Sunday, November 20, 2016

why trump won

economic reality beats identity politics

The recognition that the economy hasn't recovered from the 2008 crisis and the Obamas / Clintons have protected Wall Street (no Banker gaoled; what new wealth there is has gone to the top 5%) has become a stronger social force than identity politics (you are female, black, Hispanic etc., we support you morally but not economically)

More detailed explanations here:
Break Up the Democratic Party
The Great Con: Political Correctness Has Marginalized the Working Class

update 4th December 2016:
Michael Moore picked it well before the election:
5 reasons why trump will win

update 14th December 2016:
If You Think This Is About Sexism and Racism, You’re Missing the Point by Eric Robert Morse
(the Michael Moore video within this article is very powerful, worth taking the time to watch IMHO)
As Moore puts it: “Donald Trump came to the Detroit Economic Club and stood there in front of Ford Motor executives and said ‘if you close these factories as you’re planning to do in Detroit and build them in Mexico, I’m going to put a 35% tariff on those cars when you send them back and nobody’s going to buy them.’ It was an amazing thing to see. No politician, Republican or Democrat, had ever said anything like that to these executives, and it was music to the ears of people in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the ‘Brexit’ states.”
update 15th December 2016:
Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit by Glen Greenwald

The Trump victory provides us not just the opportunity but the necessity to dig deeper into what is really happening in America, not to mention the world since we have BrExit in England, the popularity of Pauline Hanson in Australia, etc. I found this Readers Review of a new book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, enlightening:
There is a lot to take in here, even for someone that's seen this life up close in many of its many guises.

While ostensibly about the particular culture of the West Virginia Scots-Irish underclass, anyone that has seen white poverty in America's flyover states will recognize much of what is written about here. It is a life on the very edge of plausibility, without the sense of extra-family community that serves as a stabilizing agent in many first-generation immigrant communities or communities of color. Drugs, crime, jail time, abusive interactions without any knowledge of other forms of interaction, children growing up in a wild mix of stoned mother care, foster care, and care by temporary "boyfriends," and in general, an image of life on the edge of survival where even the heroes are distinctly flawed for lack of knowledge and experience of any other way of living.

This is a story that many of the "upwardly mobile middle class" in the coastal areas, often so quick to judge the lifestyles and politics of "those people" in middle America, has no clue about. I speak from experience as someone that grew up in the heartland but has spent years in often elite circles on either coast.

Two things struck me most about this book.

First, the unflinching yet not judgmental portrayal of the circumstances and of the people involved. It is difficult to write on this subject without either glossing over the ugliness and making warm and fuzzy appeals to idealism and human nature, Hollywood style, or without on the other hand descending into attempts at political persuasion and calls to activism. This book manages to paint the picture, in deeply moving ways, without committing either sin, to my eye.

Second, the author's growing realization, fully present by the end of the work, that while individuals do not have total control over the shapes of their lives, their choices do in fact matter—that even if one can't direct one's life like a film, one does always have the at least the input into life that comes from being free to make choices, every day, and in every situation.

It is this latter point, combined with the general readability and writing skill in evidence here, that earns five stars from me. Despite appearances, I found this to be an inspiring book. I came away feeling empowered and edified, and almost wishing I'd become a Marine in my younger days as the author decided to do—something I've never thought or felt before.

I hate to fall into self-analysis and virtue-signaling behavior in a public review, but in this case I feel compelled to say that the author really did leave with me a renewed motivation to make more of my life every day, to respect and consider the choices that confront me much more carefully, and to seize moments of opportunity with aplomb when they present themselves. Given that a Hillbilly like the author can find his way and make good choices despite the obstacles he's encountered, many readers will find themselves stripped bare and exposed—undeniably ungrateful and just a bit self-absorbed for not making more of the hand we've been dealt every day.

I'm a big fan of edifying reads, and though given the subject matter one might imagine this book to be anything but, in fact this book left me significantly better than it found me in many ways. It also did much to renew my awareness of the differences that define us in this country, and of the many distinct kinds of suffering and heroism that exist.

Well worth your time.
update 21st December:
Both of these articles re-iterated the point that the fundamental reason for Trump's victory was economic.

J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America
This one argues that Hillbilly Elegy stresses the individual attitudes required to escape poverty too much, that it becomes a morality play. It's too hard to pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you don't have boots.

