An Inconvenient Trump

I know what you are thinking: here we go again; another diatribe about Donald Trump’s crassness, egomania, divisiveness, xenophobia, pettiness, hair colour, hair style, marital history, bankruptcies, political fecklessness and complete unsuitability for any office let alone that of the most powerful person in the world.  What more can be said about him that hasn’t been bemoaned by every political commentator, talk show host, comedian, cab driver, office mate and random guy on the subway to whom you have had the honour and/or interminable burden of listening?

The answer is nothing.  His candidacy is so patently ridiculous it is both easy and convenient to dismiss the phenomenon as the collective psychosis of some sub-class of American society.  And therein lies the perniciousness of Trump.  It is that ease of dismissal that has created and now intensifies the ardour of those that hear in his incoherence the kernel of something that is both real and profound.

The world has changed dramatically since the days when Donald Trump remembers America as “great”.  Goods and capital flow more freely around the world than at any time in human history.  The phenomenon of globalization has raised most if not all boats.  Global poverty has receded precipitously (but not completely), and the gaps between rich nations and poor nations has narrowed.  But not so the gap between richest and poorest within nations, and certainly not so in the richest country in the world.

America’s working class has watched as a torrent of blue collar jobs that once provided a middle class lifestyle left for cheaper labour markets, and those jobs that remained were repriced in a seemingly futile effort to stem that flow.  Those that retreated to the service sector found another cruel reality: a steady flow of immigrants, including illegals, whose tenuous status could be exploited to further depress wage levels.

Politicians of all stripes in the US and elsewhere justifiably extol the virtues of the free flow of goods and capital (and even to some extent people) as the best means of maximizing global growth and wealth.  However, few politicians acknowledge the impact of this freer trade upon the American (and yes, Canadian) working class lest they arouse the outrage that The Donald is now tapping.  Both Bernie Sanders and Trump are breaking that mold.  The impact of this truth-telling in the Democratic race is muted because Democrats in general if not Hilary Clinton in particular can at least pay lip service to a willingness to bring forward and maintain redistributive policies, like Obamacare, that can offer some support to those caught in this downward spiral.  But the Republicans remain duty-bound to oppose redistribution in any form.

The only advantage enjoyed by the Republicans in addressing this issue is their adherence to law and order at all costs.  The most ardent of the tribe demand free access to guns and more jails as solutions to almost any social problem; in the immigration and employment context, is the concept of a southern border wall any more extreme?  Having taken that plunge, Trump is able to buttress his populist appeal by promising an end to free trade and the repatriation of jobs, a position that would be suicide for the typical Republican candidate that is dependent on corporate donations for campaign funding.

We shake our heads incredulously at the absurdity of the Trump candidacy. But in our histrionics, his supporters hear only the same disdain for their plight that they have heard for the last 25 years.

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