tv QA CSPAN August 22, 2016 6:00am-7:01am EDT
think we do and she wanted to talk about the larger ways culture, politics, the law shaped the way people think even though they might not be aware of it, but to take that into account in do not just take things as given. challenge them. see if it is really true. that is something that has really motivated me throughout my career, even when you read good history, i want to make sure i look at the end notes, make sure i look at the research. i do not want to just take the consensus. i want to see if it is true and make sure that any argument you make has a firm, historical foundation. brian: how hard was it to name the book "white trash?" nancy: it started out "white trash," it had various names. then it was going to be the american breed and then it got back to be "white trash." i think part of the reason it needs to be that name is a because it is the one today that is most familiar. people have misconceptions on what it means.
i think people are curious about it and that is why i wanted to write the book. i think people throw around that word without really knowing where it comes from. when i began to do more and more research, and as you know, i talk a lot about british colonization, which is not what people have never really paid attention to in talking about white trash. most people start in the antebellum south. i found an older history and i thought it was important to pay attention to language. i talk about all of the vocabulary because i think we miss something about how people think about poverty if we do not understand the language and what those words mean. brian: we have all of those words available to put on the screen, which we will do now, and there are lots of them, white trash, offscourings, lubbers, crackers, clay eaters.
where did those terms come from? nancy: this is what is so curious. you will find each generation changing the vocabulary. the term i paid a lot of attention to is "waste people." that goes all the way back to the elizabethan period who put forward the first proposal to convince queen elizabeth the first on the importance of colonization and what the colonies would be used for. we have a whole mythology on how we think america was founded. we usually like to talk about puritans, the city upon a hill, which president obama referred to at the democratic convention. reagan invokes that metaphor. in fact, the majority of people that came to the new world came out of economic desperation. they fell into categories of
convicts, indentured servitude, who were, this is not labor contracts. essentially, they were a form of slave labor in this sense that they did not have the right to leave. they would sign up for an indentured term that could go from anywhere between seven to nine years and the large majority of them were children. that is something that we forget about. we forget about the exploitation of child labor, which we know was legal in this country all the way up to 1919. waste people, the definition of the term was literally dumping the poor somewhere else. they were a burden on the british economy. in fact, that notion of waste has all of those negative connotations that you can bring to mind. elizabethans, one of the things that is refreshing and disturbing about them, they are very clear. they do not conceal anything
under the pleasant language of the enlightenment. they are very forthright and direct about what they mean about waste. that is when i began to see that there was a connection, that these notions of ways, expendable people, surplus population and how, the other big theme i highlighted is the importance about how waste people are connected to the land. this is something that historians know but we often lose sight of the fact that land or being landless is the most important definition about whether you have civic value, economic value. and whether you can have independence. brian: where do you live in what you do full-time? nancy: i am a history professor at louisiana state university. i really enjoy new orleans.
i enjoy my colleagues. we have a really, i think, a supportive department. and i have, like a lot of academics, i have taught at several places, the university of tulsa, iowa, i had a post-doctorate at william and mary. i think in a way, this is probably the one thing i have in common with my subjects, i have a bit of a vagabondness. brian: you mentioned your mother in the preface. why? nancy: even though you are a historian, it is amazing how you may not know the details of your family's background. my mother told me and with my sister, we visited her birthplace in texas, and i was curious how she ended up getting there. her father essentially had a job for transporting laborers from canada down to texas. that, to me, is telling because it is a part of one of the stories i am telling them i talk
about indentured servitude. this idea that rather than thinking of america in the way we like to think of it, the most positive way, an exceptional society, that we broke free of the class system at the time of the revolution, the land of opportunity and affordability. in fact, as a argue, when benjamin franklin and thomas jefferson, and this continues to be part of the way we think and the real pattern about how people define themselves economically. they really promised horizontal mobility, and the ability to keep moving. if you fail somewhere, you move somewhere else. that to me is what my book was about. brian: where did you grow up and where did you go to college? nancy: i grew up in south jersey near philadelphia. i went to college at rutgers university and then went to graduate school at the university of wisconsin, madison. brian: i want to run some video. this is jumping way ahead from where we started.
