Two recent stories have similar takes on what motivated millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump:
- Masha Gessen draws on Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom (1941) to argue in The New York Review of Books that Trump’s supporters are overwhelmed by freedom of choice and would rather cede agency to a strongman. Hence Trump’s obsession with those who embody choice: immigrants and transgenders.
- Adam Garfinkle and Aviezer Tucker argue more specifically in The American Interest that it is a complex reality Trump’s fans wish to escape from: Read more
Shocking though Donald Trump’s victory was, looking back we can see how his presidency is the culmination of trends, some of which have been decades in the making:
- Polarization: The sorting of American voters into two ideologically homogenous parties.
- Urban-rural split: The Electoral College and Senate give more power to the conservative countryside at the expense of liberal cities.
- Imperial presidency: The executive has accumulated power at the expense of other branches of government, raising the stakes in presidential elections.
- Politicization of the courts: Presidential appointments of federal and Supreme Court judges undermine the perceived impartiality of the courts, which in turn weakens the rule of law.
- Overreliance on the military: Foreign policy is now run by generals, not diplomats. The military has its own hospitals. It plays a crucial role in disaster relief. It may not be long before the Army Corps of Engineers is asked to fix America’s broken infrastructure. Read more
The votes for Brexit, European populism and Donald Trump weren’t working-class revolts.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adam Serwer have argued that mostly-white elites are drawn to the “economic anxiety” thesis because it absolves them of responsibility for more intractable problems, like racism, xenophobia and self-delusions about both.
If nativists are motivated by stagnating wages, then there are policy solutions for bringing them back into the mainstream.
But what if their grievances aren’t so concrete? Read more
The winter of 1978-79 is remembered in Britain as the Winter of Discontent. There were mass strikes and inflation spiraled out of control. The situation led to the election of Margaret Thatcher that spring and the rise of neoliberal policies.
Could the summer and autumn of this year one day be remembered in a similar way?
In both Britain and the United States, there have been revolts against the establishment and the status quo, leading to calls for radical change. Read more
When it became clear Tuesday night that Donald Trump was going to defeat Hillary Clinton in the big industrial states of the American Midwest — Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin — I thought of the way Barack Obama had triumphed there four years ago.
His opponent, Mitt Romney, was a decent and thoughtful man who I supported for president. It bothered me at the time that Democrats were portraying him — insincerely, it seemed to me — as a heartless plutocrat. But that’s how Obama won over the white working class in the very states Clinton lost on Tuesday.
I sensed there was a connection between the vilification of Mitt Romney and the victory of Donald Trump, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read this quote from a conservative voter in The Atlantic:
Give people the impression that you will hate them the same or nearly so for voting Jeb Bush as compared to voting for Trump and where is the motivation to be socially acceptable with Jeb?
It is now starting to sink in that liberal America unwittingly radicalized Trumpland. Read more
The blog originally began with a simple vision: complicated foreign policy analysis stuffed with swears to soften the otherwise indigestible material. As the years have worn on, I’ve largely dropped that approach.
But I feel we deserve the old way today.
So let’s start to dig through the rubble and figure out what the fuck just happened in America. Read more