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“In a new survey by the Pew Research Council, half of the registered voters surveyed (51%) said they think the future for the next generation will be worse, while just 24% said life will be better for the next generation. The survey indicated this pessimistic sentiment is spread across racial and economic lines.”

Optimism Is a Casualty in Campaign 2016, Wall Street Journal

30 years of wage stagnation followed by one wealth-eviscerating asset bubble after another has drained the optimism from the collective American psyche. Most people now think things are going to get worse for themselves and their children. This pervasive pessimism shows up in other surveys as well, like this recent Gallup poll in which the sample-group was asked, “In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?”

You’d think that would be a slam-dunk for President Obama who never misses a chance to boast about his great economic recovery. But the fact is, 71 percent of the people said they were dissatisfied with the way things are going. Only 27 percent said they’re satisfied. That’s not just a knock on Obama, it’s also a powerful statement about the abysmal condition economy. The vast majority of people are clearly frustrated that they can’t get ahead because the economy isn’t improving. At the same time, they can’t help but notice that more and more of the nation’s wealth is being shifted to the people who least need it, the 1 percent elites at the top.

The point we’re trying to make is that Donald Trump’s meteoric rise in the GOP can be traced back to the failed economic policies of prior administrations. He’s the political beneficiary of 3 decades of stagnant wages, falling incomes, declining living standards, and a cataclysmic financial crisis that wiped out trillions of dollars in home equity leaving behind a battered middle class and sluggish economy that doesn’t grow, doesn’t generate opportunities for upward mobility, and only produces low-paying, deadend, service-sector jobs that barley pay the rent. In other words, if the economy wasn’t in such dire straits, Trump probably would not be the GOP frontrunner. Here’s a summary of what’s really going on by Mechele Dickerson:

“The American Dream that has existed in this country for over 50 years is on life support. For some Americans, it may already be dead….One-fifth of all employed Americans must find ways to supplement their income just to pay bills and buy groceries. Fourteen percent are spending more on their credit cards to pay for their monthly living expenses, and 17 percent of workers have been forced to sacrifice their retirement security….

Federal Reserve data show that 31 percent of people who have not yet retired and 19 percent of 55-64-year-old adults who are nearing retirement age have no postwork savings or private pension..

Americans who have worked hard and played by the rules now fear that they will never be financially successful. They have lost faith in the American Dream. They are disillusioned, and they are showing signs of despair…” (Is the American Dream Dead, PBS)

This is the environment in which Trump has emerged as the unlikely frontrunner of the Republican Party. Trump has been able to capitalize on anti-establishment sentiment just by being himself. His supporters, many of who are blue collar conservatives from small cities and towns across the country, love the fact that Trump is not self censoring and that he says what he thinks whether others find it offensive or not. They see his patrician condescension, his outspoken xenophobia and his blustery showmanship as a refreshing antidote to the other GOP candidates who are invariably scripted, wooden, and fake.

It’s unlikely that Trump would have been as successful as he has been if the economy was in better shape. But, as the surveys indicate, people are desperately unhappy and want change now which is why they’ve turned to a glitzy billionaire casino magnate whose one redeeming grace appears to be that he is an outsider who promises to shake things up once he gets to Washington. We’ll see.

But let’s cut to the chase: Who are these Trump supporters and why are they backing him?

The PEW Research Center’s latest survey titled: “Campaign Exposes Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the U.S” sheds some light on these and other questions. Here are a few excerpts from the piece:

“Among GOP voters, fully 75% of those who support Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination say life for people like them has gotten worse…”(a much higher percentage than for any other candidate)…..

“GOP voters who support Trump also stand out for their pessimism about the nation’s economy and their own financial situations: 48% rate current economic conditions in the U.S. as “poor” – no more than about a third of any other candidate’s supporters say the same. And 50% of Trump supporters are not satisfied with their financial situations, the highest among any candidate’s supported.”

“Within the GOP, anger at government is heavily concentrated among Trump supporters – 50% say they are angry at government, compared with 30% of Cruz backers and just 18% of those who support Kasich….”

“Among Republicans, a majority of those who back Trump (61%) view the system as unfair…among Trump supporters, just 27% say trade agreements are beneficial for the U.S, while 67% say they are bad thing…”

“Half of Trump supporters (50%) say they are angry at the federal government, compared with 30% of Cruz supporters and 18% of Kasich supporters. Even smaller shares of Sanders (13%) and Clinton supporters (6%) express anger at government. Anger at government – and politics – is much more pronounced among Trump backers than among supporters of any other presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat…” (Campaign Exposes Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the U.S, PEW Research Center)

Let’s summarize: A higher percentage of Trump supporters think they are getting screwed-over by an unfair system. They think “free trade” only benefits the rich, they think the government is unresponsive to their needs, they think the system is rigged, they think the economy stinks and they’re really, really mad.

