Is culture or economy behind the rise of Donald Trump?

Trump performed no better in states where the economy was the biggest issue than in other states. In the ten states where the economy was the top issue, Trump won eight, or 80 percent. In the five states where the economy was second, Trump won four . . . or 80 percent. His average margin of victory was 7.8 points in states where the economy ranked second but just 6.9 points in states where the economy was the top issue.

Trump also did worse among voters for whom the economy was a top issue than among other voters. He won voters who chose the economy as their top issue in 10 of 15 states, worse than his showing among voters over all, which he carried in 12 of 15. While he won jobs-and-economy voters in ten states, he won immigration voters in twelve, and terrorism voters in twelve. In all 15 states, Trump’s margin of victory was higher among at least one other category of voters than it was among jobs-and-economy voters. In eight states, Trump’s margins were greater on at least two other issues, and in two states his margins were lowest among jobs-and-economy voters.

…I believe that Trumpism is being driven primarily by cultural anxiety — by dissatisfaction with cultural change and perceived cultural decline.

Here is the Scott Winship NR piece.

I have been seeing so many pieces about how GOP elites are responsible for the rise of Trump.  These pieces offer many valid criticisms, but I have an alternative or should I say complementary theory: the people who have voted for Trump are responsible for the rise of Trump.  How is that for a complex account of causation and individual responsibility?


More like lack of culture...

More like lack of high status culture.

Fixed that for you.

The is a vast literature, scholarly and otherwise associated with the "why" of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, Deng Xiaoping, etc. To reduce the historical analysis to "the people who have voted for Trump are responsible for the rise of Trump" is absurd. Personalities do not exist in a vacuum. They are (at least to some degree) the products of their circumstances and times.

As for the U.S. in 2016, here is an easy explanation.

"Donald Trump is the product of a failed multi-decade libertarian experiment"

“Donald Trump is the product of a failed multi-decade libertarian experiment”

Ding, ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! The Funniest Joke Ever Written on a Blog.

The last 16 years have been under presidents Bush and Obama. Let me guess their "failed libertarian experiments":

The Transportation Safety Administration?
Auto bailouts?
The first trillion-dollar deficits?
Invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq?
Bombing of Libya?
Affordable Care Act?
No Child Left Behind?
NSA PRISM Surveillance Program?

And yet to vote for Sanders the numpty socialist is sophisticated, and to support Clinton the bumbling Sec of State with the country's national security in her bathroom is a sublime act not unlike reading Beowulf by candlelight.

They're all fools, criminals or economic illiterates. To sniffily pretend otherwise is to betray one's own foolishness.

Look, "Chip", there's a difference between a candidate promising to increase the top marginal tax rate (or any tax rate) and a candidate promising to build a 3000 mile long wall without any cost to the taxpayer (which sounds like a free lunch to me... maybe Trump's a wall socialist?)

There's a difference between a candidate promising universal health coverage (which, as he rightly points out, is the norm everywhere in the developed world) and a candidate claiming that he'll ban Muslims from the country. There's a difference between a candidate wanting public universities to be tuition free (which, again, exist in some European countries) and a candidate wanting to fuck his daughter.

One sounds rather like a social democratic European politician and the other sounds like a politician from a cartoon show. However much you might dislike European social democracy, it can work and it has worked well for millions of people and none of those proposals are outlandish (the same surely cannot be said of Trump)

Of course the European social democracies work well. They've been subsidized by the US taxpayer's investments in long-range bombers, nuclear subs, aircraft carriers and Ramstein AFB.

Good one, Em. Only half of what you typed is false and misleading; customarily it's 100%. .

Actually, it checks out.

a 3000 mile long wall

Er, no one's planning on building a wall on our northern border.

They aren't outlandish policy ideas when viewed through the lens of selective comparisons to other countries.

I don't like Sanders policies. In those other countries they generally have higher taxes on the middle class as well, something Sanders obfuscates. The US already has a much higher median income than all those countries too. So it isn't obvious that having govt pay for things that most Americans are wealthy enough to pay for on their own is a good idea.

I'm not really looking to spark a broad Sanders policy debate. There are cases for each side of these issues. A lot of Americans don't see "Europeans do it" as a sound argument. They are poorer than us and also in a relative state of decline, which is plain to see. So I don't think everyone is going to straightforwardly agree that Trump is more extreme than Sanders.

In some ways I think Sanders is more dangerous because he has a more clear policy agenda. An agenda that has generally failed elsewhere. He is certainly more competent than Trump in many ways though. And Trump is plenty dangerous too. Sanders is at least polite enough for polite company (except when it comes to Wall Street), so I'll give him the nod on this one.

