Guest Contribution: “Stagnant incomes of white workers do not explain Trump”

Today we are pleased to present a guest contribution written by Jeffrey Frankel, Harpel Professor of Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard University, and former Member of the Council of Economic Advisers, 1997-99.

The mainstream media are busily reproaching themselves for having been so out of touch with the economic troubles of angry white working men that they were late in taking Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seriously. Most of us can join in to admit that we were very slow to take Trump seriously. For one thing, we all thought that any candidate would be permanently derailed by even a small number of the many things that Trump has said. We used to call these gaffes — either the ones that seemed designed to alienate particular groups (Hispanics, women, etc.) or the ones that revealed his lack of familiarity with real-world issues.

But can the under-estimation of Trump’s candidacy really be attributed to inadequate appreciation of the economic troubles of American workers?

The increase in inequality is very real, particularly the stagnation over the last 40 years of wage income among low-skilled men (defined as those without college education). For many years, Democrats have made proposals to ameliorate the problem, while Republican presidential candidates have consistently pursued tax cuts for the rich as their number one policy response.

The puzzle is why anyone thinks that Donald Trump’s candidacy offers a break with this particular pattern. The problem is not that he himself inherited great wealth. The problem is rather that his policy proposals, such as they are, would not address the issue. He, like virtually all Republican candidates, proposes big tax cuts for the rich, with no way of paying for the lost revenue. But he has also said something that no candidate has ever said: “wages are too high.” He said it several times, including November 10, 2015, in the Republican presidential debate on Fox and November 11, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. (He has also denied having said it. But the tapes are very clear. This is a pattern we have seen many times, of course. Sometimes he brazenly accuses the media of having made up the quote.)

The elite media have beaten themselves up over their eliteness many times before. Remember how, during the GWB years, journalists swallowed Karl Rove’s line that Republican votes were rising on a tide of middle-America family values? This was before people noticed that the red zip codes had higher rates of divorce, teenage pregnancy, and other apparent indicators of lack of personal responsibility than the blue zip codes.

I don’t claim to understand the remarkable Trump phenomenon. But whatever is the explanation, it is not a response by working white men that could have been logically predicted based on their stagnant incomes.

This post written by Jeffrey Frankel.

43 thoughts on “Guest Contribution: “Stagnant incomes of white workers do not explain Trump”

  1. David

    We are where we are as a result of the republican and democratic policy mix. GWB had eight years and so did Obama. The rise of Trump and Sanders is a rejection of that policy mix. I don’t understand why this is such a head scratcher for anyone.

    Now it’s absolutely true that from a policy perspective Trump is a hallow non-alternative. But he has gained votes and stature by pretending to reject the policy mix with his lack of political correctness. His crude politiking is, on the surface, a rejection of the current policy mix. In daring to “go there”, Trump pretends to offer a policy alternative even though he has never articulated what that alternative is other than “making America great again”.

    When people perceive, rightly or wrongly, that the social contract is failing them, any alternative kool-aid sounds better. Why is this a mystery?

  2. tew

    This is so poor, I don’t know where to start. First, it implies that voters, in particular TRUMP voters, are well-informed and rational. It also implies that their must be a single root cause for Trumpism, namely income inequality, broadly defined.

    It then cites “red” vs. “blue” zip code data, which is an all-too-common mistake – using a single binary classification that depends on a simple majority and then comparing results of variables that are on a continuum. There is no link to the claim, so we cannot even determine how they define the zip code colors – is it based simply on whether a Republican or Democrat won the most recent governor’s race? Is it based on the most recent presidential election? In any case, a slim majority of one or the other toggles the switch between red and blue. Let’s take State A with a small Republican majority – it’s red. State A is in the bottom quartile of incomes with a high poverty rate. Take State B with a small Democratic majority – it’s blue! State B is affluent. Now let’s say that State B has lower divorce and teen pregnancy rates than State A. Perhaps the divorce and teen pregnancy rates among the red state’s large Democratic (blue) minority are high. In any case, we are reminded that many demographic factors come into play. A simple red-blue binary split is a beautiful example of a terrible basis for good analysis. [And, yes, I’m aware that good researchers can control for many factors – as long as they can identify and measure them – and, if they are not too biased, can do so in a reliable way. But a good, honest researcher would not use a red-blue split in the first place and would not present findings that way.]

