Socialism in “Trump Country”: A “Yallternative” View

Kaceylee Klein

English and Law, University of California, Davis

Editor’s Note: We are highlighting scholarship that will be featured at the RWSA 15th Triennial conference in Jonesboro, Arkansas, USA, May 15-19, 2024.

The Appalachian mountain range is a weird area full of weird people. Repeatedly, it is described, at best, as peculiar. Its people have been deemed backwards “white trash.” However, the relationship of Appalachia to race and class has never been simple—at times distanced from whiteness like the Jackson Whites and at other times used as the idyllic, hardworking Anglo-Saxon. Most histories completely ignore the large groups of non-white people who call the area home and have simplified the issues of the region as just racial or just class based, but never both. Appalachia has been a place in the dominant American imagination that could hold outcasts, but in turn could never be assimilated, never folded into the dominant hegemony. One of America’s favorite pastimes is constructing and re-constructing Appalachia from the outside, which often simplifies the intricacies of race and class in the area. Rather than continue to dichotomize Appalachia, scholars should take cues from the youth on TikTok, and allow activists from the area to determine how they will be represented and what value that will garner for them. 

This paper is divided into four sections: a brief history of the limits of whiteness; an overview of socialist movements that arose in response to coal industry; the resurgence of (gendered and classed) dialogue about Appalachia surrounding the election of Donald Trump; and finally an application of the prior concepts to the social media platform TikTok, focusing on a popular transgender woman in the “yallternative” community. 

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