We have a sad reluctance to take what works from other countries. It is not like we do rational comparison now. There are for instance things that the Canadians do better and more rationally than us, but we generally just hate them for it. Trump!

We also pretend like demographics don't matter.

Compare statements on healthcare to statements on healthcare, immigration to immigration, etc. making statements that aren't similar and de-contextualized is sufficient for poor readers (ankur who complimented you) but not anyone else. In context nothing is DIFFERENT in the way you imply, there are just deficiency's. But how is that unique? It's not.

Europe? Really?

I'm a conservative who sincerely hopes that neither Sanders nor Clinton ever becomes president. Nonetheless, I find Trump to be an unprecedentedly unserious candidate.

Oh come on. Jessie Jackson was far more unserious. But of course he believed the same silly luke warm Marxist ideas that our intellectual elites believe so he gets a free pass for being unserious.

Sorry, you're right that there have been plenty of unserious "candidates". Trump would be an unprecedently unserious major party nominee, and I think he is the least serious person to make it this far toward the nomination.

Jessie Jackson got a free pass for never being a serious contender, as Trump did in 2000.

dan1111, if you still think Trump is an "unserious candidate" at this stage, you really haven't been paying attention. That's analogous to believing WWF wrestling is real. points to an interview from more than 25 years ago which makes it abundantly clear that he is a serious thinker (and has been fairly consistent over the decades).

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams has written a huge amount about Trump's advanced (if frequently distasteful) persuasive skills: . It's starting to get repetitive, but many of the posts from 2015 (when Adams was almost alone in predicting Trump was likely to succeed) are worth reading.

"... deeply unserious candidate" - so, you are one of those people who predicted that his campain would collapse last August? How many times do you have to be wrong in order to re-examine your assumptions?

I will admit I thought Trump would collapse as soon as the voting began (if not before). I was dead wrong about that. That caused me to re-evaluate my assumptions about voters.

However, by "unserious" I mean that Trump doesn't know what he's talking about, doesn't have coherent policy positions, is offensive, and would make a terrible president. The fact that lots of people are apparently willing to vote for him doesn't change this evaluation.

'Unprecedently unserious'? Eight years ago, the public elected a man who had 12 unditistinguished years as a legislator under his belt (eight of them in the Illinois legislature), a man who had been elected to Congress coincident to the divorce filings of two of his opponents being made public, a man who had drawn a salary from the University of Chicago for 12 years but never published one scholarly article, a man who had spent less than four years practicing law and had achieved no professional milestones in so doing, a man who had run the Chicago Annenberg Challenge into the ground.

Oh, and wasn't it interesting how his wife kept getting large raises when he went from one political position to another, but whose last job (for which she was paid $300 k) was so indispensable it was eliminated in a hiring freeze when she vacated it.

Or is a shalllow motoromouth grafteur regarded as 'serious' because Harvard Law School? Charles Fried, take it away.

He was an adjunct professor. It's not at all unusual that he didn't publish any scholarly papers as an adjunct. He practice law for over a decade (1993-2004), not four years. Shall we keep going on things you're wrong about?

In other words, Obama had 12 years of experience in electoral politics and in legislation. In an ideal world, I think a President would have a bit more than that but a Presidential election is not a civil service promotion or a tenure review. It is a contest not just between who has the best and longest CV but also who has the best policy ideas and with whom the voters are more comfortable entrusting power.

He practice law for over a decade (1993-2004),

Absolutely not. He was 'of counsel' at that firm from 1996 to 2002, at which time he allowed his law license to lapse. From 1993-96 he was an associate at the firm. He was working 40% time at the University of Chicago.

It’s not at all unusual that he didn’t publish any scholarly papers as an adjunct.

It's not unusual, but so what? It's an accomplishment he does not have and indicative of how he approached every task in his life.

Obama's resume was thin for a presidential candidate, but he was far more qualified for the office than Trump is. And he had far more of a coherent policy platform. As for how it turned out, he seems to have capably advanced his goals on a number of fronts. The main problem is that I disagree deeply with those goals.

Hypocrites gotta hypocrite, amirite Art? Imagine the Rep candidate with Obama's CV and the Dem's with Trump's. Then predict Art Deco's posts about them.

He was of counsel from 1996-2004. Of counsel is still practicing law. It's just not a partnership.

Msgkings, has Art Deco stated his feelings about Rubio? Rubio's resume is basically the same as Obama's, except that he attended less prestigious institutions.

Obama’s resume was thin for a presidential candidate, but he was far more qualified for the office than Trump is.

Only if 'far more qualified' means 'punched tickets in a legislative body'. C'mon, you're smarter than that.

He was of counsel from 1996-2004. Of counsel is still practicing law. It’s just not a partnership.