  3. PeakTrader

    I think, many republicans and independents are tired of dishonest and wishy-washy Republicans, who just go through the motions, and too many failed policies of Democrats, who gave us an economic depression, a huge national debt, illegal immigration, Obamacare, disastrous inner cities, out-of-wedlock births and abortions, one foreign policy mess after another, etc.. Basically, many Americans now believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

    Many Americans believe Trump will make the tough choices politicians won’t make. They may not be correct choices, but many American believe they’ll be effective. A lot of Americans see political correctness for what it is – a dishonest and ignorant evaluation. I think, Trump reflects what many Americans feel, despite what the media wants them to believe. Nonetheless, Trump isn’t appropriate to be President.

    1. baffling

      peak, lets be clear here. it was the republicans who gave us an economic depresession. they are important contributors to the national debt, with spending increases and unpaid for tax cuts. and two foreign wars. regarding obamacare, the evidence appears to indicate it is a net positive. two wars and a depression are the results of republican policy ideologies.

      1. PeakTrader

        You’re clear in your ideology.

        I’ve explained to you before how foreigners pay for most of the U.S. military indirectly through trade deficits.

        it’s ridiculous to blame the Republicans for this depression, since 2009, when it had little power in 2009-11.

        Do you have evidence Obamacare is a net positive?

        1. Mike V

          NBER recession dates: December 2007 and ended in June 2009

          How do you avoid doing the most basic research on your absurd claims?

        2. baffling

          “Do you have evidence Obamacare is a net positive?”
          over 10 million uninsured have gained insurance, and consequently access to affordable and quality healthcare. only a miserly crank would consider that a net negative.

          1. PeakTrader

            What good is insurance when you can’t afford the premiums and deductibles?

            You listed having insurance as a positive. Now, list the negatives. You do know what “net positive” means?

            Only “a miserly crank” would consider having insurance a net positive.

          2. baffling

            other than the fallacious negatives which some on this site have argued for, i really have not found much negative about obamacare at all. on a personal level, i actually pay for obamacare for a family member myself. so i actually have direct experience with it. and i have yet to experience the negative claims some have espoused on this site. the net positive is really simply a positive. period. again, if i were a miserly crank intent on hurting others, i would certainly be against providing insurance to some of the most vulnerable populations. fortunately i am not a miserly crank.

    2. spencer

      I’m really trying to think of anything you said that was correct.

      The great depression started under Bush and ended a very few months into the Obama presidency.

      Bush inherited a Federal surplus equal to some 2% of GDP and left a deficit of almost 10% of GDP. Obama has reduced the 10% deficit he inherited to under 2% of GDP

      Since the Great Recession illegal immigration has reversed and there is now a net flow of Mexicans from the US to Mexico.

      Out of of wedlock births and abortions happen mainly in states that vote Republican and the number of both is now falling.

      Exactly what foreign policy mess did Obama create — I see him trying to deal with the messes Bush created. Please provide an actual example.

      1. PeakTrader

        The Bush recession started in 2007 and ended in 2009. The Obama depression started in 2009 and it’s ongoing.

        The depression slowed illegal immigration.

        Trillion dollar annual budget deficits were under Obama. Bush inherited a stock market crash in 2000 and a recession in 2001.

        The black population has been decimated by out of wedlock births and abortions.

        The refugee crisis was a result of Obama’s policies. The Russians, Chinese, and Iranians are bullying the U.S.. The Middle East is more dangerous than ever before. Iraq was a lot more stable under Bush. ISIS could’ve been destroyed before it became embedded. Where have you been?

    3. Mike V

      You troll this site with a lot of ridiculous stuff, but this has to be the most absurd thing you’ve ever written: “too many failed policies of Democrats, who gave us an economic depression, a huge national debt, illegal immigration, Obamacare, disastrous inner cities, out-of-wedlock births and abortions, one foreign policy mess after another, etc..”

