely caring understanding, knowledgeable and intelligent lady. I won't go into detail about her book because I think all people of all race's and religions should read this book. Ms. Walsh goes into great detail and understands both sides of the race issues in America!! I want to understand what's on the minds of White People and how better I can understand them. This country has got to get pass the hate and ...more
Christoper Johnsen
Sep 13, 2012 is currently reading it
I just started this; I'm hoping she'll address one of my biggest pet peeves, the "nowadays syndrome." Listen and you'll hear everyone from political pundits to less-than newsworthy celebrates bemoaning how much things have changed and for the worse. Because "nowadays," things are just worse than they used to be. Things aren't worse, they're just different (arguably). Yesteryear wasn't that great, tomorrow won't probably be that bad and maybe we could all just look at what's in front of us today ...more
Michael
I had never heard of Joan Walsh before a week ago, when I saw her on some talking head cable show. Something about what she was saying struck me, so I looked her up and was intrigued by the description of this book. Walsh is not normally the kind of writer who would interest me, but the description of the book struck a chord, so I grabbed it from the library and had at it.

What's the Matter with White People? is one of the best books about politics I've ever read. Now, understand, the author is
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Pghbekka
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately, the book I was hoping for was not this one.

Some good reviews that encompass the issues with this book: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I recommend Dying of Whiteness instead. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...
Schnaucl
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

Walsh has some interesting arguments, and she's certainly right that the Democratic Party has had little interest in representing the poor (of any color).

Unfortunately, I got bogged down in her poor white=white Irish Catholic outlook. I understand that's her family history. But it's also a pretty East Coast point of view. As a West Coaster I can say we don't have a large Irish Catholic population (which isn't to say we don't have a lot of poor working class white people or that we
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Kelly
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is an easy and great read, but because it's so jam-packed with information, it's kind of difficult to review. You just don't want to leave anything out. So, one has to settle to give the reader a taste. (The book contains a very useful index, also.) Being that this book makes so many good points that it's hard to convey the overall direction of it as a whole. It covers racism and class, mostly. It shows how we, the NOT 1-percent, are screwed BY the 1-percent, and how "we" have screwed ...more
Ben
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Joan Walsh, who I much admire as a regular MSNBC contributor, explains the complicated interplay between race and politics that has brewed and often boiled over in the US over the last 40 years (and in truth, much longer than that). In itself, that would make a compelling read but not a standout among a number of recent political books. But Ms. Walsh also tells the story from her personal viewpoint, which in itself encompasses a number of viewpoints - product of a blue collar Irish Catholic ...more
Stephanie
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I decided to read to read the book because normally I'd dismiss the complaints of White working class republicans. I felt that maybe there was something to their grievances and I should consider being more open-minded.

I'm very happy that I read What's the Matter.

Chock full of stats, historical references, and personal anecdotes, What's the Matter helped so much in explaining why Reagan democrats feel abandoned by the democratic party. They are a forgotten demographic that could definitely help
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Kate Raphael
I enjoyed it much of the time but the whiny tone got to me after a while. The part about how it was growing up was the best. I don't think it was necessary to go through every moment of the last thirty years in politics. It started to get repetitive. Maybe ultimately, the premise was not quite enough to carry a whole book; it would have been a good essay.
Sarah
Mar 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Politics is such a game! Life seems like a game as well. The current players of the game of life are the people we have elected. Unfortunately, we may not necessarily elect the candidate that will serve "all", as if that is possible. Money is the winner. Money buys power and power controls the money. That leaves most of Americans out of the game. Is there an answer?
James Loafman
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed her personal insight when relating her individual story. The political commentary was sometimes spot on, other times a little too political. She obviously learned much from her dad and the whole indentured Irish tale was alone worth the read.
Cherie
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a very useful book to help remind us of how the Dems began to fight among themselves during the Reagan era, and how we have to stop this if we intend to go forward as the party of "forward".
Kimberly
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
NOTES:
Democrats do best when they can unite around a vision of economic improvement for everybody; they get derailed when Republicans toss culture war grenades or play on race.

2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney, released 2011 tax returns showing while he made $21 million off investments, he only paid 13.9 percent tax rate - a lower rate than middle-class workers.