He was never a partner. He was an associate - i.e. a salaried employee. 'Of counsel' means 'retired'. It's an unusual designation for a lawyer under the age of 60. Attorneys with the status 'of counsel' typically do some spot work. And, again, he allowed his license to lapse in 2002.

has Art Deco stated his feelings about Rubio? Rubio’s resume is basically the same as Obama’s, except that he attended less prestigious institutions.

Yesss. Again and again. I've state Rubio was the most inappropriate candidate to declare himself on the Republican side, if anyone gives a crap. And, no, his resume differs in important respects. He had a storefront solo practice, something BO never attempted. Rubio was also the sole breadwinner in his household once his first child was born, something BO was not until 2009; Michelle was the primary earner in the Obama household for 17 years. Rubio was not a back bench legislator in Florida, either, nor an errand boy. He was the Speaker of the lower house. For all that he's associated with skeezy characters, talked out of both sides of his mouth (or said one thing to a Spanish-speaking audience and another to an English-speaking audience), and betrayed his campaign promises, Rubio is in certain settings a leader of men; BO wasn't even leader of the Choom Gang.

"Obama’s resume was thin for a presidential candidate, but he was far more qualified for the office than Trump is"

That's not fair. I don't like Trump either, and your point about vague policies is spot on. He's arguably the best Democrat in the race.

But he's far more qualified and has a much deeper experience base than Obama had. He's got a pretty reasonable business background. It's a private-sector leadership resume. He's not Mitt Romney, but Mitt didn't exactly light up the electorate despite a great resume.

Apparently positivity sells. Conservatives might like to reflect on this. But negativity seems to be selling pretty well these days too.

Inspiration matters. But no one can carry you all the way to the finish line.

Of counsel does not mean retired. It refers to someone who has a business relationship with a firm that isn't a partnership or partnership track. It's often used by quasi-retirees, but it does have other uses.

Seriously, yes. The likely candidates this year are all horrible, to a man, or woman.

The fact that Hillary Clinton might actually be the most competent of the bunch should appall everyone.

This is so true, sadly. Worst bunch of clowns ever offered. Obama towers over these chumps and that's hard to believe possible.

"The fact that Hillary Clinton might actually be the most competent of the bunch should appall everyone."

I don't really understand this comment. I've never seen Hillary Clinton to be particularly incompetent. That's her core strength. Your comment seems to indicate that you think she's not competent and everyone else is worse. So, how is she not competent enough to be President?

However, her cronyism, vindictiveness, propensity to lie (even when the truth is obvious to everyone) and natural proclivity to secretiveness preclude her as an acceptable candidate to me.

No Obama Secretary of State has been particularly good, but it's hard to tell how much of that is the hires and how much is the boss.

Gary Johnson Successful Governor and entrepreneur, Kasich is also has a decent resume.

'Competent'? Yeah, she's an ace commodity trader. Does real well in law practice (when arguing in front of commissions appointed by her husband). She's deftly avoided FOIA requests, too. Oh, and the Benghazi maneuver was most impressive.

That these are your best criticisms should shake your own opinion. What did someone say yesterday? Praising with faint damn?

I would say that total disgust with and lack of trust in professional politicians is the primary cause for Trump's popularity

Proto-demagogue wins on demagogic issues. Economists still wondering why.

'the people who have voted for Trump are responsible for the rise of Trump'

Please - Trump is responsible for the rise of Trump, Trump being the very epitome of Trump, a figure of such majesty that only Trump is able to restore the nation to the standards which Trump proclaims. The little people have nothing to do with Trump and Trump's rise - Trump himself, and only Trump, is solely responsible for Trump's ongoing string of crushing victories over Trump's pitifully weak opponents.

As I'm sure he would tell you, given the chance. Though probably with a few more self-references - I don't have his practice at doing it, after all.

(Though this web site was more entertaining with its previous Piketty obsession.)

Likely, the Democrat and GOP establishments created Trump by poo-pooing the concerns of millions of throw-away voters.

Trump and Sanders are the only two candidates that are addressing the concerns and fears of a large number of voters. At least HRC has attempted to respond to Sanders voters, even if very few people trust her. On the Republican side, many of the candidates (and most of media) have instead belittled their concerns and fears.

Is Trump's stated trade policy (that he wants to renegotiate existing trade agreements) significantly worse economically than Clinton's $12 per hour minimum wage policy?

"the people who have voted for Trump are responsible for the rise of Trump."

The rise of Trump is caused by people voting for him more than other candidates.

The first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club.

A silly point. The direct cause of a candidate's success may be votes, but what in turn caused those votes? And who or what is most "responsible" for the political phenomenon?

Tyler's statement of the simple explanation is worth saying precisely because so many others are offering other explanations.

