The Rise of Donald Trump
Published by Vox_Veritas
The present US Presidential Election is one of the most controversial and notable in American history. It has seen Donald J. Trump, a political outsider, become the presumptive GOP nominee despite a campaign filled with extremely controversial statements and a relentless media campaign against him from both the Left and the Right. In this article I will explain why Donald Trump has been so successful.
The first factor is the economic plight of Trump’s base. At least as of the first quarter of 2016, Trump’s support base was rooted in poor white males without college degrees. He had the support of 50% of voters who made less than $50,000 a year. Why is this? Well, the most probable reason is that while conditions in America have overall been improving over the decades, they have arguably gotten worse for white males without college degrees. In 1990 the full-time, full-year employment rate of men without a bachelor’s degree was 76%. In 2013, that number was 68%. While real wages have grown in the past 25 years for men and women with a four-year college degree, they have decreased noticeably for men and women without a college degree without one. In West Virginia, the mortality rate for middle-aged white men has increased since 1980. But why is this? Well, there are two reasons. The first is illegal immigration. The twentieth century yielded a massive influx of undocumented immigrants to the United States, primarily but not exclusively from Mexico. In 2014, there were an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Of these, approximately 49% were of Mexican nationality. In this year undocumented Immigrant workers constituted 5.1% of the US labor force. In 2009, 47% of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 25 and 64 had less than a high school education, compared to the US-born resident average of 8%. The 2007 median household income of undocumented immigrants was $36,000 compared to the US-born resident average of $50,000. Obviously, such people would work in low-paying jobs, which is reflected in the statistics. In 2008, 17% of construction work, 10% of transportation and material moving, 25% of farming, 12% of food preparation and serving, 10% of production, and 19% of building, grounds-keeping, and maintenance jobs were filled by undocumented immigrants. These constitute low-paying jobs, which are easy places for undocumented immigrants with few job skills to find work; finding work is certainly easier whenever you are willing to work for less than the legal minimum wage, and many undocumented immigrants do just that. The end result here is that uneducated white males, who often can only find work in these low-paying jobs, have to compete with undocumented immigrants who will work for even lower pay, giving them a competitive edge. This makes it harder for poorly educated white males to secure jobs; since they are white, affirmative action policies which help increase employment do not apply to them. The second reason for the economic plight of poor, uneducated white males is the prevalence of offshoring. As of 2014, 3.2 million American jobs have been lost due to offshoring since 2001…to China alone. This obviously doesn’t include manufacturing powerhouses like Japan and Mexico. Wherever the minimum wage is lower than the minimum wage in the United States, there exists an incentive for American companies to send jobs there. This having been explained, Donald Trump’s appeal to the poor, uneducated white male becomes obvious. He has denounced free trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPP, which lower trade barriers and encourage offshoring. He has vowed to deport all of America’s undocumented immigrants and to build a wall to keep out any further undocumented immigrants. What the poor, uneducated white male sees in Donald Trump is a man who will bring back American jobs from the hands of the illegal immigrants and countries like China. Donald Trump, despite being a billionaire, is seen as the savior of the poor, uneducated white male.
The second factor is the issue of national security. In February 2016, 79% of Americans considered international terrorism to be a critical threat. 52% identified the influx of refugees into Europe and America to be a critical threat. 75% considered Iran’s development of nuclear weapons to be a critical threat. In December 2015 (a month after the terror attack in Paris that killed over 100 people), 46% of Americans supported a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants to the United States; 40% opposed the ban and 14% were unsure. In 2014, 70% of Americans believed that undocumented immigrants would “threaten traditional US beliefs and customs”. In July 2015, 53% of likely US voters believed that illegal immigration increases the level of serious crime. Given this, it seems only natural that the American people would find a candidate who supported a temporary ban on Muslim immigration and the deportation of illegal immigrants appealing. Furthermore, in early 2014 a Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans believed President Obama was not respected on the world stage compared to 41% who believed that he was. Trump has repeatedly stated that the international community has no respect for the President of the United States, with the clear implication that this would change if he got elected.
The third factor is a disillusionment of the GOP among those people who constitute the traditional Republican base. The GOP is the party which supports the free trade agreements that Trump supporters feel are destroying their economic prospects. Furthermore, though Americans are fearful of the future and desire national security, they seem to desire quick wins instead of long-term engagements. According to Gallup, in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq, 67% of Americans were “satisfied” with the United States’ position in the world compared to 30% who were dissatisfied. By 2004, whenever it became clear that US forces would have to stay in Iraq for a long time, the number of “satisfied” people dropped to 47% and the number of “unsatisfied” people rose to 51%. In the years afterwards the number of unsatisfied Americans would rise even further. The GOP, the party that was responsible for the war in Iraq, naturally declined in popularity as a result of the Iraq War. Donald Trump, who claims to have opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, stands out from his peers. Americans apparently do not like idealist wars but rather only those which serve to make America visibly more secure, unlike the GOP. Finally, the GOP’s overall stance on morality is out of touch with the values of most Americans. In May 2014, 55% of Americans supported the nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage. While Donald Trump has stated that he supports traditional marriage, he has not been particularly vocal about this, and in September 2015 he stated that gay marriage is now the “law of the land”. He is not a moral majority Republican, and this sets him apart from, say, Ted Cruz. Overall, according to Gallup in June 2016 only 16% of Americans approved of the GOP-controlled congress while 80% disapproved. With numbers this high, it is clear that even most Republicans disapprove of our current Congress (and with it the GOP). Given this, the prospect of a political outsider may be much more appealing than it otherwise would be.
In light of all these factors, Donald Trump’s rise can now be understood.