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The Economic Roots of the Rise of Trumpism


  • John Komlos


Donald Trump won the election in 2016 largely because enough voters in three states, all in the Rustbelt, who had voted for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, switched their vote from Democratic to Republican. Economic dislocations played a crucial role in these swing states or democratic strongholds to persuade many voters to take the dramatic step to vote for an anti-establishment candidate even if that meant a leap of faith into the unknown. The sources of the dislocation were the development of a dual economy characterized at one end by low and stagnating wages, increasing debt, downward social mobility, declining relative incomes, and the hopelessness accompanying them while at the other end of the income distribution the economy was simply booming. This was longer than a three-decade process that started with Reaganomics and its tax cuts that privileged the rich and conferred immense wealth, and its concomitant, political power, on them. Reaganomics also accelerated the decline in the power of unions which had supported the middle class. The process continued under Bill Clinton’s administration and its continuing both financial deregulation and of hyper-globalization. George Bush continued to pamper the superrich with his tax policies. The process culminated with Barack Obama’s bailing out the superrich and his benign neglect of Mainstreet. Five administration’s disinterest in the social group Hillary Clinton referred to flippantly as “the deplorables” culminated in the revolt of the masses in favor of an incompetent strongman by overthrowing the establishment captured by such chants at Trump rallies as “Lock her up!”, “USA!”, “Build the wall”, or “Drain the swamp” (i.e., in Washington D.C.).

Suggested Citation

  • John Komlos, 2018. "The Economic Roots of the Rise of Trumpism," CESifo Working Paper Series 6868, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6868

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    Cited by:

    1. Galinato, Gregmar I. & Rohla, Ryne, 2020. "Do privately-owned prisons increase incarceration rates?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    2. Asif Islam & Gregmar I. Galinato & Wentao Zhang, 2021. "Can government spending boost firm sales?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 74(4), pages 488-511, November.
    3. Komlos John, 2019. "Reaganomics: A Watershed Moment on the Road to Trumpism," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 16(1), pages 1-21, December.
    4. John Komlos, 2019. "Reaganomics: una línea divisoria," Tiempo y Economía, Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, vol. 6(1), pages 47-76, February.
    5. John Komlos, 2018. "Reaganomics: A Historical Watershed," CESifo Working Paper Series 7301, CESifo.
    6. Mark Setterfield, 2020. "Managing the discontent of the losers," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 78(1), pages 77-97, January.
    7. Marta Estellés & Jordi Castellví, 2020. "The Educational Implications of Populism, Emotions and Digital Hate Speech: A Dialogue with Scholars from Canada, Chile, Spain, the UK, and the US," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(15), pages 1-16, July.

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    political economy of populism;

    JEL classification:

    • A10 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - General

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