Explaining the ‘Unexplainable.’
Pundits, poll workers, establishment politicians, and major news outlets all woke up on November 9th unable to comprehend what had just happened. Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States. How could a man who has touted sexual conquests of women, argued to carpet bomb cities with large civilian populations be able to become the next leader of the free world? While there have been various explanations, there’s a widespread backlash against the new world order some pundits have failed to recognize.
Two issues arguably contributed to Donald Trump’s victory this past election year. Those two subjects are immigration and international trade. Globalization and increases in connectedness accelerated these sectors, and many did not see the benefit in their growth.
Though his statements are not well versed, Donald Trump has hit on an issue that bothers many people who voted for him, immigration. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 244 million inhabitants, or 3.3% of the world’s population are living outside of their country of origin. People are on the move more now than ever before seen in world history.
The United States is no different than the rest of the world. In 2014, the population of immigrants was 42.2 million people or 13.3% of the US population. Increases like this are bound to be followed by backlashes of the majority white population of the United States, though inaccurate and misguided some of their assertions about these immigrants may be. They see this increase in immigration as a reason for the loss of jobs hard working Americans should have received.
Many white voters see immigration as a threat to national security. Following attacks in Paris and Belgium, and many other places, immigrants with nationalities similar to those of violent extremists are called out as being analogous to those attackers based solely on their country of origin. These sentiments have no basis on any statistical facts, but harp on gut feelings and fear. President-Elect Trump was able to hit this message strongly to the majority white population of America, and it put him into the White House.
Another policy stance that pushed Trump over the edge was international trade. Again this is another aspect of globalization that has increased exponentially over the past few decades. Global trade over the last fifty years has seen a dramatic growth in volume. The IMF has reported that between 1994 and 2004 international trade accounted for roughly 45% of global GDP. Between 2005 and 2014 that number has risen to 60% and has the potential to continue to increase.
That increase in international trade has, however, left some individuals behind in the new world economy. Many manufacturing workers in rust-belt areas of the country, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and others all voted Republican. Trump’s most powerful argument was that international trade deals were poorly written, costing American workers decent paying jobs. While we might disagree with the merits of those statements, voters in these states did not. The rust belt was what put Mr. Trump over the edge, and this message of fighting new global norms resonated with many nationalist leaning voters in the United States.
While many seem to be scratching their heads and asking how did this happen, we at the very least feel looking at the election in this framework is an adequate explanation. The increases in immigration have brought a new nationalism to the United States. International trade, while providing benefits to the price of goods and services for many, has left some behind. Though we disagree with President-Elect Trump vehemently on his stance on both of these pillars, he was able to garner enough support for the white majority of Americans to put him in the White House.