But there seems to be only a very partial correlation between economic anxiety and Trumpism, and a much stronger one between his supporters and residual racial suspicions. Trump barely makes an effort to gesture toward economic reform, beyond his diffuse tirades about trade.
If there’s one thing that economists, right and left, agree on, it is that, as Paul Krugman puts it, globalization “is not a problem we can address by lashing out at foreigners we falsely imagine are winning at our expense.”
Beneath all this is a larger historical current. There’s often a strong need on the part of progressive people to believe that all ailments are essentially economic and that, therefore, if there is a political program that isn’t economic in its emphasis it must be surreptitiously economic in its real purpose. It’s a little like Freudian analysis: since all neuroses are sexual traumas, then a sexual trauma will always be found. But one of the fundamental and tragic lessons of the last century is that nationalism can exist on its own as a cause and faith and belief attached to the most meagre shreds of any kind of economic project. That’s the way Mussolini worked, or, later, Berlusconi. People still identify—yes, let’s go there—Hitler’s rise with the currency inflation of the Weimar Republic. And yet that panic had already passed; Hitler’s appeal, as any reader of “Mein Kampf” can find, was very marginally about economic grievances, almost entirely to feelings of aggrieved identity and unavenged humiliation.
In truth, nationalism sufficiently strident can get by with an eclectic or completely vague economic program both in promise and in practice. Fascism may have appealed to the economically insecure, but it did not appeal by giving them an economic answer. It appealed by giving them an enemy. As in France, or throughout Europe now, the extreme right flourishes not because there is insecurity but because they have an answer for insecurity: blame the Muslims (they’ve also blamed the Jews, though they’re quieter about that right now). Or: blame the Muslims and the Mexicans. They work, in the classic manner, not by providing answers to insecurity but by blurring the lines between genuine anxieties and imaginary fears and then by offering an imaginary solution—the Jews/Muslims/terrorists/Commies who are coming—to the imaginary fears as though that would alleviate the real anxieties.
But one can recognize the grievance without entering into a sentimental view of the aggrieved.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.