2018 年 2018 巻 192 号 p. 192_113-192_128
In November 2016, Republican Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States in a major upset. He was a complete political amateur. Trump won the close election against Democrat Hillary Clinton largely because he carried Rust Belt swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. It seemed that his populist, anti-foreign and protectionist rhetoric had attracted white working class voters in the Rust Belt, who had not felt the benefits of globalization.
Still, the sudden rise of the amateur politician president is not easy to fully understand. Given that the labor market had recovered from the Great Recession and the U.S. Economy was on a path toward recovery, why and how did American voters give victory to a populist candidate like Trump? To answer that question, we need to understand the 2016 election in the broad context of American history.
It is assumed that the rising tide of populism which brought this historic victory to Trump was not the result of a single factor, but rather a set of factors. This article focuses on five factors which have caused populist movements in U.S. history: change in the industrial structure, globalization, a deep recession, distrust of politics, and cultural backlash. This article discusses the 2016 election in association with each of these factors and offers specific examples of populist movements in the past in an effort to reinterpret the contemporary history of the United States.
The background of the rise of populism in the 2016 election was public distrust of politics. Outsider Trump successfully convinced voters that he would be an anti-establishment president. If the two major political parties had substantially performed their function of interest aggregation, there would have been no chance for an outsider to win the presidential election. The Republican Party had inherited Reagan’s conservative coalition from the 1980s, while the Democratic Party had inherited Bill Clinton’s center-left coalition from the 1990s. However, the 2016 election marked the end of an era. Trump and his supporters were not so much interested in Reaganism, and Bernie Sanders and the liberal Democrats challenged Clintonism.
Since the end of the Cold War, income inequality in the United States has increased markedly, and many people have come to believe that this was caused by liberalization and globalization. American workers have felt left behind by the political system and are demanding major change in that system. At the very least, Trump’s policies should shake up the old architecture of the two-party system.