To Understand 2016’s Politics, Look at the Winners and Losers of Globalization: An interview with economist Branko Milanovic
The elephant chart shows that globalisation has not benefited the middle classes in the developed nations:
The biggest gains, (Milanovic) found, have gone to the very richest in the richest countries—the kinds of people that are overwhelmingly found in places like London or US coastal cities—as well as the “emerging global middle class,” people with much less wealth who are predominantly located in China. Both of these groups saw their real incomes skyrocket from their previous levels, though Chinese people on overage are still only one fourth as wealthy as Americans. The world’s poorest people didn’t do nearly as well, but they saw some improvements.

And the losers have been working people in rich countries. A large portion of the lower middle class in Western Europe and the US saw essentially no income gains since the Reagan administration, while almost everybody else in the world, including elites in their own countries, moved forward. Milanovic presented his data for these findings in the now famous “Elephant chart.” The graph, which looks like the outline of an elephant, shows how much incomes have increased for people at different levels of wealth. The dip between the elephant’s back and its trunk shows the comparatively small gains that working people in rich countries have seen


Steve Owens said...

Hi Bill the gist of your post is that Trump ran on economics and Clinton ran on identity. But is this so? Was Trumps message economic or identity? Calling Mexicans rapists is hard core identity politics. Saying Blue lives matter is identity politics. A close supporter of Trump is Ann Coulter who wrote a book called Adios America, a buffoon like Jerald o Rivera was smart enough to call her out on this. Racism is identity politics on steroids. Coulter also talks about the left and its dream of browning America. The Democrats did play identity politics but Trump played identity politics harder.
Trump did tap into my job went to China (or Mexico) but this is globalisation. I support globalisation, yes with free trade protected jobs in old economy industries will go overseas but that is Capitalism developing the worlds productive forces.
Yes Trump won the election he received about 2 million votes less than Clinton.
Yes the Republicans won in Congress but that is because of a massive gerrymander that exists in the House

Bill Kerr said...

hi Steve,

I can agree with you that both sides played identity politics. The identity politics of Trump (appealing to disenfranchised poor white trash) appeared to have a more powerful, gutsy economic supporting framework than that of Clinton (we support you minorities but heh sorry not sure how to get you a job). ie. Trump told Ford executives that if they moved their factories to Mexico than he would put a 35% tariff on those cars before they came back. Like Michael Moore (who I have never liked but can see how he actually understands these issues and so I have to respect him for that) I can see how this would have a galvanising effect on the marginalised poor white trash. cf. Clinton supporters who would go to the polls but not bring others with them. Trump's identity / economic message appealed to that part of the electorate in those states required to get him to power.

I say poor white trash with tongue in cheek, I wouldn't want to be too politically correct, since that might put me in the Clinton camp. Say all the right things and do nothing about the really important issue: the growing economic divide.

The need for electoral reform might be important too. I haven't studied that so can't really comment further. My interest was in finding the underlying reasons why such a repulsive, unethical person (sexist, racist etc) regarded as a joke candidate, written off by all progressives, whose faults are very public, has come to power. It would still be important to uncover those reasons if Trump had narrowly lost in a reformed electoral system.

See my 14th December update link in the original article for a better analysis.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill, Clinton currently leads Trump by 2.8 million votes
regards Steve

Bill Kerr said...

Well, you can focus on the electoral system flaws or the new political dynamic. I'd say use this opportunity to deepen your understanding of what is really happening in America and the rest of the world: the changing, angry mood of the people fed up with self serving liberal elites. That is a very significant and important political shift IMO.

I've added a couple of more updates. The book that came out in June, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis looks particularly interesting.

Anonymous said...

But Bill one story is person representing liberal elites gets almost 3 million more votes than opponent and opponent wins.
The other story is that candidate backed by KKK, Stormfront and Fox News wins on the back of angry backlash.
Despite a growing economy, pretty well full employment, wage growth
and a quit rate that is now in line with the pre crisis rate meaning that workers feel ok about throwing in a job.
The US has been very bad about wealth redistribution but that seems to be because the nation is gripped by the ideology of individualism. Trump is the guru of the cult of the individual and until someone can cobble together a collectivist alternative the US I think will go into decline.
Regards Steve

Steve Owens said...