people my age and maybe a little younger will remember lucille ball. this is from a movie you write about in 1953 call the "the long, long trailer." [video clip] >> and then we saw it. ♪ >> isn't it a beauty? right. big all >> let's look inside, just for fun. >> that is $1 million at least. >> i never thought of buying it. i know we could never afford that, but as long as we're here, let's just look inside. come on, darling. [end video clip] [laughter] brian: a big, yellow trailer. nancy: right.
and i talk about that movie because it fits into a really important phenomena we tend to ignore. when we think about post-world war ii, this is where sociologists and historians have found united states was able to establish a more stable middle class, and part of the measure of being in the middle class, if we think about how we emphasize land ownership, that theme continues to be an important defining feature. even today, upward mobility is about owning a home. we had suburbia, the track homes. we have the government backing mortgages so that more people who would not have been able to buy a home are able to buy a home. i quote richard nixon saying, "finally, capitalism has made it possible to create a classless society."
what is happening at the exact same time, we have a new form of the lower class that end up being identified as living in a trailer. what we would prefer to today as even "trailer trash." what i argue is the trailer has this kind of conflicting identity. one is the idea of freedom. you know, you do not have to own a home. you can be on the road. then there is of course this other notion of the trailer that is associated with trailer trash in which the poor, and the reason the term begins, begins during world war ii where poor workers were housed in trailers all across the country. what we see is the trailer market is constantly trying to upgrade, compete with what becomes the dominant pattern. by 1968, only 30% of people living in trailers hold middle-class jobs. there begins to be another
phenomena as we know, not only are trailers sold brand new as it is assumed that they are secondhand, thirdhand. sociologists discovered in the late 1950's, 1960's, there begins to be "hillbilly havens." parks?living in trailer many ofin, poor people, them in the south. where are they located? they are located on the margins and the worst land of cities and urban areas. at the same time we have the growth of suburbia, but we see there is a class zoned society and trailer trash becomes the mark of poverty in the united states even if we are at the moment where america seems to be becoming more of a middle-class society. brian: andy griffith in a movie called "a face in the crowd,"
from 1957 sang a lot of things that i want your reaction to. >> did you eat your eggs this morning? 53.7, just picked up another. this whole country is just like my flock of sheep. rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, shut-ins, everybody has got to jump when someone else blows the whistle. they do not know it yet, but they are all going to be mine. i own them. they think like i do. [laughter] >> only they are even more stupid than i am, so i have to think for them. [end video clip] nancy: that is an incredible movie. it is one of my favorite movies. essentially, and there is kind of conflicting response about how people felt about that movie. on the one hand, they saw the
character of andy griffith, who starts out as someone that is in jail, a musician in arkansas who is discovered and he is turned into this demagogue, this person who is going to be a will to manipulate everyone because he thinks like them, talks like them and what is he drawing on? he is drawing on, something a highlight in the book, this pattern, this tradition about how we think about populism, how we think about democracy. it becomes really important in southern politics, this idea that what we want in america is, and this is sort of come i quote -- and i quote, an australian who came to the united states in 1949 who said, what we want america is not a real democracy because we accept huge disparities of wealth.