Parents are responsible, because when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much they make little people who grow up to become voters.

I blame it on the grandparents!

A silly point, but true nonetheless, and it's silly to lose sight of that. America has a real problem with strategic voting, and "choosing the lesser of two evils". If you choose the lesser of two evils, YOU ARE CHOOSING AN EVIL unnecessarily. I think this heavily-marketed false dichotomy is partly why voter turnout is so low. My ballot, come November, will probably have 5 options for Presidency. Believe it or not, Jill Stein will be an option. Gary Johnson will probably be an option. Hillary Clinton has foreign experience like Trump has business experience, and neither of those are positive statements. Both engage in demagoguery. Both say whatever is politically expedient at the time. I guess it's only shocking whenever a Republican candidate is like this? Rather than get hysterical over TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP OMG, it'd be nice if some serious opinion leaders took a deep breath, stepped back, and looked soberly at their options.

I hear a lot of pearl-clutching by some talking heads, like Rush or Maher or in Fark, that NOT voting Republican is the same as voting Democrat, that NOT voting Democrat is the same as voting Republican, and that is patently false. Not voting your conscience does, in fact, skew election results away from the will of the people. We survived 8 years of Bush. We survived 7 years of Obama. We'll survive 4 years of [your personal satan here] if you, personally, bring down democracy by daring to vote 3rd party.

I know that plurality voting is especially susceptible to strategic voting, but it's what we have now, and we should try to use it as best as we can. I think a long-term goal should be to adopt a Transferable Vote or Borda count scheme , and I don't know of a good argument against change. It CAN happen, on a state-by-state basis. No matter what happens, America's likely getting a Condorcet loser in November, but the foundation for a better way can be laid.

"Not voting your conscience does, in fact, skew election results away from the will of the people."

This is demonstrably untrue in a plurality system. Suppose 15% prefer far-left candidate X, 40% prefer center-left candidate Y, and 45% prefer conservative Z. If all the supporters of the fringe candidate vote their conscience, the election result is less in line with the will of the people than if they vote strategically.

This may seem bad to you, but given the need for a divided electorate to decide on a single president, there must be a compromise that will make lots of people unhappy. The plurality system is one of several voting systems that intend to reach that compromise. It may be that another system is somewhat better, but most of the "two party system is broken" crowd seems angry at the compromise itself and wrongly blame the mechanics of the voting system for the fact that not everyone in America shares their political views.

Partly true, partly not. The winner is not the only result of an election. If the fringe candidate gets no votes, then from the election results it looks like there's 0% support for far-left candidates, when in fact there's 15%. You've just demonstrated what my link shows, the weakness of plurality voting. Don't forget that politicians like to declare that they've been given Mandates...

I agree that a divided electorate needs to compromise on a single candidate. The plurality system does not give compromise, it gives the opposite. It is a winner-take-all system (unless we were to re-institute the 2nd place = VP system, which seems fair). This is how compromise works: I'd want A, accept B, and don't want C. You want C, will accept B, and don't want A. Compromise means B, doesn't it? It doesn't mean that roughly 1% more people agree with the first set or the second set.

It is 90% the fault of the voting system, and 10% the fault of the electorate voting strategically. We've certainly managed to outsmart ourselves, at the least.

I've told this story before, of Missouri. Claire McCaskill is a very unpopular senator who helped an opponent, Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin win the nomination, since that was the only opposition she had a chance at beating... and even after his remarks, McCaskill only barely won, and no matter who won, Missouri lost. This is the end-game of a plurality system, where you have to choose between weak candidates, not strong ones. If you don't believe me, look at the presidential cycle.

unless we were to re-institute the 2nd place = VP system, which seems fair

Imagine how many assassination attempts we'd see

Hm, this has potential .

Suppose 15% prefer far-left candidate X, 40% prefer center-left candidate Y, and 45% prefer conservative Z. If all the supporters of the fringe candidate vote their conscience, the election result is less in line with the will of the people than if they vote strategically.

And the result is for the center-left candidate to take the far-left group for granted and move to the right to poach a few of the conservative voters. There has to some instrument that conveys the ideal preferences of the electorate, so the ensuing compromise can roughly accommodate all voters. But the ballot as designed does not provide a venue for the voter to qualify whether their vote was a positive choice for a candidate or a negative choice against other candidates. Since that signal is not provided for, the results paint a distorted picture of what the spectrum of preferences looks like. And that constrains future evolution of politics until some acute trigger or crisis occurs which forces the establishment to suddenly take notice.

