Donald Trump is playing many of his supporters like the proverbial “cheap violin”. But he didn’t bring about our currently high level of fractured and polarized political process. Instead you can blame globalization fueled by the Internet.
When large segments of our population watch production jobs move to low cost countries while the white America they call their own changes its hue, their discomfort is tinder for demagogues of any stripe who seek office. Trump is one, but not alone.
My evidence? The Great Depression of the 1930s caused severe economic pain to a working population that felt relatively secure just a few years previously and bitter politics were a result. Or, economic, cultural, and social tensions that helped lead America into its Civil War caused bitterly divided political debate during the 1850s and continued well past the end of the conflict.
So here we are again. Americans are living in another dangerous time of wrenching change and even danger. Demagogues are successfully fanning the flames of our political conversation to their own purposes. Be careful to whom you give your loyalty. The causes of your pain are inexorable. The demagogue who is given elected office cannot turn back the tides of change with his pat answers, (like a wall, or “great deals”). If you are falling for Trump’s (or others’) protectionist trade solutions and if you think of yourself as a free market capitalist, then you should also be aware that Adam Smith himself was strongly anti tariff. Do you really believe anyone can turn back the clock to those lovely pre-internet days before the global economic playing field was leveled?
Instead each economy, ours included, must learn how to successfully navigate a new economic landscape of post-globalization the hard way, with hard work, education and innovation. I regret there are no quick fixes.