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The Great Disruption

Understanding the Populist Forces Behind Trump, Brexit, and LePen

Anil Hira

The Great Disruption: Understanding the Populist Forces Behind Trump, Brexit, and LePen aims to put the shocking events of 2016–17 into a long-term, historical perspective. The seemingly disparate and separately discussed election of Donald Trump, Brexit vote, success of Marine LePen’s National Front Party, and the wider spread of populism have an overlooked commonality: They all start with a similar core constituency of disaffected older blue collar workers. Using a data-driven analysis, author Anil Hira shows that racism and xenophobia are linked to economic populism—xenophobia becoming widespread under conditions of economic stress. Hira shows further that since economic stress is felt very deeply, conventional solutions are inadequate. There is a perception among the affected group that politicians can not offer "normal" solutions and thus turn to populism. The Great Disruption traces long-term and largely un-linked shifts in the economy from globalization to automation to uncover the deeper sources of populist outbreaks. This book demonstrates that racial and immigrant attitudes have not changed, rather any backlash is a scapegoating effect of economic loss and dislocation. Populism not only misdiagnoses the situation but also misses the wider long-term threats of climate change, demographic shifts, and the rise of China. Recognizing the transformational nature of such threats depends on the maturation of the Millennial generation and its willingness to evolve towards a more global style of governance, in the process rejecting the shallow promises of populism.

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Chapter 2. A Snapshot—Tying Together the Tumultuous Events of 2016–17


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Who Are the Supporters of Trump, Brexit, and LePen?

A stunning set of results across both sides of the Atlantic begs the question of whether such events are related or merely coincidental. The equivalent of the Tea Party movement in the UK was the UK Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage, which also started on the fringe but came, like Trump, to change politics through leading the Brexit vote, an unthinkable event just a few years before. Similarly, Marine LePen’s Front National was considered an extremist group that would never receive wide support, but in starting to do so opened the way for another outsider, Emmanuel Macron, to be elected as a more palatable alternative. If related, we need to ask how, and what the patterns reveal about the general xenophobic and anti-globalist shift. There are two main suggestions offered for each event: race and economics. By examining the data around the voting patterns for each instance we can begin to interrogate whether one or both explanations holds up. The evidence shows that economics drove racial sentiments, and that the economic recession can explain its timing. Racism has no parallel event that explains its apparent resurgence.

It bears mentioning at the outset that almost every poll predicted the 2016 Presidential election wrongly. Though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, ← 33 | 34 → and clearly there was some effect of...

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