I woke up this morning to what felt like Brexit 2.0. The same feeling of shock and disbelief as I digested the news that another major democratic vote had defied the polls and shook our faith in Democracy. Donald Trump, a hate-spouting, narcissistic, tax-evading billionaire, will be the next U.S. President.
To outsiders it’s easy to see Trump for what he is. He’s a bully, a liar and a self-serving bigot. We all read the news and reacted to the Facebook backlash, maybe even writing a status ourselves about how retarded the voters must be, how CRAZY the world has gone or how we simply can’t believe it! All the while feeling slightly smug that we would have made the right choice and would never have voted for this wanker.
Well if you wouldn’t have voted for him, then congratulations. If you just think he was voted in by a bunch of uneducated idiots, you need to stop. And if you’re surprised by this, you shouldn’t be.
The longer we continue to just brush this off and pretend like we couldn’t have seen it coming, the more this shit is going to keep happening. This was not just an anomaly. Half of the American voters chose him. Just let that sink in for a minute… half. They aren’t all Neo-Nazis, far-right extremists or just dumb.
He was voted in by exactly the same wave of anti-establishment backlash that has seen the revival in recent years of many far-right parties across Europe and of course resulted in Brexit. But, if it wasn’t for Trump, it would have been someone else, perhaps even somebody worse. Trump is merely a reflection of this anger and if he went away, the anger would still be there.
Where does this anger come from?
Over the last few decades there has been an exodus of manufacturing jobs out of America to overseas, leaving behind thousands and even millions of former workers on the scrap heap. Economies of entire cities, such as Detroit have collapsed in the wake of these lost manufacturing jobs leaving the residents faced with a bleak future.
It’s not just the working classes though, real-world wages for the middle class have been stagnating for almost a century now. So while the economy has grown substantially since 1917, almost all of these gains have gone to the super-rich and very little has trickled down to the middle class. This means that in real terms, people are working longer, working harder and working for less.
“He admits exploiting tax loopholes to pay no income tax for over 10 years, outsourcing manufacturing jobs to Mexico and making his fortune from being a ruthless opportunity capitalist. He is one of the very people who have been exploiting the American people.”
The result? A lot of people are hurting. They’re pissed off at an ‘establishment’ that has allowed all of this to happen and they want change.
The reaction has hardly been surprising. History shows us time and again that when the economy is weak, politics become more extreme and usually shift right.
When did Brexit happen? On the tail end of the worst global recession since WWII.
How did the Nazi’s rise to power? On the wave of the Great Depression.
For all his bluster and the utter shite that came out of his mouth, Donald Trump did manage to effectively tap into this anger and economic hardship. The messages which really hit home and drove his support, were all driven by the desire to improve the economy for the average American.
Make America Great Again
While his slogan promise to ‘Make America Great Again!’ was easy to make fun of (I’ve done it myself many times), it optimises the feeling that for a huge portion of society, America isn’t so great right now. For Trump supporters, making it ‘great again’ means bringing back all those manufacturing jobs, stopping cheap Chinese imports and essentially winding the economy back 50 years to a time when they had decent salaries and could provide for their families.
The hard truth is that those days are long gone. Times have changed. Those manufacturing jobs are never coming back.
The world has become more globalised, the U.S. and western economies have evolved towards service and tech industries, while manufacturing has been outsourced to countries with cheaper labour and a lot of people have been left behind. A guy who used to work in a car manufacturing plant isn’t gonna go back to school and get a tech job in the city, it’s just not gonna happen.
It’s A Bitter Pill to Swallow
Of course the Republicans will never tell you that. And when you have a guy promoting himself as ‘anti-establishment’, promising that he’ll make things just how they used to be and he’ll even bring back your job, you lap it up. Of course you do. You’re desperate, you’ll do anything. You’ll even overlook all of the other horrible shit that he says or does.
A common theme of the election has been for his supporters to play down his extreme policies, such as building the border wall or banning Muslims from entering the U.S., believing that he won’t really do it. They excuse his bigoted, racist remarks or his boasting about sexually assaulting women.
They can even overlook the fact that while he is running on a platform of being ‘anti-establishment’, he is about as establishment as they come. He admits exploiting tax loopholes to pay no income tax for over 10 years, outsourcing manufacturing jobs to Mexico and making his fortune from being a ruthless opportunity capitalist. He is one of the very people who have been exploiting the American people.
Social Justice Can Wait
Clearly America today is not worse for everybody, in fact for a lot of people it is significantly better, namely marginalised minorities. Much progress has been made toward a fairer, more inclusive and just society for African-Americans, Hispanics the LBGT community etc. and Hillary Clinton’s campaign focused on further extending this progress.
Here is where I think the Democrats have made their biggest mistake, because people only have time for social justice issues and integration for a fairer society when they have a stable job and are happy with their lifestyle. By focusing on minorities and failing to listen to the angry voices coming from blue-collar America, the Democrats effectively ignored their plight, leaving Trump to pick up the mantle.
The Sad Reality
The sad truth is that the people have got their change, but it is not going to be the change they wanted. Right wing politics always hurts the working classes and the Republicans serve big-business. Trump has already said he’ll repeal Obamacare, cut taxes on the rich and continue to pursue the ‘trickle-down’ economics, which has led to such wage stagnation in the first place.
“We live in a fucked up world, where the average working man feels that the people who best understand them are a bunch of super-rich, privileged elite, who have actually been exploiting them for decades. When people are willing to vote this utter asshole into power, then we need to take a long hard look at the system and how it’s failing so many people.”
But, just like we saw in the Brexit referendum, the left-wing ran a lacklustre campaign promising more of the same and a fairer country for everybody; while the right-wing tapped into the disgruntlement, lied, manipulated and gave the people an outlet. Energetic, fiery campaigns focusing on the plight of white working class Americans are not purely the domain of the Republicans, just take a look at Bernie Sanders.
We need more people like him who connect with the white working class while promoting liberal and progressive values. We need more inspirational leadership who can get fired up and passionately defend the view that we can have a fair and just society that works for everybody. We need to stop conservatives from hijacking the concerns of the white working classes for their own political and economic gains.
Other wise we end up with the fucked up world we live in right now, where the average working man feels that the people who best understand them are a bunch of super-rich, privileged elite, who have actually been exploiting them for decades. When people are willing to vote this utter asshole into power, then we need to take a long hard look at the system and how it’s failing so many people.
Because, while we’re sat here thinking “please … Anyone but him! ” , millions are thinking “please… anyone, even him“.
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