This book explores how a candidate who broke with almost every single norm
governing candidate behaviour, appeared to eschew the professionalised forms of
campaigning, and who had been more or less disowned by Republican elites, prove
victorious? The focus is on Trump and his campaign; the account does not go
beyond the November election and its immediate aftermath. The book argues that
the Trump campaign, like earlier populist insurgencies, can be explained in part
by considering some defining features of US political culture and, in
particular, attitudes towards government. It explains the right-wing populism
that has been a recurrent and ingrained feature of the political process over a
long period. The book discusses structural characteristics of the American state
that appear to be of particular significance in shaping attitudes, as well as
some other ideas and frames brought to the forefront by the Trump campaign
during the course of 2015 and 2016. It also considers the shifts and swings
amongst voters and suggests that these, alongside ideas about the state and the
'entrepreneurial' efforts of the campaign, form part of the
explanation for Trump's eventual victory. The book assesses Trump's
ascendancy as a function of, and reaction to, the strategies and discourses
pursued in the years preceding 2016 by Republican Party elites.
'Trumpism' and European forms of populism are still in some ways
weakly embedded but they may intensify the battles and processes of group
competition between different constituencies.
Within the broad context of generalised anti-government ideas and entrenched populist sentiments outlined in Chapter 2 , other ideas and frames were brought to the forefront by the Trumpcampaign during the course of 2015 and 2016.
At first sight, these ideas do not appear to take a structured or coherent form. Indeed, National Review , the flagship US conservative magazine, was brutally dismissive at the beginning of election year:
Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus
did a candidate who broke with almost every single norm governing candidate behaviour, appeared to eschew the professionalised forms of campaigning that have been adopted in recent years, and who had been more or less disowned by Republican elites, prove victorious?
This book seeks to answer that question. It argues that the Trumpcampaign, like earlier populist insurgencies, can be explained in part by considering some defining features of US political culture and, in particular, attitudes towards government. Having said that, ‘culture’ is a term that must
The book has already surveyed some of the different explanatory frameworks that can be employed to account for Trump's eventual victory. It has considered the populist tradition and the ways in which it was at least in part shaped by the structures of the state, the ideational character of the Trumpcampaign, the impact of economic malaise and globalising processes upon the white working class, and the deeply felt opposition amongst many Republican voters and ‘leaners’ to Hillary Clinton who was seen as a divisive ‘machine’ candidate.
This chapter looks at
the legacy of the New Deal. In the 1990s Patrick J. Buchanan contested the Republican primaries by appealing to white ‘middle American radicals’ by attacking immigration and free trade. 1 Although closer to core Republican traditions, the Tea Party movement which took shape in early 2009 just a few weeks after President Obama's inauguration, also drew upon quasi-populist visions of a struggle by the citizenry to restore constitutional government.
Although there were important differences, the 2016 Trumpcampaign reproduced some of the ideas and frames that
Donald Trump, neoliberalism and political reconfiguration
together, this wave constitutes the biggest change in the European political landscape at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall (Heinö, 2016 : 4).
In the US, because party structures are much more porous and pliable, the populist surge was channelled through a two-party system and, given Trump's primary victories, the pressures were felt most immediately and acutely within the Republican Party. Established conservative currents were brutally disrupted. There were also class divisions that added to the tensions within Republican ranks. The Trumpcampaign captured
(to paraphrase Raoul Veneigem).
The intrusion of the ‘post-truth’ storm into this liberal idyll is really just the
return of the repressed. The affective underpinning to political theory and praxis
has always been there; it has just been overlooked or suppressed for the sake
of securing certain ends. Political economy too has always been augmented
by affect: hope and fear, pleasure and pain, love and hatred, happiness and discontent. It is perhaps the case that the lamentable Brexit and Trumpcampaigns
succeeded precisely where their opponents failed, namely, in
, African-American turnout dipped and while Hispanic and Asian-American turnout increased, minority voters failed to give Clinton the level of support that Obama had secured in 2008 and 2012 (CNN Politics, 2016 ). 4 In contrast, whites, particularly working-class whites, increasingly identified with Republicanism and embraced the economic and cultural themes that defined the Trumpcampaign. They constructed a notion of interest based upon restricting trade and immigration, toughness towards foreign and domestic enemies, strong leadership, opposition to the Washington
” of President Trump’, Journal of Language & Politics 16, no. 4 (2017).
James Poniewozik, ‘Trump's Campaign Classroom: Reality TV’, The New York Times , 10 October (2015); Emily Nussbaum, ‘The TV That Created Donald Trump’, The New Yorker , 31 July (2017).
personal attacks, gross language, and salacious accusations which degraded America’s image, providing fodder for Chinese and other opinion stressing the weaknesses of US democracy. 9
On policy issues, the success of the Sanders and Trumpcampaign attacks on the TPP surprised congressional leaders, along with most American and Asian commentators. Their success underlined seemingly weak popular support for this important component of US policy in the region, which Ryan, McCain and other Republican congressional leaders continued to back. The fact that the Republican