Donald Trump is having a huge impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential race and lots of people are trying to understand why. In a previous post I wrote that the Republican Party needs to figure out where all of the Trump supporters are coming from and then try to keep these people under a perhaps larger Republican tent.
A very good explanation of the Trump phenomenon comes from the AEI social scientist, Charles Murray, writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Says Mr. Murray:
- The long time American Creed of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism is losing its authority and its substance. One of the most widely acknowledged aspects of American exceptionalism is the lack of class consciousness.
- This lack of class consciousness has now been replaced by the emergence of a new upper class, a new lower class and the plight of the working class caught in between.
- The new upper class is characterized by its condescension toward ordinary Americans. Mainstream America is fully aware of this condescension and contempt and is irritated by it. It may mean that American egalitarianism is coming to an end.
- In the 1960s, white working class men in their 30s and 40s were almost all working and almost all married. But, as shown in the chart, these high labor participation and marriage rates have dropped dramatically in the past 50 years.
- The success of the civil rights and feminist movements, both classic invocations of the American Creed, have led to a large scale ideological defection from the pillars of liberty and individualism. The problem is that affirmative action demands that people be treated as groups. Equality of outcome trumps equality before the law.
- By the 1980s Democratic elites largely subscribed to an ideology in conflict with liberty and individualism. This produced the Reagan Democrats.
- During the past half-century, American corporations exported millions of high-paying jobs while the federal government allowed the immigration, legal and illegal, of tens of millions of competitors for the remaining working class jobs.
As Mr. Murray says, “if you are dismayed by Trumpism don’t kid yourself that it will go away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course the country has taken.”