2016 and all that

Populism is the expression of the righteous anger of the common people against injustice or perceived injustice.

Right-wing populism is the re-direction by the holders of wealth and power away from themselves and toward scapegoats.

The great political scientist Thomas Ferguson and his team of researchers recently published new studies of how right-wing populism operated in the 2016 national elections.

Several studies assert that supporters of Donald Trump are motivated primarily by racial anxiety and not be economic anxiety.  The conclusion they draw is that the Democratic Party does not have to become more populist in order to win elections.

Ferguson’s team says the truth is more complicated.  Racial anxiety and economic anxiety are not all that separate, they wrote.

Donald Trump told his supporters that their economic woes were due to immigration and foreign trade, and promised to fix both.  These are legitimate economic issues.

Many working people feel, for understandable reasons, that competition with foreign workers—both workers in foreign sweatshops and unauthorized immigrants in the USA—is driving down thrown wages.  I have to say that, as President, Trump has tried to keep his promises to try to restrict immigration and imports.  He has acted in a crude and counterproductive way, but he has acted.  These issues can no longer be ignored and will have to be rethought.

That’s not to deny that Trump also has tried to stir up animosity against African-Americans, Mexicans and Muslims.  But he also promised to launch a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, protect Social Security and Medicare and replace Obamacare with something better.


I think the problems of American working people are due largely to the power of monopoly business. It is the reason income keeps being redistributed upwards to corporate executives, bankers and holders of financial assets and away from the middle class, working people and the poor.

The top Democratic and Republican leaders get most of their campaign contributions from the top income earners..

Double click to enlarge.

The chart above shows that, in the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders was the only important candidate who was able to finance his campaign out of small donations by ordinary people.

Notice that the congressional leaders—Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan in the House of Representatives and Chuck Schemer and Mitch McConnell in the Senate—got an even higher proportion of their campaign contributions from big-money donors that even Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Public opinion polls say a majority of the people want Medicare for All, a $15 an hour minimum wage, debt relief, breakup of the “too big to fail” banks and prosecution of financial fraud.  What the people want, in these examples, is the same as what the country needs.

I think the only way to defeat right-wing populism is with real populism.  And real populism has to be more than race reductionism.

I don’t see any hope in the Trump administration or its right-wing populist supporters.  Are the Democrats better? Maybe.  We’ll see.

Anyhow, check out Thomas Ferguson’s research if you want to understand American elections and voting behavior.


Economic Distress Did Drive Trump Win by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

The Economic and Social Roots of Populist Rebellion: Support for Donald Trump in 2016 by Thomas Ferguson, Benjamin Page, Jacob Rothschild, Arturo Chang and Jie Chen for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Big Money—Not Political Tribalism—Drives U.S. Elections by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Cheap Talk on Race and Xenophobia Keeps Americans from Confronting Economic and Political Peril, an interview with Adolph Reed for the Institute for New American Thinking.

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