So, is it fair to say that the Trump campaign is mainly fueled by middle-and-lower income, raging white males who feel like the system threw them overboard years ago and left them with no way to improve conditions for themselves and their families?

It certainly looks that way from the results of the survey, but I could be wrong.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics, Ideology • Tags: 2016 Election, Donald Trump 
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  1. My only quibble with this article is that the data I have seen indicate that wage stagnation goes back about 40 years, to the 1970s, not just to the 1980s. All the more reason for the pent-up anger.

    • Agree: Realist
  2. bob sykes says:

    They think … What they “think” are demonstrated, proven facts.

  3. mtn cur says:

    While I enjoy Trump sweating the republicans, I think that Trump voters don’t think clearly about very much. They are the core of simpletons who believe that everything was wonderful till Obama took office, as well as those who likewise blame China and Mexico for economic troubles. I wonder if Trumps idea of blocking remittances to Mexico is muddled thinking or a two faced desire to avoid fining his rich friends amounts equal to the wages they pay to illegals, plus interest and penalties. That would level out the wage structure. The iceberg in all of this is that wall street has gained control, if not clear title, to more and more real property and resources. NAFTA allowed tycoons, not all Mexican, to buy up the remaining family farms at fire sale prices, and suddenly becoming “illegal” occupants of their ancestral lands, the peons moved north. Trump voters are as guilty as the next of buying china trash from Walmart el al, thus driving the hemorrhage of money and jobs out of country via credit cards and other play money, such as fraudulent mortgages, resulting in phoney home owners becoming illegals in their play house with deregulation giving safe harbor to dirty bankers and brokers. These same Trump dummys rolled over for the union busters. Wait till their wife comes home without any food because all the competent farm workers went back to Mexico.

  4. I have never met a person who actually believes the Obama economy is improved over anything.

  5. @mtn cur

    Every government lover is a simpleton who believes that the other guy’s government beliefs are the cause of all the problems.

    And all of those simpleton government lovers are correct.

  6. Rehmat says:

    No matter who wins the next election – nothing will change as far as the 99% American population is concerned. It’s a political charade played every four year to receive seal of approval from the voters to criminalize them further.

    It’s not a democracy, stupid!

    In the US, no political leader can dream of working for the interests of his own country. They all compete with each other to prove to the Israel lobby groups (AIPAC, ADL, AJC, etc.) that he/she can look after the interests of a foreign country (Israel) better than his/her opponents. Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has pulled the mask from the US democratic charade: “There are many Members of Congress who wants to be free. I am one of them. I wanted to be free to vote according to my conscience, but I had been told that if I did not sign a pledge supporting the military superiority of Israel, no support would come my way. And sure enough, I did not sign the pledge and no support came my way. I suffered silently year in and year out, because I refused to sign the pledge. An then like a slave that found a way to buy his freedom – I went to work – I wanted to be free – Free to cast the vote in US Congress as I saw fit and not as I was dictated to…..” – Cynthia McKinney.

    https://rehmat1.com/2010/01/16/it-is-not-a-democracy-stupid/

    • Replies: @nuthinbutnet
  7. @mtn cur

    These same Trump dummys rolled over for the union busters.

    Which Trump himself is.

    • Replies: @nuthinbutnet
  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Trump has not only spoken out against currency manipulation and trade imbalance and trillion-dollar Mideast wars and laying out trillions for NATO… He has also been ballsy and spoken out against the hedge fund and Wall Street money-shifting shisters and how they’re are getting away with murder, figuratively speaking. I can’t imagine any politician taking on so many titans at once and not mincing words. And frankly there is no other person who could be expected to stand up to titans than a titan himself. It certainly helps he has in his corner other billionaire mega-titans of finance and business who are supporters of his candidacy, like Carl Icahn and Andrew Beal. It’s amazing what we are seeing and many of those who’ve made out pretty well in recent decades like the status quo and think the working-class losers should be happy with their crumbs and not seek to change the game. Kicker is that the progeny of the 5% will never be grateful for Trump saving their country for them.

    • Replies: @nuthinbutnet
  9. @Rehmat

    Hey Rehmat, have I got a guy for you. He’s a CEO of a billion dollar company that is beholden to no one. Watched the guy back in the 80’s. Same person. Same Ideals. Very successful. We need a businessman, not a politician running this country. Trump is the only qualified candidate for the job. Accept it, and go with it.

  10. @Stephen R. Diamond

    No we didn’t. We had it shoved down our throats through legislation.
    It’s called RTW (Right To Work).
    I am now in my 7th month without a contract, living off the old one. At this time, this is acceptable. I think we are hesitant to strike, because of the very thing, RTW.
    For the record, we’re doing ok with our old contract we are still under. But, we’re expecting to take a hit next contract.
    BTW, so many $/year service. Nobody is expecting anykind of increases. Nobody. Staying the same is the objective, right now. Really…

  11. @Anonymous

    Yes, I agree
    Trump vs everyone else. It is hoped that the RNC changes their act, or bye, bye RNC.

