How Trump happened
Widespread anger stemming from the loss of trust in government decided the new presidency of the US
JOSEPH E STIGLITZ
S I have traveled around the world in recent weeks, I am repeatedly asked two questions: Is it conceivable that Donald Trump could win the US presidency? And how did his candidacy get this far in the first place?
As for the first question, though political forecasting is even more difficult than economic forecasting, the odds are strongly in favour of Hillary Clinton. Still, the closeness of the race (at least until very recently) has been a mystery: Clinton is one of the most qualified and well prepared presidential candidates that the United States has had, while Trump is one of the least qualified and worst prepared. Moreover, Trump’s campaign has survived the behaviour by him that would have ended a candidate’s chances in the past.
So why would Americans be playing Russian roulette (for that is what even a one-in-six chance of a Trump victory means)? Those outside the US want to know the answer, because the outcome affects them, too, though they have no influence over it.
And that brings us to the second question: why did the US Republican Party nominate a candidate that even its leaders rejected?
Obviously, many factors helped Trump beat 16 Republican primary challengers to get this far. Personalities matter, and some people do seem to warm to Trump’s reality-TV persona.
But several underlying factors also appear to have contributed to the closeness of the race. For starters, many Americans are economically worse off than they were a quarter-century ago. The median income of full-time male employees is lower than it was 42 years ago, and it is increasingly difficult for those with limited education to get a full-time job that pays decent wages.
Indeed, real (inflation-adjusted) wages at the bottom of the income distribution are roughly where they were 60 years ago. So it is no surprise that Trump finds a large, receptive audience when he says the state of the economy