May 17, 2023
"Thank God for the hard hats!" declared Richard Nixon during his first term. "Why the construction workers holler, ‘U. S. A., all the way!,’" read a 1970 New York Times headline. "The Day the White Working Class Turned Republican," read another New York Times headline, 50 years later in 2020.
We're now more than five decades since this narrative first arose: The hardhats love America, and the hippies hate it. Whether Nixon or Trump is in the White House, news media, film, and TV tell us that the working class—good, honest blue-collar folk—are people of God, family, and country, unlike those spoiled, rich, out-of-touch lefty elites.
This binary framework is presented as organic, the result of working people and unions feeling left out by the lofty exclusivism of the Left. But, as history shows, this didn’t happen entirely naturally or spontaneously; the "hardhats vs. hippies" narrative was, in part, manufactured by right-wing political and union operatives, more concerned with a McCarthyist imperative to destroy any and all social movements in the global south than with any notion of worker justice and liberation.
On this episode, we explore this history, looking at the ways in which rightwing factions of organized labor bolstered dangerous US foreign policy throughout the Cold War, deliberately crafting the false yet persistent notion that union
Our guest is labor historian Jeff Schuhrke.