      At worst that statement pisses in the face of most available research, and at best you are attempt to describe extremely complex situations with lazy hand-waving nonsense (“it’s the Democrat party’s fault”). Truly pathetic.

      1. PeakTrader

        You haven’t disproven anything I’ve said.

        So, who gives the “lazy hand-waving nonsense”?

        And, you call me pathetic!

    4. dilbert dogbert

      ” too many failed policies of Democrats, who gave us an economic depression, a huge national debt”
      Woot!!!! Breaking News!!! GWB was a democrat!!!! HCN!!!

      1. PeakTrader

        Didn’t we add many trillions of dollars to the federal debt for this ongoing depression here on earth?

        Obviously, some people will say it’s all Bush’s fault.

        1. baffling

          and you do not believe the bush presidency deserves primary responsibility? bush drives the car over the cliff and you blame obama for crashing into the river below? your ideology is astounding peak. peak denial!

          1. PeakTrader

            Congress drove the car over the cliff.

            I blame Obama for making an economy in a depression less important than picking the Final Four winners.

          2. baffling

            still in denial peak. spending cuts and balanced budget ideologies were no contributor to a slow recovery? private sector cuts back, public sector cuts back. only a fool would expect robust growth under those conditions. there is a party and ideology which promoted those ideas. conservative republicans.

  4. Erik Poole

    Spot on! Menzie, you and Prof. Hamilton should make Prof. Frankel a permanent member of this blog.

    I rather enjoyed the explanation for Trump’s popularity offered by Iraqi veteran J.D. Vance in the New York Times entitled: “Why Trump’s Antiwar Message Resonates with White America”

    I do not for a moment believe that the Iraq invasion and occupation fiasco is an important explanation of Trump’s popularity but the piece certainly fits well with my view of the world as well as gnawing concerns about the decline of American hegemony. Perceived from the perspective of small, rich western nation members of NATO, declining US influence is a big concern.

  5. Bruce Hall

    There is a certain feeling of disenfranchisement among Trump’s followers. They feel that the federal government has focused on:
    – minorities
    – sexual outliers/gender issues
    – banks/Wall Street
    – illegal immigrants

    They feel that the American middle class has regressed economically and that the government policies have contributed to that. Now you can argue whether or not that is rational, but statistics (yes they can be misleading) show that the median income has fallen while the mean income has risen… hence a skewing of income distribution to which both Trump and Sanders are playing. In general, it’s a perspective that the “American Dream” of working hard, being honest, taking responsibility has been shit upon by both parties. Certainly, media plays into that, but one has only to look at how median income in 2000 compared with the cost of a pickup truck or home or health insurance or food or higher education versus how present income compares with those costs and the “disenfranchised and forgotten” perspective is not so absurd.

    As this country has shifted from the production of hard goods to information technology, the economic dislocation has been heightened. Some well-informed people believe that it may be time to exit from widespread trade treaties and return to bilateral, focused treaties that have specific benefits to both parties without undermining significant sectors of either. That may not be possible, but it it might be preferable. We might not be able to return to the halcyon days of the 1950s, but we certainly want to avoid the Japanese syndrome of today.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: And yet…what are the two largest Federal transfer programs in the budget? My guess: Social Security and Medicare. Who gains disproportionately from these programs given who lives longest in our society?

      1. Bruce Hall

        Menzie “And yet…what are the two largest Federal transfer programs in the budget? My guess: Social Security and Medicare. Who gains disproportionately from these programs given who lives longest in our society?

        Of course, that’s small consolation to the 30 to 60-year olds who are not collecting social security or Medicare. It is even less on the radar of the 16 to 29-year olds who can’t even get a job or begin a “career” in areas that used to be stepping stones to better things. Pronouncements about social inequality are fine; they just don’t resonate with those who feel politicians have tin ears.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Bruce Hall: I’m in agreement with you in the sense that I believe there are gross mis-perceptions on the part of Republican voters, particularly those supporting Mr. Trump. In other words, I agree that in many cases, the perceptions are not rational, as you put it.

          1. Bruce Hall

            Menzie, I’m not sure which gross mis-perceptions to which you refer. Certainly not about median wages versus purchasing power.

