Professor Nancy Isenberg from Louisiana State University joined Dr Maria Armoudian, associate professor Jennifer Frost and Dr Tim Fadgen from the University of Auckland to discuss class in American politics.
Isenberg is the author of White Trash a study of class in the United States.
Americans are caught up in mythology, she told the panel.
“You can go all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, to the founders, but our myth is shaped around the idea that we are the land of opportunity.
“That somehow, we broke free from those monarchies in Europe and magically remade ourselves into a more egalitarian society, that is a myth and it is even more of a myth today because there is far more social mobility in many European countries by the simple fact that they provide social services.
“Today in America if you want to make it, the most important determinant is the class background of your forebears and the class background of your parents and all the money they invest in you.”
The United States has been described as a democracy of manners, she says.
“That is everyone who runs has to pretend they are one of the people, the average Joe, but the class division means that’s not true.”
Donald Trump’s performative presidency, and his crude way of talking, is in this tradition, she says.
“They imagine he is more authentic, that’s why many voters who supported Trump they were rejecting Republicans not just Hillary.”
The presidency in the US has become a surrogacy for a kingship, Isenberg says.
And it was in the 20th century with Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’ and Ronald Reagan the Hollywood celebrity that entertainment and kingship become intertwined, she says.