I should also mention to anyone else reading, the 15% farleft/ 40% centerleft/ 45% right/ 0% farright electorate example that we're using is but one of many. It could just as well be 28% / 21% / 20% / 31%. Plurality, nonstrategically, gives the farright (which is VERY uncompromising for the winner), and... no change for strategic voting, and that's still not a compromise. Given that sort of example, a Borda count or Transferable vote would have a third and center candidate with high odds of winning.

If you vote your conscience, then all parties see an unambiguous signal of a voter pool that is demonstrably dedicated to voting which may be won. Voting for the lesser of two evils only makes sense if you have high certainty that the race will be extremely close. (I've only ever voted other than my conscience once, for precisely this reason. I was wiling to tolerate a Conservative minority in 2001 - Canada, but the day before the election I saw a poll that put a majority somewhat out of the 95% interval and decided to vote for the best placed opposition in my riding, who, anyways, ended up losing by 10,000 votes, and the polls were way off and the Conservatives won a majority, which they used to consolidate power on almost the entire federal-level governing apparatus of the country through the unelected PMO.)

I've only been politically aware since I guess 1998, but I don't know if there's ever been an election cycle where a neck-and-neck horse race narrative hasn't been foisted upon us. Even in 2008, when everyone in Hicksville, Missouri and Bumpkinburg Kansas knew Obama was a shoe-in, it was a call to arms to get every single person voting R's or D's lest the D's or R's win. Every election is sold as a close race :( The cycle needs to end sometime, and this seems to be a very appropriate time for it to end. I'm betting the Republicans will lose out on party loyalty first.

Seriously, Dan1111, there's no advantage to the plurality system. The only way you get your vaunted "compromise" is by strategic voting or luck, and the strategic voting is evidently just as likely to end up worse than compromise. It's horribad. Either we fix it by making the 2nd place be VP again, or we go to ANY OTHER SYSTEM.

Whatever happened to "Politics isn't about policy"?

Trump, and the "cultural" theory of Trump, seem very much in line with this thesis. Recall the rest of the quote: "It's about whose status should be raised and whose should be lowered." Trump and his voters are saying that the status of the coastal elites who run both parties should be lowered, and the status of those they disdain should be raised.

It was just another faux-intellectual paradigm to be shown off and discarded.

Really? With Trump it seems so obviously true that it just doesn't need to be stated any more.

Trump is so about policy and signals. He sounds like a tough guy. But he also talks about a problem perceived by his target voters (illegal immigration) and unlike other politicians he proposes a solution (a wall). Other politicians complain but do nothing.

"Unlike politicians he proposes a solution".

All of the candidates have made concrete proposals on immigration and the other main issues. Out of all the candidates, Trump has offered the least policy detail by far.

A lot of Trump's supposed policy proposals are just talking points to get people fired up rather than workable solutions. Making Mexico pay for a wall, or barring Muslims from entry to the U.S. would not actually happen if he were elected. For Trump, even policy is not about policy.

Trump at least ties reducing immigration to reducing trade. It may be a big gamble, but it is more honest than pretending it is just immigration.

"he proposes a solution (a wall)"

Because we know that Mexican criminals don't know anything at all about building tunnels. And that no Mexicans have ever gotten legitimate visas and then decided to overstay. Anyone who thinks the wall is a "solution" is going to be very disappointed.

Then there the business about Mexico paying for it, which would only make sense to someone who doesn't understand incidence of a tax. Trump is a fraud and a mountebank. His supporters are going to feel what it is like to be one of the investors or creditors in his many failed business ventures.

"Because we know that Mexican criminals don’t know anything at all about building tunnels. And that no Mexicans have ever gotten legitimate visas and then decided to overstay. Anyone who thinks the wall is a “solution” is going to be very disappointed. "

That's the silliest "reasonable" objection that gets routinely restated. Sure a wall will not stop 100% of illegal immigration. But if it drops illegal immigration by 50%, it reduces downward wage pressure on low skilled workers significantly.


Criminals who build tunnels use them for drugs. Drugs are very valuable (per pound). Illegals are not. Sort of like spaceflight. Only extremely valuable goods get launched into space. Illegals aren't nearly worth enough.

@JWatts: "That’s the silliest “reasonable” objection that gets routinely restated."

I have no problem with someone suggesting that a border wall may reduce illegal immigration by a significant amount. However, to suggest that it is a "solution" and that it won't cost Americans anything because Mexico is going to, somehow, pay for it without any of that cost being shifted back onto American taxpayers, consumers or shareholders is disingenuous. It's the sort of free lunch, simplistic populism that conservatives used to pretend they didn't like.

@Peter: "Criminals who build tunnels use them for drugs. Drugs are very valuable (per pound). Illegals are not."