we want a democracy that matters. what we want our celebrities or our politicians to do is act like us, pretend to be like us, and this idea of a stage performer, this idea of sounding as if you can invoke the feeling, the voice, the attitude, even the dialect of the average american, is something that unfortunately politicians have taken advantage of for a long time in this country. you can take it all the way that -- all the way back to andrew jackson because he was the first one that the campaign biography, the first one that turned into the candidate for the common man. in fact, he was a fairly successful slave owner, wealthy. he was no longer one of the men, but what he did have in common is he was always sounding like the common man because he slammed oats just like crackers. [laughter]
nancy: that idea of talking to the people has a dark side of the demagogue that committed duly people but it's something in our american tradition that we are supposed to think, they are more authentic. we are supposed to think they are more real or that we have a direct connection to them, but unfortunately, with every stage of the mass media or how campaigns of an orchestrated, it does not necessarily guarantee that you were going to get a more honest, authentic candidate. brian: what is going on here in this clip? set it up, this is from 1979. it is now deceased senator byrd from west virginia. name.asn't his original he got a law degree at american university and got his diploma by john f. kennedy. what is going on here is he is a senator. [video clip] ♪
[end video clip] nancy: robert byrd. this is what of the most amazing things i discovered researching this book. when he went on the campaign trail to get elected, essentially, he would go from hill people's homes, get them in the backseat and he would play the fiddle for them. and that idea of saying, i am one of you, i come from the same background. i think he was even an orphan. so, what i found so striking about that was that he becomes one of the most powerful people in washington, but he was drawing on this other tradition, i talk about the story of the arkansas traveler which goes all the way back to the 1840's where it was the elite politicians horseback.get on and meet poorut squatters and crackers. he is traveling, wants to get a drink and a squatter has a
drinking barrel and he says, can i have a drink, sir? and the squatter ignores him. in order to get the attention of a squatter, which is a metaphor of getting his book, he getting hisr for to grab the fiddle and play his tune, which is that same thing i just talked about, relate to that person on their terms, show them that you are one of them. i think in his case, i am really glad you showed that clip because he really knew how to play the fiddle. [laughter] brian: here's another one from 1992 and he is very much similar to bill clinton playing some elvis stuff. [video clip] ♪
[end video clip] brian: how important was this to him? nancy: it was crucial. the news media, even though they only seem to revive the nasty stories about the clintons, but what they also seem to have forgotten is when bill clinton was running, he was viciously attacked as white trash, not only from republicans but the media who mocked him, made fun of him, and as we know, he had to sort of find a way, "how can i make myself acceptable so that people will not dismiss me?" what he started doing was he started tapping into the ghost of elvis. he even invoked it on the campaign tour. there he is playing the "heartbreak hotel" and he is also drawing on the southern tradition of how southern politicians, you probably remember frank clement who was in the running to be vice
president and he put on a wild show, a baptist preacher, people comparing him to elvis, this idea that "yes, i am a southerner." you shouldn't be afraid of me -- which is what he is saying here. so there is something uniquely american about being able to communicate with music and able to say, "here is the more positive side we can associate with the poor whites." this idea that they have this musical tradition or that somehow that can make bill clinton more acceptable if he invokes elvis as opposed to being seen as a redneck or white trash. and as i argue, i mean, when the monica lewinsky scandal breaks
and the report is put together with 500 mentions of sex, he is really equating high crimes and misdemeanors with lower-class losers. that is how he went after bill clinton. so, he does not ever quite escape, and that is one of the things i highlight. even though there are attempts to make white trash and poor this vaudeville tradition that i highlighted and i know this is important because he is seen as able to escape a toxic connotation, but even so, even when it is given a more populist spin, still, the negative connotations seem to emerge. they never really disappear and potentmore strong and effect than we like to think. brian: in your lifetime, what
politicians do you think has been honest? nancy: honest. that is a really difficult question to measure. i think, because i have written about jefferson and madison, you know, madison tended to become a he is kind of interesting because he could be ready to write the people and tell people what he thought and he did not seem to wind up with a list of enemies that seemed to hurt other politicians. he knew how to present his ideas. i would say on the one hand, he is honest, but even madison could not be honest because when he thought about writing an essay, critiquing slavery, it was going to be published in one of the major newspapers, he realized he could not do it. he had to hold it back. it is in his notes but it never gets published. that is something politicians, even at that time before television, the internet, before we had people with cell phones following you and catching everything you say, they are always aware of their constituency. in madison's case, he was in virginia. there is an awareness that, what can they say that people will listen to? at the time he thought, this cannot be said at this moment.
