I wrote a short piece last night for The Spinoff on last night’s election. I’ll change my views if we get refined exit poll data that tells me otherwise. But it also seems to be the conclusion others are now drawing too. I also talked about this with Mark Sainsbury this morning.
It isn’t an income inequality class war thing. It’s more complicated than that, with a lot of it being the mess I’d hinted at in my summary comments on our inequality debate: the egalitarianism of respect that is sorely needed.
A snippet from The Spinoff piece:
I expect a lot of kiwis will be tempted to see the Trump phenomenon through an income inequality lens. While rising income inequality is a myth in New Zealand, it isn’t in America. But that easy narrative doesn’t sit well with the data, or not in the obvious ways. Gallop polling back from August even showed Trump supporters weren’t those, on average, left behind by globalisation or automation. Supporters did not have lower income and were not more likely to be unemployed. And the same Gallup study showed supporters were more likely to work in industries that did not really have to worry much about competition from China – like construction. But they were more likely to live in places far from the media and political elites.
What exit polls are out so far show Clinton won among those earning less than $50,000 per year, but lost among those on higher earnings – despite Clinton having much stronger support among the college-educated. It isn’t easy to simultaneously lose badly among those on higher incomes and win strongly among those with college degrees. And race has certainly played a role. None of this cleanly fits an income inequality narrative. But it does fit a cultural narrative.
Look back again at Vance’s description of life in hillbilly country. There was a great interview with Vance in The American Conservative a few months ago. He talks about the resentment felt in those communities about being looked down on by urban elites. About being told that their way of living and religious beliefs and pride in military service are wrong. About their accents being a great source of amusement. Trump earned the same condescension from urban elites that a lot of people who aren’t in that elite feel pretty regularly. And warnings about Trump’s racism, misogyny, and potential fascism ring hollow when those words have lost the meaning they should have through overuse: when everything is a microaggression and when President Bush was regularly compared to Hitler, well, people start discounting when they shouldn’t. And there’s always a fraction of the population that just wants to watch it all burn.
As for what now?
It won’t be the end of the world.
But it will be rather bad.
Back in March I’d pointed to the institutional constraints that would stop a Trump Presidency from being apocalyptic. I was too optimistic about two of them.