What the Establishment failed to address – and what we can learn from it
Nothing in Secretary Clinton’s campaign dealt with globalisation and the uncertainty ‘normal people’ feel as a result. A globalised economy has meant that millions of manufacturing jobs have moved from the US Mid-West to cheaper labour markets such as China. While educated workers – particularly in the North East and the West Coast – have adapted to a higher-skilled services economy, many Americans have not been able to do so (prevented in part from retraining by the exorbitant cost of education in the US).
Mrs Clinton’s campaign didn’t even try to tackle the sense of dissatisfaction that this economic shift has caused. Deriding Trump supporters as ‘deplorable’ only served to reinforce the impression that she does not understand their very real economic concerns and cultural anxieties.
Many voters – in the US, UK and Europe in particular - have not bought into the promises of globalisation and do not feel or recognise the benefits of global markets, immigration, and an integrated world economy.
Barack Obama won in 2008 on a positive message of ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’, and he received significant (if not absolute) support from working-class white Americans in the Mid-West. It is worth reflecting on whether those voters felt let down enough to switch to supporting Mr Trump’s negative messaging this time around.
There are serious lessons for the UK, particularly those in Westminster / Whitehall circles. As with the EU referendum in June, pollsters - including the famed Nate Silver - have got it wrong. Again. Current polling techniques simply do not seem capable of properly measuring the dissatisfaction of marginalised voters on either side of the Atlantic.
Brexit, the rise of Corbyn’s hard-left socialism, the success of hard-right parties such as UKIP, France’s Front National, and nationalist or radical socialist movements across Europe point to the same concerns. Populists on the left and right are capitalising on this.
It is fashionable to now say that a vote for Trump was a vote against the Establishment - but that analysis is too simplistic. It goes deeper than that - and at its core, the question is about our collective response to globalisation.
Of course Mrs Clinton and others who are of a more liberal /centrist disposition have a tougher time campaigning on these issues. It is far easier to simply say ‘I agree, this is all bad, and I’m going to build a wall’ than it is to say, ‘well it’s a little more complex than that…’
Trump tackled the real and perceived impacts of globalisation. Clinton didn’t. The ramifications will be felt in both UK and US politics for at least the next four years, and probably much longer than that.