maybe at another point, you can presented in a way that they will accept. thatdon't like the label politicians are more liars than average americans. [laughter] brian: why is that hollywood? what role did they play over the years with your thesis? nancy: no, hollywood and film -- i mean that is what i wanted to do with this book. there are a lot of politics in it. i am a legal historian so i have discussions of important legal cases i think have to be understood because of their widespread influence and laws that do matter, laws about power, you cannot ignore the law but i also think we have to embrace the way in which forms of mass media do shape widespread american thinking on certain issues. one of the historians who i worked with at rutgers was an amazing cultural historian.
he wrote about the impact of radio. for the first time americans were suddenly hearing the same songs, sports statistics, the same advertisements, so that kind of nationalizes america, that they now have a shared culture. which they really didn't have before. we have to recognize its power but we do not want to exaggerate it. thatn't want to say people, everything they watch, they are being indoctrinated. it is not purely propaganda. i think most scholars are cautious about using that paradigm. they will have to recognize they do not define themselves, they are shaped from the day they are born. not only from their parents, the world they are a part of is going to define how they look at the world, how they speak, how they think. we have to not marginalize
popular culture and think that it does not have an influence, particularly when we are talking about class. brian: 1962, this was a television show. buddy epson and irene ryan, called "the beverly hillbillies." [video clip] >> i want to explain about this chandelier. napoleon bonaparte planned campaigns around it. >> we are just plain folk. we do not mind a few things being secondhand. [laughter] >> that banking fella saw me unloading your washtub and said, you can throw them away. we do not use those things in beverly hills. >> now, you listen here. i do not care how those folks are in beverly hills. going to beetts are clean. we ain't going to lower our
standards. [end video clip] nancy: that to me, irene ryan, that came out of this maudville -- vaudeville tradition, upper class, educated, it became a stage act. it became a role that people play. i think that seeing a shilling, i quote what i thought was an amazing commentary on "the beverly hillbillies." hal humphries of the los angeles times, he said, first of all, americans are extremely class conscious. he said, what is going on plot after plot is the battle between snobs, the banker and his family and his son is always portrayed child versus the
hillbillies. so it was the snobs versus the slobs. what the middle class viewer at home was supposed to feel and this is what people say about reality television, they think somehow, we are superior because we do not fall into either category. we are not snobs or slobs. but in fact, the other thing that the beverly hillbillies tapped into, there was a chicago reporter and even though we forget there was a large mass migration of african-americans moving up north, settling in places in chicago, there was also a large mass migration from people from appalachia who moved to chicago, st. louis and the chicago reporter made this comment, just imagine the same people that were the beverly hillbillies moving next door to you but without the millions in the bank.
so, he was sort of tapping into, this is a stock role that everyone is familiar with, emphasizing the class tension and one of the points we have to realize, to define yourself in the middle class requires there has to be in lower class that you are comparing yourself with areas that is one of the things that is drawing on. it is also drawing on a real social reality going on at this time and the way in which people living in northern cities felt very much at ease. there were poor, white ghettos in places like indianapolis, chicago -- and they were described in the same derogatory ways as poor blacks living in the city. that is part of our history that we do not talk about. we do not want to really face up to the fact of how important class is. brian: why not? nancy: well, i think, it can go, there are a variety of reasons. one i highlight in the book, we have myths. we tell ourselves we want america to be the home of the brave, the home of the free. we want to promote social