“What’s the matter with white people?” I found myself asking – in a different way – as in, “Aren’t we part of your multiracial
...more
Diane
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers who enjoy political history
I'm the only white person in my home, so I'm asked the title question or a variation of it -- particularly since we live in a very white and conservative area. I thought Ms. Walsh might have some insights to help me answer the questions posed by my children. The main trust of her book, however, is in the subtitle "why we long for a Golden Age that never was". She comes from an Irish Catholic family, a group that historically was the ire of "white Christian Americans", and the book takes for its ...more
Bill
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: political, history
Sadly, the tedium of most of this book had me ready to give it up altogether about a quarter of the way through. I finished it only by moving in a quick and cursory manner, pausing on a few parts that caught my attention. It was a very dry and overly-detailed recount of politics over the last forty to fifty years. Some parts of her upbringing were of interest, to include her personal perspective of some interesting and (now) lesser known points in history, e.g. the Hard Hat Riots. The dull and ...more
Martha Phillips
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
My takeaway quote: "I am repeatedly struck by the extent to which conservatives have given up on the America we all grew up with: apparently it costs too much and we can't afford it, and besides, we can't all get along, so we can't enjoy it ... As the right loses faith in the America we grew up with, it gives the rest of us an opportunity and a clear responsibility ... We have to be the ones who develop a version of the American Dream that works for everyone."
Anthony
Sprawling and eccentric, the author looks at the quest for the perceived utopia, and the urgency to hold on to the dream, of a time that never really was in America. Peering through the looking glass of her own extended family she explores how the politics in America, has shaped the attitudes and divided the classes, and masses by the haves, and have-not and developed the us versus them mentality.
Kara Merry
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Learning a white and mostly liberal perspective. Also discussed Irish vs African-American people
Samantha Hines
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sadly prescient. I wish there was more to the conclusion. I’ll have to look to see if she’s written more in light of the 2016 election.
Sps
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 300s
Like a more personal Nixonland, Walsh's political/family history follows the white working class vote from the New Deal to Obama. Some of what she discusses also connects to themes in Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, like assumptions about privilege, jobs, and wealth: "Too many white people think they didn't have help, that they did everything on their own. Then, predictably, they reject the idea that they got something African Americans and Latinos didn't get. It ...more
Nathaniel
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I have pretty mixed feelings about this book.

On one hand, as a white liberal Boomer Walsh has to be given some credit for writing a whole book that explores the issue of race in a (mostly) refreshingly honest way compared to her peers. On the other, like any member of the "me" generation, she bases it entirely on her own experience, and this entire book is really more of a lengthy combination of personal narrative and opinion piece than a factual exploration of the titular question; the title
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Mark
Mar 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Walsh is a hard core democrat who tries to explain the history of racial and economic issues from the point of view of the democratic party. However she only speaks of Irish and Blacks and no one else. She comes from an Irish background and laments several times that the persecution suffered by the Irish isn't spoken of much in modern times. She feels that the blacks should be working hand in hand with the Irish to seek racial and economic justice. Walsh hardly gives any time to Latin people or ...more
The American Conservative
'Everybody knows who Joan Walsh is.

To liberals she’s a saint, and they just might have a point: her TV guest spots have established her as Joan of Fallen Archness. Editor-at-Large of Salon, she regularly turns up on the People’s Republic of MSNBC, wearing her trademark simper and oozing coyness, and obsequiously recites, “Yes, Reverend Al” to the honkyphobic views of Al Sharpton. But she is likely to appear on Fox News as well, coyness at the ready and wearing the same simper but adding a
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Maron
Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Not at all what I thought it would be. Not that I didn't enjoy it, I did, but I thought it would be more about the political shift within America over the years from more of a historic perspective. Instead I found it to be Walsh's own personal political journey starting with her family's early history up until current day. It was written more like a blog, very personal, which made it super easy to read. At the same time it also felt that many details were glossed over and Walsh just focused on ...more
Lucile Barker
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
165.What’s the Matter with White People? By Joan Walsh
I had problems with Walsh’s assertions that there was an equivalent prejudice regarding the black Irish. I did find some interesting historical facts that I had not been aware of. Walsh, who is an editor at large at Salon, talks about the divisive politics that have been increasing since Nixon. Her own family is divided into right-wing Catholic conservatives and liberals like her father. Most of her relatives also moved from being Democrats
...more
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