You are confusing marginal cost and average cost. Once the tunnel is built to facilitate the drug trade (something that a border wall can do nothing about), the marginal cost of an illegal immigrant using it is near zero while gangs could earn an extra $5,000 per head or so. Of course, there are many other ways of illegal immigrants getting to the U.S. and there is no magic, costless solution.

"I have no problem with someone suggesting that a border wall may reduce illegal immigration by a significant amount. However, to suggest that it is a “solution”"

That's a strawman argument. The proponents for the wall aren't saying that a wall on it's own will stop 100% of illegal immigration.

"Then there the business about Mexico paying for it, which would only make sense to someone who doesn’t understand incidence of a tax. Trump is a fraud and a mountebank."

Yes, I agree with you on this. It reminds me of how Obamacare was marketed. As something that would lower annual insurance premiums by $2,500 per family and that "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan". Both of those were ridiculous promises that relied on the "Stupidity of the American Voter" to get the bill through Congress.

To be clear, I really do think that Trump's campaign promise to make Mexico pay for the wall is absurd and picks an unnecessary fight with Mexico. It's the shiftiest type of campaign rhetoric.

But on the other hand, how many Democrats are willing to overlook the same type of shifty campaign rhetoric. At the end of the day Obama won and Obamacare was passed and most Democrats aren't particularly worried about a few 'exaggerated' campaign promises.

"Drugs are very valuable (per pound). Illegals are not. "

If you can get drugs through a tunnel, I imagine humans can walk themselves from one end to the other with very little trouble. And more importantly, getting drugs through the tunnel is just one of dozens of steps. Once the immigrant is out the other side, there isn't much more to do, they are not an inanimate object requiring 100% attention and care, they can just walk themselves the rest of the way or do whatever else has been arranged.

This isn't at all like the Israeli example, where the wall was built somewhere where there was already virtually ubiquitous (and extremely costly) military coverage of the land. The value proposition is also extremely different for Israel, due to the existence of an unquestioningly hostile resistance on the part of some of the people who are on the other side of the wall.


By far, the greatest "cost" of running a smuggling tunnel is the risk of detection. Once a tunnel is detected, the entire capital investment is lost. The risk of detection is proportionally related to how heavily a tunnel is used and for what. Drugs are small and valuable and can be kept hidden even after they pass through a tunnel. Illegals aren't small and they aren't valuable. Increasing the risk of detection is a rather high marginal cost for a low value commodity.

For fun (of a grim sort), go watch Sicario. A tunnel (which is detected) figures prominently in the movie.


Based on what they pay coyotes, illegals might be worth $10-30 per kilo. Drugs might $10,000-$30,000 per kilo. Both drugs and illegals feed into well established criminal networks. In either case, once they pass the border well-established markets already exist. However, the value differential is 1000:1.

"I imagine humans can walk themselves from one end to the other with very little trouble"

Sure they can. However, the marginal cost (increasing the risk of tunnel detection) is rather high.

Israel is only example of a country that has used fences successfully. Spain has had great results with its Ceuta and Melilla fences. Certainly, illegals has found other ways of entering Spain and Europe. However, the Ceuta and Melilla fences have worked rather well.


Getting "Mexico to pay for the wall" wouldn't be that hard. Of course, the Mexican government won't write the check. However, remittances back to Mexico could be taxed. A tariff could be imposed on imports from Mexico. Alternatively, imposing a tax on employers who hire illegals could yield $10s of billions of dollars (per year).

Each of these ideas has merits and demerits (I personally oppose taxes on remittances). However, the idea that "we can't make Mexico pay" is wrong. There are lots of ways to make Mexico pay. Good ways is less clear.

In any case, a wall will cost hundreds of times less than Amnesty. Money isn't the issue here.

Because we know that Mexican criminals don’t know anything at all about building tunnels. And that no Mexicans have ever gotten legitimate visas and then decided to overstay. Anyone who thinks the wall is a “solution” is going to be very disappointed. -

I'm always boggled by people who make posts like this on freaking MARGINAL Revolution


As it turns out, aircraft are a partial analogy to tunnels for smuggling. Of course, tunnels have huge capital cost and low operating expenses. Aircraft may or may not be expensive to buy (hence costly to loose). However, they are always expensive to operate (fuel, pilots, overhauls, etc.).

Are aircraft used to smuggle drugs? Sure. Illegals? No. Since drug flights are not typically fully-loaded why not take a few illegals along? Because the marginal cost (incremental risk of detection) dwarfs the marginal revenue.

Where is Harding? I thought he would be all over this one

It's not culture or economics. Not entirely, anyway. A lot of what's going on is just pure anger - anger at the establishment, frustration at being constantly gamed by politicians, tired of the myriad failures excused or ignored by the people they elected to serve their interests.