"Well, you can focus on the electoral system flaws or the new political dynamic. I'd say use this opportunity to deepen your understanding of what is really happening in America and the rest of the world: the changing, angry mood of the people fed up with self serving liberal elites. That is a very significant and important political shift IMO."
Your right Bill in that there is a new political dynamic but I see it as a rerun of some very old politics in that in every modern capitalist economy there is a struggle between the interests that support Free Trade and the interests that support Protectionism. In the US the Free Trade ideology has been dominant for the last few decades and had become the default position of both major parties. Well baby Protectionism is back in town first in the Bernie Sanders left form and now in Trump's right wing form.
Like Karl Marx I am an unashamed Free Trader this step backwards to protectionism may well put an end to world economic growth.
Please be free to tell me how in a country where the House was in the hands of the Conservative elite and the Senate was in the hands of the Conservative elite and the Supreme Court had a dominant Conservative Elite block (up until the death of Scalia) can the election of this Crony Capitalist boob by a 3 million votes deficit be a rebellion against Liberal Elites?
As to movements in the rest of the world Id love to discuss with you things like Brexit and the EU

Bill Kerr said...

The elephant chart in my latest update shows the winners and losers from globablisation. The main winners, where the curve is steepest, are the top 1%.

Steve Owens said...

Bill I am completely on side with the idea that the vast bulk of the wealth generated by the global economy goes to the elites the 1% if you will, probably more accurately the 1% of the 1%.
A significant minority of the US voting population just elected Tangerine Mussolini. Everything he told the voting public was a lie. He can't turn back the clock and if he is stupid enough to try he will fail. A 35% tariff on imported cars will add 35% to a new car price It will lower new car sales and most importantly disrupt the supply chain.
Tangerine Mussolini argued against illegal migration again a sop to the low income citizens. He will deport but Obama has deported more illegals that any other President in US history. States that had crackdowns on illegals found that it was very disruptive to their agricultural industry. There are plenty of agricultural jobs available you can tell because millions of illegals cross the border to get them.
You must have seen those poor saps holding up signs at Trump rallies you know they read "Trump Digs Coal" but the people that finance power stations don't, they plan to use gas and major importers of US coal like Canada are reducing their orders and mining is a great exponent of automation plus there's a world wide surplus of coal.
As Bob Dylan used to sing 'they say in the East we are paying to high. They say that our coal aint worth digging, that its much cheaper now in some South American town, where the miners work almost for nothing'
The problem is about wealth distribution and to that question old Tangerine said nothing hes a deregulating wealth creating machine, so he wants you to believe. Hes reactionary to the core and this will all end in tears at least Sanders argued that inequality was the key argument Tangerine wants everyone to get rich or so he says.
It's snake oil Bill snake oil and if people believe him that's not a step towards revolution that's a step into the reactionary past.

Steve Owens said...

Seeing that this discussion started with the idea that electors have turned out for Trump in big numbers and Clinton was left grasping at straws lets look at the numbers.
In 2012 Obama received 65,915,795 votes, in 2016 Clinton received 65,844,954 (the second biggest vote getter behind Obama)
In 2012 Romney got 60,933,504 and in 2016 Trump improved the Republican vote to 62,979,879
So what can we read into Trumps improved turn out. Well not much really he got a couple of percent more than Romney hardly a mass movement. Maybe just a energized fascist core.

Bill Kerr said...

What interested me Steve was that Trump still won after being opposed by a very, very long list of influential Republicans, see List of Republicans who opposed the Donald Trump presidential campaign, 2016

He broke one of the big rules of party politics (unity) and still won, which surprised me very much and possibly you too, although you might not want to admit that. From that perspective he was / is a political outsider who won mass support

Steve Owens said...

Bill you are correct in that I was predicting Trumps campaign to go along the lines of the Goldwater and the McGovern campaigns. I was predicting that Trump wouldn't take a state let alone the Presidency. On Facebook I have been doing what I call my apology tour so you don't need to worry that I can't face my embarrassing mistakes.
I think it is correct to try and understand the Trump victory and in doing this I think it essential to acknowledge that he got a lot less votes. Yes Republican establishment were heavily against him but this was a bit of poisoned well syndrome. When Obama became President the Republican establishment declared that they would try and make government unworkable and we entered a period commonly known as gridlock. Obama not only couldn't get his Supreme court nominee up he couldn't even get him a hearing. Politician became a term of derision. The established Republicans also generated hostility by their association with conducting unpopular wars and guiding the economy into the second biggest disaster in history.
One factor in Trumps favor was as a commentator (I cant remember who)stated that its Trump the entertainer against politicians and entertainment will always beat out politics.
Having said that I think that his fundamental popularity lies with his turn to protectionism. Economic restructuring hurts people and a protectionist message will sell just ask Nick Xenophon

Steve Owens said...

Bill heres a clip but you need to go past the Chomsky stuff and start watching at the 13 minute mark This guy really cuts through 'its the economy stupid' BS