Dec 312016

Looking back, the wonderful 2013 documentary Inequality for all, in which Professor Robert Reich humorously and with endless patience explained a few very basic economic facts about what is absolutely vital for a healthy capitalist society, seems prophetic indeed. Many of the US citizens he interviewed for the film spoke their mind back then, and have presumably cast their votes now.

Those that did not vote for Mr Trump, should have paid better attention when the film was released. Or maybe the US media, as opposed to The Guardian (review), did not inform the US electorate about it?

The non-Trump media scathingly refers to Trump voters as, at best, victims of “populism”. The word populism is generally used in a pejorative sense, but I shall quote a definition I found in Wikipedia today. Interestingly, it is not pejorative.

Populism is a political style of action that mobilizes a large alienated element of population against a government seen as controlled by an out-of-touch closed elite that acts on behalf of its own interests. The underlying ideology of the Populists can be left, right, or middle. Its goal is to unite the uncorrupt and the unsophisticated (the ‘little man’) against the corrupt dominant elites (usually the orthodox politicians) and their camp followers (usually the rich and the intellectuals). It is guided by the belief that political and social goals are best achieved by the direct actions of the masses. Although it comes into being where mainstream political institutions fail to deliver, there is no identifiable economic or social set of conditions that give rise to it, and it is not confined to any particular social class.

On the basis of that definition, I’d say people would do well to vote populist.

However, assuming, as most of us do over here, that Mr Trump is even more corrupt (if possible) than the average US politician, and even less concerned (if possible) with the plight of “der kleine Mann”, I’d say the problem lies not with the voters, but with the fact that his voters actually believed that Mr Trump cared about them. And why did they do that, I ask? My question is rhetorical, of course, because I know the answer, as do you, I hope, so I won’t spell it out.

I too am worried about what havoc the dangerously reckless and ignorant Mr Trump will wreck after 20 January. But above all, it saddens me that far too few have understood the lesson to be learnt from his victory. It is not, repeat – NOT – that the majority of US voters are more fundamentally racist, misogynist and sexist than voters in other countries. Nor are they more stupid and easily duped.

The lesson to be learnt is not really very difficult. The problem is that neither on this side or on your side of the Atlantic do people want to learn it. It hurts. It’s like finding out that Father Christmas is just a fairytale.

I can only repeat: Start by watching Inequality for All, and pay close attention.

We must all hope that as many as possible of us will live to see next year’s New Year.