mobility and equality when in fact, we are not that comfortable with equally. -- with equality. just because thomas jefferson said it, and when he said it, it was put in the declaration of independence, in his own state of virginia, 40% of white men were landless, tenant farmers. so, he is writing this at the very moment equality did not exist in his own state. and, if we take it up to 1930, the 1930's were still at 40% landless tenant farmers and 2/3 were white and in the south. it is better to think that if things are not perfect now, we will live in the future. things will eventually change. that is one reason, and i think politicians say that over and over again, this is what america really stands for. that is one reason we do not want to talk about it. the other reason, it makes people extremely uncomfortable. i have gotten a lot of e-mails about this where someone said, i am so glad you wrote this book. you are talking about my life. and i had one person that talked
about, this is someone that has become very successful but he still feels a sense of shame because somehow his background, the way he grew up does not actually make them feel equal. so, for middle-class people, it makes us feel uncomfortable when we have to a knowledge that, if you were born to a stable, middle-class, wealthy family in a good neighborhood, you get a better start. you have advantages and privileges which means we are not self-made men or women. we do not pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. in fact, the original horatio alger had a mentor. highlighton, and i franklin.about ben
patron, he could not have made it on his own. he needed powerful people to promote him. that still works in today's society. brian: why do think that your book made it to the new york times best seller list in july? is there one point, is it the title? nancy: this is my fourth book. i started this took six years ago. you have no idea what is going to happen. to me it was an intellectual problem that i wanted to solve. but you know, it's hard. historian. a things. out history why is this book popular? i do think it has to do with the political climate. i think that because we have donald trump, who journalists
have labeled their white trash candidate, when he was on the primaries. his followers have an called the revenge of the lower class. we have an awareness of class that we see every day. in one way or another americans have been on his side. then we have bernie sanders on the other side. and bernie sanders is also critiquing the 1%. he wanted to say, i am of the working class. the political climate has made people, i think, aware in a way that we have not been as aware of recently. to step back for a moment and try to think about class. for me as a historian, i want people to read this book and understand that what we are seeing at this moment. because journalists like to say, look this is new and never happened before it there is always a history.
things just don't happen by accident, or i don't believe in fate. it happened because of the way society is structured, where history does shape the present. if anyone can take anything from my book, it is to come away from with a more sophisticated idea of class. both a more sympathetic appreciation for what it is like to be poor in this country and since my focus is a lot on rural poverty, that is also easy to ignore as well. because rural poverty, it is out of sight and out of mind. that's the other thing that i want to remind people of your even today, we have a high percentage, 21% of people below the poverty line are white. it's a race and class problem. we have to embrace that. brian: anyone who has seen the
movie "deliverance" will never forget it. a couple of scenes in particular. there is a fellow in there playing the banjo, he is a real person. if you watch this clip you will see him in the movie and at the end you will see him a couple years ago. he will tell you he works at walmart. [begin video clip] ♪ [end video clip] >> how did that scene change
your life? >> it didn't change nothing no much. i work at walmart. i do what they need. boxes and stuff. >> can you play the banjo for us? >> no. >> you can't play that all? >> nope. [end video clip] brian: it looked like he played the banjo in the movie. what was the impact of this? nancy: he was plucked out of a nearby school. as you can see, they added makeup. he was supposedly an idiot savant in the film. that scene captures, these guys from the city going on a canoe trip. this is a scene that i highlight that you have to and the size. this is tension, and urban renewal divide. it is like in urban sideshow. there is a bond that is formed between the one character playing the guitar on the canoe trip.