            And it’s not just traditional Republicans who are being drawn to Trump which is why his popularity has confounded so many pundits (and economists?).


            … among others.

            The opponents of Trump error in thinking that his appeal is to racism. He is appealing to a growing sense of economic desperation.

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: I understand that frustration, and I understand that Trump draws on some groups that have not historically been Republicans; the question I have is why elderly Social Security and Medicare recipients feel disenfranchised. That’s the misperception I’m speaking of.

            If you don’t think his appeal to racism explains part of his support, then I believe that you are delusional.

          3. Bruce Hall

            Menzie, I can only guess that the older generation is not as concerned about their situation as much as they perceive their children’s and grandchildren’s futures are being undermined by the present priorities of the government… just as normally Democratic Party union members do. Hope and change is now becoming “I hope we’re going to change what’s been going on the last seven years.”

  6. Gary Barrett

    Read up on why the Weimar Republic failed. The “Trumpites” are at the gates with torches and pitchforks for a multitude of reasons, including stagnated low wages and poor job prospects. Trump offers a way to “blame someone else”.

    Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Kommunist.

    Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

    Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
    habe ich nicht protestiert;
    ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

    Als sie die Juden holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Jude.

    Als sie mich holten,
    gab es keinen mehr,
    der protestieren konnte.

    Martin Niemöller January 1946

  7. Ed Hollison

    I agree with Professor Frankel, but would simply amend the title/thesis to this: “Stagnant incomes of white workers do not ALONE explain Trump”.

    These are the factors that I think, together, explain this phenomenon.

    1) Stagnating middle class wages, owing mostly (I would guess) to technology and international trade.
    2) A “pay to play” political culture. From what I’ve read, this started in the 1990s under Gingrich, skewing the Republican party (and the Democrats later) towards catering to the preferences of wealthy donors. It accelerated with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling a few years ago and the creation of Super PACs. I think Trump voters’ rejection of so-called “mainstream” Republican candidates in part reflects their understanding of this.
    3) The cumulative effect of years of identity-based, “dog whistle” politics. Many in the news media have already commented on this, but Trump is tapping into not only the racism of some white voters, but is also following on decades of deliberate political messaging that sought to point a finger at blacks, immigrants, etc. To my understanding this started under Nixon, but in the past few years Republicans have doubled down on this strategy. Gingrich four years ago called Obama the “food stamp president”, for instance, the ultimate dog-whistle one-liner. In other words, the pump has been primed for years in terms of linking racism and other prejudices to political identity.
    4) The IT revolution and changes in mainstream media. Trump is essentially the Kim Kardashian of political candidates. In an age where information has become disparate (no more Walter Cronkite in every American living room), candidates who are adept at doing outlandish things and seizing attention have a natural advantage. News media struggling to stay profitable are naturally attracted to the candidates who are most entertaining and engaging, and who generate clicks and eyeballs. This has given a natural showman like Trump an enormous leg up in terms of free exposure. Simultaneously, the explosion in the number of news sources, and the effacement of large, middle-of-the-road objective media outlets, has made the concept of truth relative. The gaffes that Professor Frankel writes of no longer exist. In an age when media are simply assumed to be biased, the importance of questions like “Was what the candidate said true?” or “Would the candidates’ policies really have the effect he claims they would?” are no longer relevant. Trump understands this and has leveraged it beautifully.

    This is my best explanation. And oh yeah, I also find it super sad.

    Ed Holliison

  8. Bruce Hall

    This is an interesting chart showing how some costs of living are affecting the middle class. One noteworthy item is missing: health insurance/health care costs.

    Implied impact of healthcare costs on individuals:

    One can argue that the quality of vehicles and college and healthcare has dramatically improved in 40 years, but definitely not the affordability. And if you can’t afford a product or service, quality doesn’t matter quite as much.

    I guess the bigger question is: Why are there not more people backing Bernie Sanders? Isn’t he going to level the playing field? His boogieman are the 1%. Shouldn’t the 99% accept that taking more from them will fix things? And who can argue with free college? And the government is already subsidizing our new Teslas. Shouldn’t we all be standing in line for free or subsidized things? Why should union members want jobs if they can let Bernie take care of them?

