Analysis by Stephen Long
This is a symptom of a broken economic system. A furious backlash by those dispossessed and disenfranchised by economic forces that have skewed the distribution of wealth and opportunity.
First Brexit, now the White House: working class and once-were middle class citizens, who’ve seen their horizons shrink as economic globalisation and technology diminish their incomes and prospects, are having their revenge.
You can see it in the numbers. Lower income and lesser educated voters handed Donald Trump the presidency.
Normally in the United States, the Democrats have owned the working class. Not this time.
White people without college degrees flocked to Mr Trump — he received significantly more backing from this demographic than his Republican predecessors, as the New York Times reported yesterday.
Support for Mr Trump was strongest among working-class white men, hit particularly hard as the secure jobs this group once enjoyed have disappeared and incomes have stagnated or gone backwards.
He won the wheat belt and the rust belt.
Among the well-off and well-educated whites who normally favour the Republican candidate, there was a slight drift towards Hillary Clinton.
Obama’s slogan was hope; Trump channelled anger
All the talk of “identity politics” in the lead-up the presidential vote missed the point. This election was about class.
Despite his inflammatory policies on immigration, more Latinos voted for Mr Trump in 2016 than for Republican candidate Mitt Romney at the previous presidential election.
Obama’s slogan was hope; Mr Trump channelled anger.
The anger of those who’ve lost hope as they’ve come to see that John F Kennedy’s famous promise that “a rising tide lifts all boats” no longer holds. Now the rising tide only seems to lift boat owners.
You can see this, too, in the numbers.
Between 1979 and 2013, the wages of the top 1 per cent in America rose, after inflation, by 138 per cent; for the bottom 90 per cent, they rose by just 15 per cent, according to statistics compiled by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC.
Over the same period, middle income wages growth collapsed, with wages for middle-wage earners rising by an average of just 0.2 per cent a year.
“The American dream is dead!” Mr Trump declared, and to many, the words rang true.
America is not alone.
Rising income inequality has been a defining feature of modern times and, as my colleague Ian Verrender has pointed out, the backlash “is sweeping the developed world as an increasingly disillusioned lower and middle class find themselves threatened and disenfranchised by the economic forces unleashed by the rise of technology an increasingly global economy”.
The resurgence of One Nation here is one manifestation; Brexit another; that Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist, almost stole the Democratic nomination by railing against rising inequality another. (It’s tantalising to speculate what might have been had the Democrats chosen Sanders over Clinton).
But Mr Trump’s victory is by far the most dramatic manifestation yet.
Trump appeals to good times long gone
The fertile ground Mr Trump ploughed has been there for quite a while.
A decade ago, in Deer Hunting With Jesus: Despatches from the American Class War, Joe Bageant wrote about how the Democrats had lost the political support of poor rural and working-class whites, who were being transformed into a permanent underclass.
Mr Trump mobilised these people by appealing to good times long gone — Make America Great Again — and by holding out the hope that the United States could revive the glory days by shutting out the world. Build a wall to stop the Mexicans. Scrap the trade deals. Disengage.
He channelled The New Deal with his promise to revitalise the inner-cities with microloans for housing and massive infrastructure development.
At times, he almost channelled Marx.
“What have you got to lose?” he asked supporters, whom he called “The Movement” as he called on them to fight The Establishment. Marx exhorted the working classes: “You have nothing to lose but your chains.”
Mr Trump is no Roosevelt, nor Marx, nor Hitler, though there are some eerie parallels between the world that has given us soon-to-be President Trump and the period between the wars that gave rise to fascism.
The extreme chasms of wealth and income that characterised the 1920s are with us; the surge of protectionist sentiment in response to economic dislocation; the fracturing of the political centre, with shifts to the left and the right, and the rise of authoritarian nationalist rule.