Making Sense Of “Trumpism”

Release Date
November 11, 2016


Democracy and Voting

Donald Trump is part of a much bigger phenomenon, explains Professor Steve Davies.

Income Inequality and the Effects of Globalization (video): Tyler Cowen explains that though there is greater income inequality in the US, globalization has been reducing poverty worldwide.
How White Privilege Could Explain Everything About Donald Trump’s Success (blog post): Michael Munger explains how the rhetoric of white privilege has vilified the poor white working class.
Immigration’s Impact On Economies & Culture In 2 min (video): Steve Davies explains the economic benefits of immigration and why he’s not concerned about the cultural effects.

Dave Rubin: What is happening globally that this isn’t just a … I mean, I think everyone in America thinks everything’s about us all the time and this is just our phenomenon and has nothing to do with anything else.
Steve Davies: Well, absolutely. There’s something really strange going on here in the United States, I think it’s fair to say. Although, maybe not that strange, because I actually think that what’s happening with Donald Trump is possibly a more widespread phenomenon in most western democracies, which is the rise of a kind of politics that’s commonly described, I think, misleadingly, as right-wing populism. What it actually is is a politics that combines left-of-century economics, strong support for the welfare state, with an extremely unpleasant kind of nativism, anti-globalization, nationalism, and that’s pretty much where Donald Trump is coming from. It’s straight forward [Hamiltonian 00:00:51] economic nationalism combined with a very unpleasant kind of identity politics, I would say.
Dave Rubin: Yeah.
Steve Davies: He’s not alone. He’s part of a much bigger phenomenon.
Dave Rubin: Okay, so let’s unpack a couple of those phrases then. You’d say this isn’t a right-winged phenomenon because his politics are kind of lame, right? He is using nationalism, so that is more of the right side.
Steve Davies: Yeah.
Dave Rubin: What were the other parts that were …
Steve Davies: Well, there’s also support from welfare state, but on a strictly national basis. I mean, the correct name for this kind of politics, I think, is nationalist collectivism. You could call it national socialism, but that’s kind of been claimed already.
Dave Rubin: That might be a little too scary.
Steve Davies: Be too scary, yeah. It’s nationalist collectivism, basically. It’s on the rise across most western democracies. A few exceptions like Spain, Portugal, Ireland, but otherwise, this is the kind of politics we see on the rise everywhere, I’m afraid. Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Donald Trump here. Pretty much everywhere. Canada is another exception.
Dave Rubin: What is happening globally that is caused that this isn’t just a phenomenon? I mean, I think everyone in America thinks everything’s about us all the time and this is just our phenomenon and it’s nothing to do with anything else, but what’s happening globally?
Steve Davies: Well, there are two things, I think. One of them is that a lot of the support for this kind of politics comes from older, working-class voters in what you would call the Rust Belt, decayed, ex-industrial areas where life has not been good for quite a long time, and these people feel that they’re ignored by the political establishment, that the system is not working in their interests, and they’re kicking back.
Dave Rubin: Yeah.
Steve Davies: That’s one reason.
Dave Rubin: Some of that, you would argue, is legit, right?
Steve Davies: Yes, certainly. Yeah, indeed. They’re quite right, life has been pretty hard for them for quite a long time.
Dave Rubin: Yeah.
Steve Davies: The other thing, though, which I actually think is more important is to do with the politics of identity. It’s to do with a feeling that a certain kind of identity is under threat from the process of globalization, cosmopolitanism, maybe political correctness, a whole bunch of stuff like that. There’s a very powerful cultural reaction, a reassertion of a certain kind of identity, and I think that is what is really potent and really driving this kind of politics.
Dave Rubin: How much of that is just a reaction to some of the stuff happening on the left I come from the left so that’s the part that I’ve been focusing on, and I do see a certain element of the rise in Trump and the political correctness stuff and the social justice warrior stuff. I see it as a natural reaction to what is happening on the left, or maybe in your opinion it’s more because of the immigration that these people, Marine Le Pen, for example …
Steve Davies: Yeah, I think there is a truth in both of those things, actually. Undoubtedly, the push-button issue, as we saw in the Brexit Referendum in the UK, for example, and with Marine Le Pen, is immigration, particularly immigration from the Middle East, but also from other parts of the world as well. That, in a way, is not so much because of immigration, per se, it’s because of the way in which large-scale movement of people is seen to be transforming and changing the nature of a settled and established national community.
Now, I think that in turn, particularly in the United States, yes, there is quite a lot of push-back against the kind of social justice warrior, as you alluded to, PC politics on the left. I think, particular, the politics of identity. If you’re going to push a politics of identity where apparently the only group who aren’t allowed to have an identity are white, working-class men. Sooner or later, those kind of people are going to say, “Well, hold on a minute. I have this identity too, which you are not respecting to your own terms.” There’s a lot of push-back coming on. I think how really the response that liberals need to have, and I would include many people on the left in that category, should be one where you assert the importance of individualism and of identity as being something that, to a great degree, is personally chosen and formed rather than being something that’s given to you and fixed in some way.