    Why, indeed, are union members and old folks backing Trump when they should be backing Sanders? Are they all racists and homophobes? Or do their brains say, “Does not compute”?

  9. ComradeAnon

    His platform is no different than any other republican. He’s just saying what the other republicans are thinking.

  10. Trump/Sanders 2016

    Of course it’s not just “angry white poor people.”

    The blame goes towards republicans for…

    1. Starting a war and ramping up spending on the military
    2. Never securing the border. Joe 6-pack knows that if you don’t have secure borders, eventually your culture will be destroyed. It’s true. Our culture is much different (net worse) than it was 40 years ago. It isn’t looking good going forward.
    3. For talking a good game on “fiscal conservatism” and never really delivering.

    and on the Democrats for

    1. Obamacare not saving the average family $2,500 a year, nor allowing us to “keep our doctors if we like them.”
    2. Being unable to “fix” the economy after 7-8 years.
    3. Enabling the rise of the Social Justice Warrior lunatics who are truly scary and quasi-fascist.
    4. Obama “ending” the wars in the middle east, but starting new conflicts in Syria, Libya, and other areas and NOT reducing spending back to pre-9/11 levels.

    People want REAL change because we know if we continue down this path of “moderate” candidates like Clinton or Kasich and probably Cruz, more of the same will just continue to bury us in debt as our culture decays. That is why Bernie and Trump have risen to such prominence.

    Now you may criticize some parts of my analysis, but this is closer than “whitey is mad.”

  11. Rick Stryker

    Jeff asks,

    “But can the under-estimation of Trump’s candidacy really be attributed to inadequate appreciation of the economic troubles of American workers? ” The answer is–yes, it can. But to see that you have to look at the policies that differentiate Trump from the other Republican candidates. Trump rocketed to the pole position on the backs of two well-known policy proposals. To paraphrase Trump: 1) We’re going to build a big, magnificent wall on the Southern border and Mexico is going to pay for it; and 2) We’re not winning anymore. The other countries, particularly the Chinese, are laughing at us because of the stupid trade deals we’ve made. We’re giving away money to other countries with our trade deals.

    These two policies have really been the key to Trump’s success.

    Jeff is certainly right that the long-standing apparent stagnation of real wages among lower income workers does not explain Trump’s dominance. That phenomenon has been going on for a long time. Why Trump and why now? It’s Trump’s time because the distributional consequences of free trade and free mobility of labor policies turned out to be higher than anyone expected. Autor, Dorn, and Hanson in their recent paper The China Shock: Learning From Labor Market Adjustments to Large Changes in Trade make a compelling case that the recent large increase in trade with China, although having broad-based beneficial economic effects, have hurt low wage, low-skilled workers in particular. In general, when these workers were displaced, they did not find comparable job opportunities and suffered a relatively permanent loss of income. You can see this anecdotally if you drive around the areas that have lost manufacturing jobs to China and other places. The alternatives for people are fast food and Walmart-type jobs. Moreover, immigration policies that admit low-skilled workers, while mildly beneficial to the economy as a whole, have lowered wages for the less-educated and less-skilled workers. Jeff’s Harvard colleague, George Borjas, has provided the evidence.

    These disaffected voters form Trump’s (and probably to some extent Sanders’) base of support. They may not care about Trump’s promise to cut taxes. But they care very much when he promises to renegotiate trade agreements and reduce competition for their jobs from low-skilled immigrants (whether legal or illegal.)

    When you look at the polling data, you can see where Trump’s support is coming from. Trump combines a peculiar mix of policies that have gotten him a a plurality when the vote was split between many candidates. This analysis from James Carville and Stan Greenberg, The GOP Civil War and Its Opportunitiesprovides some useful data on the Republican primary race. Trump has had a plurality of the primary vote because he gets 50% of the tea party vote and splits the evangelical vote with Cruz. These two voting blocks are receptive to Trump’s primary messages. But Trump’s moderate-to-liberal views on some issues, such as health care (he says he’s against Obamacare but he’s also said that government should take care of people’s health care to some extent) and taxes (he’s implied he’d raise them on the wealthy.) have put together the winning coalition. Trump splits the moderate Republican and observant Catholic vote with the other candidates.

