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Why are so many white men angry?

082516 Lynch oped pic
This summer's Republican convention was basically a reactionary reverie in racism and nativism by Donald Trump's white, working and lower middle-class political base, according to pundits and political scientists. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

According to pundits and political scientists, this summer's Republican convention was basically a reactionary reverie in racism and nativism by Donald Trump's white, working and lower middle-class political base. These "angry white males" are portrayed as irrationally opposed to immigration, ethnic diversity and globalization. But the Democrats' gathering won praise for its patriotic, inclusive and upbeat tone. Star speakers savaged Trump and denounced the GOP's bleak portrait of the nation. Yet they avoided attacks on working class whites who once anchored Franklin Delano Roosevelt's grand Democratic coalition. Hillary Clinton will still need to win a minimal percentage of this lost constituency to win key Midwestern states

To do so Democrats and nearly everyone else must candidly answer a very politically incorrect question: Why are white men (and often their families) angry? Are their grievances wholly or partially legitimate? Has the system treated them unjustly? And is this right-wing populist ire truly directed at immigrants — or towards Democratic (and GOP) elites who pitted American workers against immigrants via open borders/cheap labor/outsourcing policies compounded by an expanding, questionable list of ethnic preferences in education and workplaces.

For almost 40 years, globally-oriented white elites used their money, power and influence to encourage mass immigration of cheap labor, overseas outsourcing and also the construction of an expanding system of racial preferences in education and employment. Working and lower middle-class whites bore the brunt of these policies that pitted them against minorities.

Whatever the degree of genuine racial prejudice in white working-class populism, elites' mass migration and top-down "race-conscious" policies decisively molded racial identity politics. Such groupthink is, alas, a natural outcome of decades of mandated "check-the-box" ethnic identity responses being factored into educational and occupational opportunities.

Recent Third World immigration waves revived a classic incubator of racial antagonism in the U.S. and other western nations: the ethnically-split labor market. For more than a century "building America on the backs of immigrant labor" has been an ugly tool for lowering wages and generating hostility between more established, high-wage ethnic groups and cheap-labor newcomers.

White elites also supported the evolution of an expanding system of racial preferences originally formulated in the 1960s and 1970s to "right past wrongs" against generations of American-born blacks. By the 1990s, however, these morally justifiable preferences were being quietly and questionably extended to "under-represented" immigrant minorities. Elites sponsored a new "diversity" policy industry that transformed affirmative action for blacks into a forward-looking rationale: to manage and "capitalize" upon demographic change through broad-based, proportional "inclusion" of increasing numbers of non-white workers and customers. Ethnic diversity was no longer a means to the goal of social justice; diversity was now an end in itself; responsive institutions should "look like" a changing America. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court again validated such diversity arguments in the University of Texas' college admissions practices.

Working and lower middle-class whites were the primary losers under the merging regimes of cheap-labor mass immigration, overseas outsourcing and spreading non-white ethnic preferences. This has been true especially in public sector employment where a rising number of lawsuits revealed officials' deviousness, dishonesty or illegal activity (i.e., manipulating exams and test scores to achieve numerical, proportional goals, i.e., "quotas").

Indeed, political correctness squelched recognition of these and other contradictions created by this policy juggernaut. Subjective ethnic self-identification procedures produced inconsistencies, confusion and not a little "ethnic fraud" to gain advantaged status using broad, artificial ethnic categories that masked significant internal group diversities. "Hispanic" threw together a bewildering array of very different nationality groups from South and Central America and the Caribbean. Likewise, "Asian-Pacific Islander" indiscriminately covered dozens of groups from India/Pakistan to China to the Philippines. "Black" now includes newly arrived immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

The nation's economic and political elites need to re-think and reform immigration, outsourcing and diversity policies by heeding "the consent of the governed." This would mollify not only "angry white men" but the majorities of Americans in public opinion polls who have long supported reasonable immigration reforms and who oppose overseas outsourcing. Majorities also usually reject racial preferences (when stated as such) and state ballot propositions prohibiting preferences have been repeatedly ratified.

Hearing, not jeering, populist protests on these and other issues might provide a welcome antidote to record-low levels of distrust in government and high-decibel, polarizing politics.

Frederick R. Lynch is a government professor at Claremont McKenna College and is the author of The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the "White Male Workplace." Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.