Trump’s win follows a global pattern of angry voters
Californians are still grappling with the idea that Donald Trump will be president of their country. It certainly wasn’t their fault: Hillary Clinton won here by record margins. How did this happen?
It may help to take a big picture view. Trump is arguably part of a wave of unexpected political victories in recent years — a global rather than uniquely American thing. That may be comforting. It also may be all the more disturbing.
Trump’s victory is the latest evidence of a global revolution by people who feel disaffected. Regardless of political stripe, when people believe their concerns are not heard, they become frustrated and angry. They see paternalistic arrogance in the people in power, and sometimes they’re moved to drastic action. Not necessarily helpful action, but drastic.
Remember the revolt of disaffected voters that nearly caused Greece to leave the European Union? Financial deals stopped it, but it shook the EU. And Greece.
The Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East and Africa was about many things, but at its heart were people who felt they had no voice. The optimism that soared early on, particularly in Egypt, where real change briefly seemed possible, soon turned dark. The movements mostly have not ended well, but each is a signpost of desperation.
The European refugee crisis made many voters in Western countries anxious, believing their concerns about mass immigration were ignored. That has led to a significant rise of nationalism in many European countries, notably France, Germany and even in Scandinavia. Every nation wants to be great again.
The British jumped into the act with Brexit, the stunning vote to leave the European Union. Experts and pollsters totally failed to predict that, too, but analysis found it to be clearly a victory of the disaffected. Many voters had no clue what leaving the EU could mean. They just knew they were mad.
And now there’s the sad case of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who makes Trump look like Winston Churchill. Again, a desperate choice by voters who felt unheard.
There are more examples. It’s a clear trend. Disaffection has rallied Americans who have not felt the economic recovery that we in California have experienced. Trump saw this. He played to them directly, tapping into the simmering frustration and fanning it into anger.
That in itself is not unAmerican. So did both Roosevelts, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and, oh yes, Barack Obama. To name a few.
The difference with Trump, and Brexit, and the Philippines disaster is that people motivated by anger and disaffection do not always act in their own best interests. It’s unclear how Britain will fare as it divorces from Europe. And it’s unclear that a Donald Trump, who has been more predatory than supportive in dealing with the working class, will be the answer for working people. His financial plans mostly favor the rich.
That’s the downside to playing to the disaffected. If you win, they expect you to deliver. California will be watching.
The difference with Trump, and Brexit, and the Philippines disaster is that people motivated by anger and disaffection do not always act in their own best interests. It’s unclear how Britain will fare as it divorces from Europe.