This is obviously exacerbated by their economic situation, but I think there's a lot more going on here. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders share the same characteristic: They are both promising to kick the behinds of the people their respective sides believe are responsible for the last decade of pretty bad news.

Obama created Trump by "winning" so much the GOP is just so tired of Obama winning. And Trump is promising he will win so much, the GOP will be pleading for him to stop winning.

Trump proclaims his ability to cut great deals, but that's what Obama has been doing over and over and over with the GOP Congress and GOP selected judges.

No matter how much he must compromise, Obama proclaims a win, and that maddens the GOP voters who have been told Obama is the most leftist extremist ever.

When Obama proclaims a win, that means the GOP Congress has suffered a massive defeat in the terms of engagement laid out so loudly and repeatedly by the GOP leadership, reinforced by conservative pundits.

Trump always declares himself the winner. According to Trump, he has never lost. Trump is saying he can win more than Obama who has won so much he has beaten the GOP Congress and establishment.

Note how Cruz has lost repeatedly. His attempts to shutdown government and beat Obama went bust.

Jeb! was a loser from the start.

Rubio worked hard to be a loser trying to beat Obama.

Conservatives try to explain how Obama is a loser by trying to explain how much Obama voters have lost since Obama was elected. Except, conservatives and the GOP merely emphasize how bad the GOP is by laying out GOP policies that will make Obama voters even bigger losers if the GOP wins.

Trump never tries to convince Obama voters. He just calls them losers and says he doesn't want them because he's a winner who only likes winners.

Bottom line only Trump can trump Obama's winning so much.

So, Trump is just another WWE character?

Absolutely correct. From Wikipedia:

Trump has been publicly shown to be a World Wrestling Entertainment fan and is a friend of WWE owner Vince McMahon. He has hosted two WrestleMania events in the Trump Plaza and has been an active participant in several of the shows.[191] Trump's Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City was host to the 1991 WBF Championship (which was owned by WWE, known at the time as the "World Wrestling Federation"). Trump was interviewed by Jesse Ventura ringside at WrestleMania XX.[192]

He also appeared at WrestleMania 23 in a match called "The Battle of the Billionaires."[191] Trump was in the corner of Bobby Lashley, while Vince McMahon was in the corner of Lashley's opponent Umaga with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee.[191] The stipulation of the match was hair versus hair, which meant that either Trump or McMahon would have their head shaved if their competitor lost.[191] Lashley won the match, and he and Trump shaved McMahon bald.[191]

On June 15, 2009, as part of a storyline, McMahon announced on Monday Night Raw that he had "sold" the show to Trump.[191] Appearing on screen, Trump declared he would be at the following commercial-free episode in person and would give a full refund to the people who purchased tickets to the arena for that night's show.[191] McMahon "bought back" Raw the following week for twice the price.[191]

Trump was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, at Madison Square Garden for his contributions to the promotion. He made his fifth WrestleMania appearance the next night.[193]

haha, I just wrote it because mulp put everything in terms of "win" and "lose". indeed, "win" appears like 10 times......this is just like the lame words WWE showmen say before action.

I'm assuming Trump will make a heel-face turn in time for the general election.

@albatross: he'd be stupid not to, and he's not stupid.

This is now a good question for Jonathan Haidt when Tyler speaks with him. What -- in terms of moral foundation theory -- explains Donald Trump's rise? Haidt gives an account of where all candidates sit on the moral spectrum, and that Trump appeals to voters as an authority figure. So what are the variables that determine the need for authority?

Chaotic public spaces; hostile political rhetoric; demographic displacement. What good does a nice, principled President do me? My enemies don't have principles; I need a strongman who hates my enemies.

Your enemies are 10,000 miles away and don't have boats. Don't sell out your principles for no good reason. There is no question that all candidates are willing to fully deploy all necessary military capacities in the face of an actual threat.

This is exactly opposite. ISIS is the only enemy Trump ever talks about hitting. Although he wants better trade deals, he never says anything negative about China, Japan or Mexico, it's clear he's pinning the blame on Americans. Trump voters' enemies are inside the United States, not outside.

My enemies are going to be a majority of people in my country within the next century, and a majority of the world population today. A lot of them are right over the southern border, and I want to build a wall to keep them out.

Enemies? What did they do to deserve that label? Am I also your enemy if I compete for jobs in the same labour market? Why not consider them as mere competitors? A friendly competition, perhaps even.

What — in terms of moral foundation theory — explains Donald Trump’s rise?

How about this: I know that Trump would be a disastrous president. But when I saw his 15s anti-Hillary commercial I felt like I had to run out and vote for the guy.

Haidt has published on Trump. His supporters actually have the most balanced moral foundations profile of the major candidates.

