As an historian by training, I have some insight into how and why Trump now. One of the essential corollaries of historiography is that it’s important to know what people at the time of any historical event thought was happening, which is quite different from having the perspective of, say, fifty years later. It takes that long to have a sufficient continuum to put each event into meaningful context, and then it’s possible to see how aligned or unaligned what people believed at the time is with what was actually taking place.
That said, the current up-welling of populism is simply part of the cycle of the political pendulum…rightward, leftward, rightward and so on. Unhappy citizens act out the myth of virtuous citizens pushing back against the elites and establishment, thus fixing what is wrong. But it’s only a myth, because historical perspective demonstrates that populism has little long-term effect. The reality is that the establishment and elites are common to all societies — developed, developing, third-world — because that is the societal structure that naturally occurs over time.
The lack of effective populism is in its nature. It would be one thing if moderate, intelligent, practical leadership emerged during these episodes, but in reality it’s the more extreme, less intelligent, typically idealistic leadership that fills the void because supporters of populism do not posses the knowledge and wisdom to comprehend the complex, interrelated issues and thus the most effective solutions to deal with them. Trump is not going to accomplish much in the long run that will “fix” what is perceived to be wrong, but he could easily create even more problems in the process of not solving — in effective ways — the existing ones.
And then the political pendulum will reverse course. Citizens will continue looking for what will solve the problems they perceive, still not understanding what these issues really are and what functional solutions will actually work.