Trump’s win fol­lows a global pat­tern of an­gry vot­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - — San Jose Mer­cury Ed­i­to­rial Board

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.

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