Economic nationalism key to Donald Trump's appeal as gulf widens between America's rich and poor

The passing of the Labour Day public holiday signals that the summer is over and that autumn is now descending on the US.
Economic nationalism key to Donald Trump's appeal as gulf widens between America's rich and poor

This holiday weekend normally heralds massive post-summer sales and Halloween issues start to permeate the world of advertising and marketing.

However, every four years, the ending of the holiday weekend signifies something more significant, namely the final run in to the Presidential election in early November.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that I am in the US at the moment, but it is very clear that the impending election is generating a lot more fear, apprehension and divisiveness than normal.

That is saying something.

I get a very strong sense that US politics is in deep turmoil and the rules of the game have been torn up.

Voters on both sides of the political divide are struggling to support the candidate that their political allegiances would suggest they should.

This is obviously due to the nature of the two candidates who are left standing.

Both individuals are very polarising characters and are arousing very strong feelings and have totally turned much of their party’s traditional support base off and, on the other hand, are attracting support from surprising sources.

Here in San Francisco, which always has been a bastion of ultra-liberalism, neither candidate appears to be flavour of the month.

It is not terribly surprising that Trump would not be a popular figure, but the vitriol directed towards Hillary Clinton from many quarters is somewhat surprising.

I have spoken to a number of liberal college students whose natural predilection would be towards the Democratic candidate, but having voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, they believe that the Democratic candidate who best represents the views of young liberals in particular, has not been selected.

Clinton has been described to me as old, corrupt, and part of the political establishment that has created many of the deep problems that Middle America is struggling to deal with.

The fact that Sanders is of a similar age is irrelevant. The issue is what both are perceived to stand for and represent.

On the other hand, this week the conservative Dallas Morning News in the neighbouring state of Texas attacked Trump and formally endorsed the Democratic candidate for the first time since World War II.

While Clinton is still regarded as the front-runner for November, it is telling that at this stage of the campaign she has the highest disapproval rating for any front-runner in generations.

This suggests that come November, a triumph for Trump would not come as a total surprise. Remember Brexit.

If Hillary does win, it would represent more of an anti-Trump vote than a pro-Clinton vote. Trump is running a very effective campaign that has little internal consistency or coherence, but which is resonating with large swathes of the electorate.

Economic nationalism is his key policy strategy. He is honing in on that segment of US society that sees itself as the victim of free trade deals.

Obviously, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is currently being negotiated, is not terribly popular amongst this segment and inevitably, Trump is exploiting this.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that many poorly educated Americans have become the victims of globalisation and the migration of jobs to cheaper countries. Less recognised is the impact that technology has had on their jobs.

While such debates will remain a topic of academic debate for years to come, the reality is that Americans with low levels of educational attainment are struggling in a serious way, and the social supports and safety nets to deal with them are totally inadequate or non-existent in many cases.

This is giving rise to a massive gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in US society and this is presenting Trump with a massive opportunity that he is grasping with great gusto.

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