    Trump’s weakness has always been that he has a high floor but probably a low ceiling. He’s a polarizing candidate who has never been able to reliably attract a majority of the primary vote. Although he’s ahead in the delegate count, and disproportionately so given the Republican primary voting rules, it’s not clear that he can get to the required number of delegates to win on the first ballot. As I write, it appears that the good conservatives of Wisconsin have stopped Trump. If Cruz’s win is as big as it appears to be right now, it will be much harder for Trump to avoid a contested convention.

    Menzie should be proud that Wisconsin Republicans have shown the Donald to be a choke artist with little fingers.

    1. Trump/Sanders 2016

      “Menzie should be proud that Wisconsin Republicans have shown the Donald to be a choke artist with little fingers.”

      Does that mean Menzie will be mad when Donald wins 5 of the next 6 states and is shown not to be a choke artist and to have bigger hands than the average man?

      1. Rick Stryker

        Trump/Sanders 2016

        No, the little Donald will still be a choke artist with little fingers.

        The only thing Trump’s got going for him is a loyal minority of voters, the Trump Chumps, who keep voting for him not matter what. As Trump famously said, he could shoot someone on Fifth ave and the Trump Chumps would not leave him. That’s true. We’ve seen Trump issue a policy statement one day, fundamentally contradict it the second day, and then contradict it again the third day. And yet his support within his loyal minority does not waver, as his base doesn’t seem to care what he believes or what his actual policies will be. Trump doesn’t really know himself.

        The only reason that Trump is the front-runner given his minority Trump Chump support is the peculiarity of the rules of the Republican nominating process. Trump has received a lower percentage of the Republican vote than Sanders has and yet he’s in striking distance of winning on the first ballot. Unlike the Democratic nominating rules, in which delegates are allocated proportionately in general, many states on the Republican side have winner-take-all or winner-take-most rules which award delegates in greater proportion than the popular vote. Even so, Trump has not been able to convert this advantage into a clearly winning hand. He choked in winner-take-all Ohio, losing all the delegates, and he choked in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, for example, he went on #neverTrump conservative radio talk show Charlie Sykes without understanding what show he was on. Sykes obliterated him.

        Just because Trump’s favored to “win” in the next states doesn’t mean he’s not going to choke. Many of those states, such as NY, award delegates by congressional district. The rules allocated 3 delegates per district, regardless of the number of Republicans in that district. Thus, Republican votes in heavily Democratic districts in which there are relatively fewer Republicans are counted more heavily than Republican votes in districts with a high proportion of Republicans. It matters where Trump’s 52% is concentrated. Trump has belatedly realized that and has gone scurrying back to NY to defend his turf. California, which Trump must do well in, has similar voting rules.

        Meanwhile, Cruz is rolling Trump in Louisiana, Colorado, etc. because Trump doesn’t understand the rules of the Republican nomination process. If Trump weren’t such a choke artist with little fingers, he wouldn’t be as close as he is to not receiving the 1237 votes he needs to win on the first ballot. If he does make it, it will not be because of any competence on Trump’s part. It will be just good luck for Trump and bad luck for the Republican party.

  12. Bruce Hall

    Rick, you may be splitting hairs. If median wages had not been stagnating, workers would not be supporting Trump. He has found the boogieman for them: China… or at least reinforced their perceptions.

    I found the results in Wisconsin interesting. I wonder how many Democrats voted for Cruz as part of the #NeverTrump effort. Probably not enough to cause the big win for Cruz because they were too busy voting for the Democratic Party Trump doppelganger: Bernie Sanders.

    Wisconsin has some strange voter preferences.

    1. Rick Stryker


      I don’t think I’m splitting hairs. There’s a very big difference between a generalized wage stagnation that’s been going on for thirty years and the effects of particular policies–globalization and immigration–on a low-skilled, low-education workers. We do need to explain why Trump and why now. I’m not someone who assumes that people are irrational or don’t understand their own interests. Trump has been promising a wall and has been criticizing trade deals, particularly with China. We do need to explain why a subset of the voters likes that. We do have the empirical evidence I cited to back up the notion that people are voting for Trump out of rational, self-interest.