he is the one who ends up getting killed. part of the reason he ends up being killed is because he has too much sympathy. the whole message of "deliverance" is that there is this really dark side that there can't be. you have a moment -- but the overall message is that the back country for hillbillies is so us civilized was so violent, that the only way that this is the only way you can survive is to find your own inner savage and fight back and then get out of there as fast as possible. because this is a world that is not america. and that is what i highlight when i talk about "deliverance," i talk about this stereotype persisted. this is the same time in the 1970's that we see more positive vision. i talk about redneck roots and the word "redneck" takes on a more positive idea that you want
to redefine your identity and say that it is no longer are you associated with the eugenics degenerate,en as seen as idiot savant. now it is a positive cultural message. in the 70's, everyone wanted to rediscover their roots. you had studies of ethnicity. you had people celebrating their roots, rediscovering their authenticity. this is at the time the movie "roots" was being made. people want to reclaim the redneck. as i show here, it coexists with this
really widespread worse portraits ever. brian: alex haley was proven not to be telling the truth at the time. that has happened more than once. what's your reaction? nancy: one of the articles that i cite that was cowritten by husband and wife. he is an historian, she is a genealogist. and there are other people were explained how he did not have the research to say that hit was really his story. there were numerous errors. this is part of the problem. when the book came out, the new york times was praising it. oh, this is your history. there's always the problem where popular history at times isn't written by historian. it gets a lot of attention because it is tapping into what people want to hear. so people immediately embrace it. they want the story to be true. but they are not able to judge this real history, is it accurate? and this is what historians know. we're the ones who spend time
int he archives. we know how to read people's letters. we know how to set this in a broader context. we spent years and years reading history in order to figure out, does this really makes sense. that is why for a professional historian, we always find ourselves defending the process of history, and defending the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction. because i think we blur those lines, particularly if something is extremely popular. because of it is popular and presented in an exciting way and tells a story americans want to hear, it is going to be enormously successful. i want to say, yes it is real history. but a few years down the road, people are then willing to admit it is not. brian: reading your book and some of your articles, you have a difference between academic historians and not academic historians. i have an article here from the washington post and the headline is "liberals love alexander hamilton but aaron burr was the real progressive."
i mean, this comes out of that musical "hamilton. " nancy: right. my point is you can enjoy the music. but it's really not in -- historically accurate in 1776. this is one of the problem swear to assume and setting history, there are hundreds of pages of notes. not only the document, but the debates you have, how you distinguish yourself, what documents you are dealing with. what i really wanted to highlight is i don't want to distract from anyone enjoying fun.usic and having
but hamilton is portrayed as sympathetic. it leaves out many of orton -- many important details of hamilton's background. it tries to paint him as an abolitionist. he was not. it tries to portray him as a self-made man. he also had patrons and mentors. it also tries to introduce the dream of the emigrant, it in fact what i highlight in my piece is that to aaron burr, aaron burr when he was in the new york legislature, he is talking about america as a place for immigrants to come. he is the one who is defending the rights of the immigrants because at that very moment, hamilton's party was pushing for a constitutional amendment which immigrant to hold any public office. they also pushed for restrictions on voting. and then we know the famous alien and sedition acts which were part of the federalist party and part of what hamilton does, you have no idea what the party was by watching the play.
it is not history. it is fun. enjoy it. but do not assume that either by watching the musical, listening to the soundtrack, even reading the biography that you are going to get the full portrait of alexander hamilton. brian: are you saying the book is not accurate? nancy: yes. trying to push them in eight direction that is ignoring him as those things need to be addressed. pushing him in a direction. hamilton is being portrayed as more progressive, more of in abolitionist and it is just not true. brian: and you have a book out
called "fallen founder" about aaron burr? nancy: yes. i was interested in him not because i was in love with him, not because i wanted to simply defend him from all the previous criticism. i wrote that book because i thought historians were really missing something important. here is a guy who not only was vice president, he has incredible influence in new york. you cannot understand the relationship between hamilton and burr unless you understand politics back then. he had an incredible career. he got involved in a filibuster which was common factors. even hamilton supported ella busters, this idea of, if we have a chance to go toward to mexico, there were numerous filibusters and canada. this is part of manifest destiny. we really do not understand what was happening in politics and 1790's and 1800s. he did not have a single idea in his head.
i mean, it was ludicrous. and they do not read his papers. i mean, it is harder to work on because he does not have all of his papers published like hamilton did. a lot of his papers are on microfilm. it is harder work to actually figure out aaron burr. brian: i want to ask you about historians who are in the middle of a presidential campaigns. i have on one hand something called "historians against trump." it was put together by historians, almost 800 names on the list. it is on the web. it is in open letter to the american people which is quite critical of donald trump. the other one we have a video on and these are mostly non-academic historians. i will start to read it. jim dwyer in the new york times said, no one can mistake the voice of donald mccullough in the books that have made him one of the most influential united states historians of his era, or in the documentaries.
