Citizen Action Monitor

Profile of Trump’s supporters outlined by leading US economist

Extreme anger is one of several prominent traits that Trump has unveiled among his supporters.

No 1606 Posted by fw, March 02, 2016

Dean Baker

Dean Baker

“It is undoubtedly scary to many people living outside the United States to see Donald Trump as the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He has repeatedly made xenophobic and racist comments and promises to deport 11 million people who immigrated to the United States without proper documentation. This should provide cause for concern, but it is important to understand the basis of Trump’s appeal.”Dean Baker

Dean Baker, a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, gives his take on the basis of Donald Trump’s appeal across a broad swath of the US electorate, but most prominently among the cohort of white males with less than a college education. He characterizes this group as angry, economically insecure, scapegoating immigrants, and blaming US trade agreements that have depressed wages in the workforce. Moreover, Trump’s defence of Social Security and Medicare is hugely popular with older voters, but not with the Republican party leadership and rich neoliberal donors. Early in the campaign Trump was dismissed by political pundits. No longer. He has exposed raw anger across the electorate aimed at US economic policies.

Click on the following linked title to read Dean Baker’s original article. Alternatively, below is a repost with added subheadings.

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The Rise of Donald Trump by Dean Baker, the hankyoreh, February 29, 2016

What is the basis of Trump’s appeal?

It is undoubtedly scary to many people living outside the United States to see Donald Trump as the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He has repeatedly made xenophobic and racist comments and promises to deport 11 million people who immigrated to the United States without proper documentation. This should provide cause for concern, but it is important to understand the basis of Trump’s appeal.

Overwhelmingly, his support comes from white men with less than a college education

First, Trump’s support is coming overwhelmingly from white men with less than a college education. These are people who likely see themselves as losers in the economy over the last few decades. While an earlier generation of non-college educated white men could count on a reasonably good paying job in manufacturing, trucking, and other sectors requiring limited education, this is no longer true. Pay for men without college degrees has been largely stagnant over the last thirty-five years.

Men who are angry for being left behind economically, looking for someone to blame

These men are angry about not enjoying the living standard and economic security that their parents could largely take for granted. This leaves them look for villains to blame, real or imagined.

Immigrants are an easy, if not deserving target, for their anger

Immigrants figure high in the imagined category. While there are undoubtedly narrow categories of native-born workers who have seen a drop in their wages and job prospects due to immigration, most research shows that immigrants overwhelmingly compete with other immigrants.

Trump’s hardline stance on immigrants plays well to an audience of angry white males looking for scapegoats

Much of Trump’s appeal has been his hardline stance on immigrants. Everyone seriously thinking about immigration policy recognizes the implausibility of Trump’s mass deportation strategy. Many of these immigrants have lived in the United States for decades. They have held jobs, bought homes, raised children and started businesses. While Democrats have generally supported an approach that allows undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, so have prominent Republicans like President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Trump obviously rejects this approach.

Trump rightly blames free trade for depressed wages in the workforce, but his analysis is misguided

Trump’s agenda is a bit more grounded in reality when it comes to trade. There is now substantial evidence that trade has been an important factor in depressing wages for large segments of the workforce, so Trump and his supporters are on the right track in complaining about the pattern of trade over the last three decades.

Trump blames US trade negotiators, boasts he can get better deals with trading partners

However, Trump is wrong in his analysis of the problem. He argues that the United States has essentially been ripped off by China and other U.S. trading partners because the people negotiating the trade deals are stupid. He claims that his experience as a successful businessman will enable him to negotiate deals with China and other countries that actually benefit the United States.

He fails to understand that US trade negotiators are focused on extending patent and copyright protection as way to open markets for financial capitalists

In fact, the U.S. trade negotiators are not stupid; they just have a different agenda. Low cost imports from China and other developing countries allow Walmart and other large retailers to undercut competitors that are more dependent on domestic producers. U.S. manufacturers also have taken advantage of low cost labor to reduce their production costs.

For this reason, U.S. trade negotiators are not focused on reducing the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods. Instead they are concerned about extending patent and copyright protection and opening markets for the U.S. financial industry.

Trump’s defence of Social Security and Medicare is hugely popular with older voters, but not with party leadership and neoliberals

Trump’s positions on immigration and trade are not the only places where he departs from the mainstream of the Republican Party. He also strongly defends Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have long sought to cut and/or privative these programs. Trump insists that we can afford these programs if the economy was better managed. This position is hugely popular with the bulk of Republican voters, who are disproportionately older, even if it goes against the views of its leadership and its large donors.

Trump has proven just how wrong were those who wrote him off early in the campaign

As the race moves along, Trump is increasingly well-situated to be the nominee. When he first entered the race, few analysts took his campaign seriously. He had long been a prominent public figure, first because of his high profile real estate deals and then for being the star of a reality television show. While this gave him an enormous advantage in name recognition, it was generally assumed that voters would not take him seriously as presidential candidate.

Trump’s willingness to be offensive has strengthened, not weakened, his support base

To the surprise of the experts, Trump surged to the top of the polls and stayed there. This was in spite of the fact that he repeatedly made comments that would be considered horrible gaffes, in which offended one group of voters after another. Remarkably, after each comment his standing in the polls did not change. Apparently many Trump supporters admire him because of his willingness to be offensive.

With the primaries now underway, Trump is rapidly accumulating Republican delegates and still has a strong lead in all national polls. It is difficult to see a scenario in which he does not get the Republican presidential nomination.

It remains to be seen to what extent his popularity with the disgruntled has ramped up his unpopularity among other voters

The flip side of Trump’s strong position for getting nomination is that it still seems unlikely that he will win the presidency. He is hugely unpopular among Democrats and people who consider themselves independents.

Whatever the outcome, Trump has exposed raw anger with US economic policies across the electorate

Whatever the final outcome of the presidential race, Trump has exposed a sense of extreme anger among large segments of the population. These people are unhappy about economic policies that have undermined their financial security. Their anger may be misdirected towards immigrants or other countries, but it is not about to go away unless the policies change.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

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