      I doubt many Democrats were voting for Cruz in Wisconsin. If Democrats want to see Hilary win in November, they should vote for Trump. Trump is the weakest candidate by far and the most likely to go down to a crushing defeat at Hilary’s hands, perhaps imperiling the House and Senate as well.

  13. 2slugbaits

    The mainstream media are busily reproaching themselves for having been so out of touch with the economic troubles of angry white working men

    The emphasis on men is important here. The recent collapse in support for Trump has come largely from women. In December 59% of women had an unfavorable view of Trump. By late February that number had climbed to 67% and by late March Trump’s unfavorable number among women was 73%. Over that same three month time frame Trump’s support among men has barely budged.

    Anecdotally I found the same thing a few days ago. I had to attend a funeral in deep red rural Kansas. My relatives there have been diehard Republicans since Moses was a pup despite almost all of them falling in the bottom two quintiles, working dirt jobs, long hours and pittance for pay. “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” indeed. Anyway, to my shock the women got to talking politics and they made no bones about their disgust with Trump. The men…not so much…just a shrug of the shoulders. Two of those diehard Republican women shocked me even more when they said Bernie Sanders was probably the best of the lot.

    1. Rick Stryker


      I’ve observed the same: Republican women who hate Trump. Frankly, given the things he’s said, I’m amazed Trump has any female supporters.

  14. mclaren

    Frankel claims: “I don’t claim to understand the remarkable Trump phenomenon. But whatever is the explanation, it is not a response by working white men that could have been logically predicted based on their stagnant incomes.”

    If we view Trump as a crypto-fascist, we should note that many observers have predicted the rise of a quasi- or crypto-fascist candidate as economic inequality grows increasingly savage. See the article “Paul Krugman: How Soaring Inequality May Lead the World Down the Path of Fascism,” 2 January 2015.

    Observers like Frankel have gotten it wrong. Trump’s appeal isn’t economic, it’s his legitimization of violence coupled with the demonization of minorities for current social and economic travails. See Ezra Klein’s short video “Donald Trump’s message is violent to its core.” This is the basic ethos of fascism: the appeal of strength over reason, violence over moderation, direct action over careful thought, the glorification of immediacy over representative government with checks and balances, the trick of blaming some vulnerable minority for all our problems: “During a rally in St. Louis, Donald Trump lamented that nobody wants to hunt anybody anymore.”

    This is what you get when the middle class winds up economically crushed, loses their jobs, loses their homes, watches their families break up, gets forced into part-time McJobs to make ends meet, can’t afford to get married or raise a family on what the typical job pays. They lash out. They look for a strong leader. Or, in the original German, a führer.

    The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of whom will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.

    Source: comment by Davis X. Machina, Balloon-Juice blog.

    Economist Umair Haque puts it particularly well:

    Human history holds few lessons that might be described as laws. But one is this: peace in human hearts is a consequence of prosperity in human harvests.

    This is an age of failed harvests. The global economy is stagnating, and the world’s three mightiest economies, the US, UK, and Japan, are stagnation’s standard-bearers. The harvests failed not because of flood or fire. But because the leaders of humanity simply did not sow enough seeds in the right season.

    But the reasons don’t matter very much now. The simple reality is that an age of failed harvests is also likely to be an era of brutality.

    We see the first darkling glimpses of that brutality everywhere around us, should we care to look. Through our screens, we endlessly abuse, and are abused by, people we will never meet. We were systemically abused at work, and now, too, at play. Culture grows louder, darker. The norm sinks and disappears. Demagogues cackle and bluster as they rise across the globe. Societies turn on themselves, just as they will surely next turn on one another.

    Source: “Brutality and purpose,” Umair Haque’s diary, 17 March 2016.

    1. PeakTrader

      You got Trump wrong and the U.S. economy isn’t that bad.

      Trump appeals to man’s basic nature. He’s not a rigid ideologue and is more likely to make deals than Cruz. Those who’ve been brainwashed and comforted by political correctness are alarmed.

      There are excellent opportunities for any American who’s willing to work. And, tens of millions of them have benefited substantially.

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