Some More Surprises?

Post-Doc and Teaching Fellow at Alzahra University
Some More Surprises?Some More Surprises?

Donald Trump belongs to the system that believes in and gives rise to the super-rich. He is someone who has been in the news for decades and whose success in business is what most Americans dream about. Apart from his controversial political ideas, his wealth has played a significant role in attracting attention.

The man is the symbol of the new American dream. And strangely but not surprisingly, most people in his country have more sympathy for the great and rich.

Adam Smith was the first who observed the sympathy for the rich. Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist; written by three leading behavioural economists states that “Smith believed both that this sympathy for the rich was a form of corruption based on a moral mistake, and also that it provided an important underpinning for social stability.”

The sympathy has roots in people’s desire to become rich. This is why people usually don’t like high and progressive taxes. The fact that most immigrants and Hispanics supported Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders is yet another inclination of sympathy for the great and rich.

Sensitivity toward celebrities’ news and great people as opposed to the poor and ordinary is considered as a corruption of our moral sentiment. But just like the invisible hand that regulates markets, this moral corruption gives rise to the peaceful living of the poor and rich in the face of increasing and unacceptable inequality.

Trump as a billionaire is the abstract idea of a perfect state for many Americans. According to an old poll by AP and CNBC, for example, 2 in 10 Americans believe they will be millionaires in 10 years. As Ronald Wright points out, the poor in America see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. These potential future millionaires feel a peculiar desire for Trump’s success and want to send the man to the White House who promises “to make America great again.” This is also because these people are also fed up with the 2008 financial crisis and losing manufacturing jobs to the Chinese.

It is the white vote that will determine the outcome of the US election in November. The rich white will choose Trump as his policies favor the rich over those at the lower end of the economic ladder. The vote of the white working class is going to be critical, and they have historically voted for the Republicans. However, according to Pew Research Center estimates, the non-Hispanic white share of the electorate has fallen from 71% in 2012 to 69%. While Bernie Sanders was successful in getting white working class support, the mere fact that he has endorsed Hillary Clinton doesn’t mean that they will support her.

Trump’s populist slogans are the best marketing vehicles as wealth and greatness are often regarded with respect and admiration. This is more so in individualist societies where people usually despise or neglect the poor as if with equal opportunities they have decided to be poor.

Hillary Clinton has no marketing vehicle except money; her campaign has raised much more money than Trump. But can money buy elections? Well, for sure, Hillary’s power and money could buy her the democratic nomination. However, while she is obviously a more appropriate candidate with more money, this general election is about identity and Trump has chosen the white identity as a pillar of his campaign.

In terms of ideas and plans, Trump lacks a coherent plan. He has been accused of not knowing what the constitution says he can and cannot  do, and he changes tactics and choice of words whenever needed. Trump’s ideas such as returning to gold standard for a sound dollar or building a wall between America and Mexico are only two examples of outdated ideas that only helps the Trump camp make a storm in the social media.

Clinton’s strategy to beat Trump is dictated by the Hotelling’s law- the principle of minimum differentiation- as they both keep on attacking each other on a daily basis. Clinton’s campaign is focusing on her experience, contacts and supporters which are all crucial for statecraft. But, just as the Brexit referendum shocked many by the success of the populists who floated nationalistic ideas amid the fear of terrorism, the US vote too seems too close to call, save for some major unexpected development in the months ahead.