he got a bunch of historians together to talk about donald trump. i am going to run a couple minutes of this and i want to tell you whether you think this is the right thing to do are they wanting to do or does not matter. let's watch. [begin video clip] >> i keep asking myself, how can it be that the party of abraham lincoln is on the verge of electing donald trump for president of the united states. >> many things about donald trump raise my brow. narcissim,ve, the color,erbole, the hair the degrading remarks about women. >> sometimes rise to the very height of power by unappealing -- appealing to the things that are unfortunately the parts of our nature. >> he borrows from white supremacists. >> trumps is a loathsome man. draw up a list of human
qualities you most dislike here at greed, cruelty, ignorance, crudity. add your own. >> the nominee of the republican party sets unprecedented standards for incompetence, inexperience, self absorption, and delusional levels of self-confidence that defy clinical explanations of narcissism. >> i do not think he cares about much of anything besides the fortunes of donald trump. >> make no mistake about it, when the past is scrubbed clean, when history becomes a blank slate, donald trump or any other demagogue can come along and write upon it whatever the hell he wants. that disturbs me most of all. please, please, please vote. do not let it happen here. brian: historians, david
mccullough and others. most nonacademic historians. should historians be doing all of this active work? nancy: it's always tricky. i think you can draw historical analogies when we talk about the fact that a lot of what they are doing is not new. that's when historians can say something. i think it is harder with a lot of those, and maybe they are basically youat are saying that donald trump -- you should listen to me because i am an authority and somehow donald trump is beyond the pale
or somehow this is such a departure from the way in which american politics has operated. and i think, i mean i did see the one with mcculloch, i think he was quoting eisenhower talking about the qualities that one needs. brian: he says he is an independent and has never done this before. nancy: to me, when i look at politics you can't stop thinking about certain patterns that apply not only to donald trump but even the democratic party. when they were holding their convention essentially, many of the speakers were highlighting american exceptionalism and the american dream. so i think we can find a way in which our patterns reflect our historical past. but i mean, i am much more cynical. i think historians have less influence in society. i think we are not as popular as many people on tv, and film come -- in film, in popular culture,
on reality tv. and we know famous people are often paraded forward to defend, promote politicians. you can go back to andy griffith for the role he was playing. the idea that famous people of influence and people will listen to them. i think it is a mixed bag. i think it is better if historians keep -- which is the way i have sort of commented about donald trump -- talk about it within the context of a historical patterns and where he fits. that is what i feel comfortable with. what other people do, their ability to say what they want to say, i certainly would not say anyone needs to be curtailed in their opinions. it is just the i am more comfortable with instead of isolating donald trump is to put him in in historical pattern. he does not just come out of thin air. brian: back to your book, "white
>> i like to get in the mud because i like to get dirty like pigs. [end video clip] brian: ok. nancy: that's important. one of the themes i talked about, how land and being a landowner was an important measure and economically valuable citizen. the other strange thing is the importance of mud. the dismal swamp. rednecks were living in theple
swamps. hillbillies were people who lived in hills. rednecks were people who lived in swamps. one of the other important things i talk about is mud. the metaphor of mud. the importance of med. lincoln had his house divided and his was that every society had to have its mud. he went on to say that mudd fills were essentially the people you had to exploit. there will always have to be, he said, a less educated class of people that must be exploited so you can have your house on top. you need that foundation. he went on to say, the north created a more dangerous society because they have given their mud fills, poor whites, the right to vote. he was predicting class revolution.
