A few months ago, no one would have bet a dollar on Donald Trump succeeding in the race for the Republican Party nomination in the November U.S. presidential election. Someone so coarse and rude, a real estate magnate turned reality television host, with no political experience, seemed to have no chance of surviving the long primary season. Yet today, he is the favorite for “Super Tuesday,” when Republican voters in 13 states will choose their candidate.
How can we understand the popularity of a man who, to mention only the latest of his escapades, re-used one of Benito Mussolini’s slogans and refuses to condemn the racism of the Ku Klux Klan? The explanations are numerous. Donald Trump’s television celebrity status accounts for some of it. But that misses the point. The early stages of the U.S. presidential campaign have revealed, with striking clarity, the blatant loss of confidence many Americans have in their traditional political leaders. They deem them too closely tied to the business world, the famous “1 percent” of the population that has been responsible for reaping most of the growth in recent decades.
The American middle class now feels that it is a victim of the sharp rise in inequality in the United States. By taking up this cause, Donald Trump has managed to sustain a wide lead over his rivals. The issue has also arisen on the Democratic side: It is because she seems too close to Wall Street that Hillary Clinton encountered difficulties at the beginning of her campaign. But we bet that reason will prevail. To paraphrase the title of a Bertolt Brecht play, the rise of Donald Trump is resistible. But that’s only true if we focus on how to better distribute wealth and how to work for social cohesion. More or less, the same lesson applies to Europe.
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