    Trump is a businessman, and ok with me on some of his stupid stuff that he says that makes MSM drool from the mouth. Let’s face it, you can’t have a politician perform the necessary functions that require a professional skill, and that is business itself. Proven track record, know-how and a potential benefit for all americans to experience. This guy gets literally assaulted by the same people that happen to have the biggest mouthpieces. And I like how he reacts, or shall I say, responds. Trump wants to get back to the law. Me, and millions of others do, too. Very confident that most people will too.

  12. What a sentence! .. “his patrician condescension, his outspoken xenophobia”…
    Do you have a dictionary?
    • Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of Ancient Rome, and a synonym for “aristocratic” in modern English usage.
    • synonyms
    • Examples
    • Word Origin
    See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
    noun
    1.a person of noble or high rank; aristocrat.
    2.a person of very good background, education, and refinement.
    3.a member of the original senatorial aristocracy in ancient Rome.
    4.(under the later Roman and Byzantine empires) a title or dignity conferred by the emperor.
    5.a member of a hereditary ruling class in certain medieval German, Swiss, and Italian free cities.
    adjective
    6.of high social rank or noble family; aristocratic.
    7. befitting or characteristic of persons of very good background, education, and refinement.

    I doubt that even Trump’s best friends would describe him that way.

    Xenophobia: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. What criterion do you have to determine whether someone is xenophobic. Does opposition to present trends in immigration make one guilty of xenophobia or do you have some more subtle ways of detecting it? Trump (who has had at least two foreign-born wives) says he loves Mexicans, but Mexico is not sending us their best. Moreover, he says, we the people and our elected officials have the right to decide whom we allow to enter the country. Exactly my sentiments (and I have known hundreds of Mexicans over the years).

    Illegal immigrants have low levels of education and skills. They hold low-paid jobs, drive down wages for unskilled natives and are frequently involved in criminal acts. If fully legalized, each immigrant household will cost the taxpayers $20, 000 per year (their use of public services less their payments of taxes.) I understand why some employers want to bring in low-wage laborers. Can you explain why anyone else does?

    “So, is it fair to say that the Trump campaign is mainly fueled by middle-and-lower income, raging white males who feel like the system threw them overboard years ago and left them with no way to improve conditions for themselves and their families?”

    In a word “no”. It is not is it fair to say what you said. Just a few sentences earlier you say “He’s the political beneficiary of 3 decades of stagnant wages, falling incomes, declining living standards, and a cataclysmic financial crisis that wiped out trillions of dollars in home equity leaving behind a battered middle class and sluggish economy that doesn’t grow, doesn’t generate opportunities for upward mobility, and only produces low-paying, deadend, service-sector jobs that barley (sic)pay the rent. Presumably, men of all races (except white) as well as women of all races (including white) are just fine with stagnating real incomes.

    It seems that there is much more than the angry white male meme at work here. Hispanics vote for Trump more than for anyone else. He draws his votes from all parts of the spectrum and attracts independents and Democrats. (In my estimation he will break the 15% barrier with blacks in November if nominated).

    The angry white male (did I say middle aged?) fallback position may not be original but it is the safe thing to say. When a white male voices frustration when his real wage his not risen in decades, he is subjected to withering analysis by pundits and sociologists. Women, however, get very serious attention from the right kind of people when they produce numbers showing they are only paid 78.6% of what men are. ( I just guessed at that number. )

    Never mind: bash the angry white male. We all know that white males, especially, the downscale ones, can’t hit back and get no media protection.

    At least you did not do the Hitler comparison.

  13. A higher percentage of Trump supporters think they are getting screwed-over by an unfair system. They think “free trade” only benefits the rich, they think the government is unresponsive to their needs, they think the system is rigged,

    What do you “think” Mr. Whitman? Are they right or merely “pessimistic”?

    So, is it fair to say that the Trump campaign is mainly fueled by middle-and-lower income, raging white males who feel like the system threw them overboard years ago and left them with no way to improve conditions for themselves and their families?

    How do you “feel” Mr. Whitman? Are you now or have you ever been associated with a white working class male? If so, does he have a case or does he not? Answer the question!

  14. They see his patrician condescension, his outspoken xenophobia and his blustery showmanship as a refreshing antidote to the other GOP candidates who are invariably scripted, wooden, and fake.

    Condescension? Xenophobia? These are lies disguised as common knowledge. But not as bad as the following from the Huffington Post which appears at the end of every Trump story.

    Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

  15. GOP voters who support Trump also stand out for their pessimism about the nation’s economy and their own financial situations: 48% rate current economic conditions in the U.S. as “poor” – no more than about a third of any other candidate’s supporters say the same.

    In other words, Trump supporters are 45% [(48%-33%)/33%] more likely to gauge the true health of the economy than any other candidate’s supporters.

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