he said in the south, things had their proper order. only african-americans at the bottom. now, it's not true because the south in the 1840's had an increasingly large poor white population. they disparaged poor whites. one of the terms i picked up on was to refer to them as a "horse from the marshes of north carolina." that was important because it contrasted with the way of another southern ideologue, david hunley who wrote a book on classes. he said there were seven different classes in the antebellum south. he said these were royal classes. an elite class that descended from royal cavalier lineage. he said they were the
equivalents of stallions. so of course poor whites are the equivalent of a breed of horse. a defective breed of horse found in the swamps of north america. it is important in a metaphor for honey boo-boo. it's about the way white trash is disparaged today, but momma june is the real star of the show. it is because she is overweight. and there have been social commentators, political commentators, who have attacked obesity. unlike the 19th century poor whites who were considered thin, children were old beyond their time. they were noted for their yellow skin because they suffered from hookworm. what contemporary critics find so upsetting about the show, and these are more conservative critics, are that these people are willing to celebrate these things that formerly would be looked at being negative signs
-- of being obese. laying around in the mud. guzzling beer. these things that are seen as celebrating lower-class life, which should've been hidden, is now not hidden because it is on reality tv. brian: one last thing. you said it was pass the loot club. jim and tammy faye baker. she is deceased. he is not. he went to prison. let's watch it on the last a with a had to abandon. nancy: i wanted to say tacky is a degenerate horse found in the marshes. [start video clip] >> jim and tammy, i believe that the god i serve is still god. i believe the sun will shine again. jim.do too,
>> i believe -- can you do it? >> yes. >> tammy will sing a song for you before we leave our house. tammy: maybe you are hurting and you need this song today. i will sing it for both of us. ok? ♪ now if you are facing a mountain ♪ [end video clip] brian: she said "maybe you are hurting." audience. on to her there are still plenty of programs like that on tv. nancy: she came from a poor white girl family in minnesota. her parents were pentecostals. i draw a comparison between her -- i talk about the importance of how the symbolism of her moving is a sign of her up in social status.
we forget that women, to come are marked by class. the idea that the perfect female behavior is to be understated. demure and polite. in a sense, they were dismissed because they were toothless, because they were haggard. they cursed and smoked like men. even the idea of what it means to be a woman is shaped by class. her story is interesting. on the one hand they exploited the poor, they would send out for donations at the beginning of the month as one of the people working for them said. because hopefully people were getting their welfare checks. to exploit them. and, it is clear that most of the people that watched that show barely graduated from high school. a lot of them were out of work. they were in a sense of appealing to a reticular group. but i think with tammy faye, she also taps into that desire to
rise up. but it reminds us when we use that term "nouveau rich," we're saying "you don't make it." you don't quite fit in. brian: our guest is nancy isenberg. she is a historian. her book is called "white trash: the 400-year untold history of class in america." thank you very much. nancy: thank you. ♪ announcer: for free transcripts, or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at qanda.org. "q&a" programs are also
available as c-span podcasts. announcer: if you enjoyed this week's interview with nancy isenberg, here are some of the programs you might enjoy. a book about how winning the powerball lottery changed the life of the west virginia man. a photographer talks about his book in the shadow of our and also the biography of alexander hamilton, the basis for the broadway musical. watch these videos anytime or search our entire video library at c-span.org. ♪ announcer: c-span's "washington journal" is live every day with news and policy issues. included are former michigan
governor, former governor tommy thompson of wisconsin and former senator jim talent of missouri. >> today marks the 20th anniversary of the 1996 welfare law. passed by a republican congress of signed by resident clinton, our special program looks back at the senate debate over the 1996 law. her welfare system has failed the very families it was intended to serve. >> i do not know many people who want to humiliate themselves standing on a line waiting for their welfare check. yes, there are some druggies and strikes out there. they are up there. no question about it. it a lot of those people are simply people who have not yet discovered a way out of their misery and poverty. >> we have decided the state and
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millennial voters. later, independent presidential candidate talks about the issues in his campaign. as always, we take your calls the obama administration is expected to make a large push for the transfer of the partnership and he will take up the issue while traveling in asia. when it comes to money in campaign 2016 the trump campaign collected $26 million in july. hillary clinton gathered $90 million including money from the demo party. it's the washington journey -- journal for august way second.