Perhaps a dash of economics, a dash of politics, and also a long-building distrust of institutionalizing corruption in government.

Is it any surprise the longer we have stable political parties the more they will become institutionally corrupt?

Mancur Olson.

Trumps' militarism and hypocrisy tower above Mount Everest and nearly rivals that of his adversaries Cruz and Kasich.

Kasich says he wants 15 aircraft carrier strike groups up from the 11 to 12 we have now. You want to talk policy? The guy is a lunatic for spending your income and capital gains taxes. Cruz want to drop carpets all over Syria.

Sad to say, Sanders and Trump may be our best hopes!

This should probably control for the voting rules in each State. I understand Trump does better in States where independents and Democrats can vote rather than just Republicans. This could be driving the outcome as much as anything else.

Yes. The Democratic party is rapidly becoming the party of grievance-driven minorities. What message do they offer working class whites? We hate you and blame you for everything; we don't like your guns, your prayers, or your pride of place. White men--the ones who aren't voting for the Bolshevik--appear to be leaving the Democratic party to vote for Trump.

Trump may be the cloud no bigger than a man's hand just appearing: whites adopting the identity politics of their ethnic and cultural rivals.

I thought you were some sort of Social Darwinist who believes that losers shouldn't be catered to? You're always going on about "r/k selection" and economic losers being problems that shouldn't be helped. Was all that talk just an insincere cover for expressing disdain for only certain types of losers, not all losers?

Who is and isn't a loser is determined by the society you build. We build a society in which average IQ whites managed to live civilized lives. This isn't a theory, its a proven historical fact.

Nobody has yet build a majority NAM society that is civilized.

Unless you want to embrace the "repugnant conclusion", that we should increase mere live until the quality of such life is barely worth living, then at some point you have to determine who you want and who you don't.

In this way the racist has the wider range of moral empathy. There are a billion white people on the planet, and he wants each to live a fulfilling life.

The anti-racist claims to have a wider moral sphere, he cares about seven billion. However, the anti-racist has yet to produce a majority NAM society that wasn't a dysfunctional shithole. Empirically, its proven impossible. So his empathy is only theoretical. In practice, his policies have the effect of dragging those billion white people down into the muck of lives barely worth living.

And this assumes he even cares in theory. It seems far more likely, especially given revealed preferences, that the anti-racist only care about himself and a small social circle of associates. So unlike the racist, who is trying to make life decent for a billion other individuals, the anti-racist cares only for a handful, and views all others as nothing more then raw material for their own narcissistic goals. A mass of desperate powerless tannish peasants to serve as servants for a tiny elite. That's the world the anti-racist truly desires.

I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying there are no white losers today?

I don't think anyone doubts that manual labor was valued relatively more highly historically than it is today.

The Anti-Gnostic seems to cast his views in Social Darwinist, as opposed to simply racial, terms. That's why I asked. He may either be an actual Social Darwinist, or he may be using Social Darwinist language as a cover for certain racial views. If the latter, he'd be intellectually dishonest.

Well, if you apply a moving target, it might seem that way.

But, many other nations have overcome various things like colonialsm and are now as advanced as Western countries were a mere century ago, despite having to compete with vastly more advanced technologies.

Like, we're a bit ahead of the game, but they are advancing quite a lot too. If we keep on moving the target of "civilized" as whatever we're at now, and disregard that they are just as civilized as we were at other times that we also considered ourselves to be civlized, then this is a BS game.

"the anti-racist only care about himself and a small social circle of associates"

Au contraire. The anti-racist tends to care about everyone. The racist tends to have very narrow views about who we should care about.


There is no such thing as Social Darwinism. That was a phrase invented by liberals who didn't like the fact that Darwinian evolution didn't stop 100,000 years ago and doesn't stop at the jawline.

Humans are pack animals. I prefer my pack to other packs, from my household to my nation. The idea that I should be more concerned with raising the living standards of Mexicans over putting the American working class in competition with the global poor for wages and decent housing for the sake of some economists' thesis is absurd and venal.

And how much of that is Democrats and independents sincerely voting for Trump, and how much of it is political vandalism against the GOP?

"And how much of that is Democrats and independents sincerely voting for Trump, and how much of it is political vandalism against the GOP?"

If it were actually political vandalism, there will be some really disappointed faces if Trump wins the election. I could see some Democrats voting in January, because they thought Trump had no chance of winning the General election, but you'd have to be delusional to think that today.

There are a lot of people who think "Clinton leading in polls now --> Clinton guaranteed to win."

I think Clinton will beat Trump, too, but I'm definitely not sure about it.

"I think Clinton will beat Trump, too, but I’m definitely not sure about it. "

Yes, my thoughts exactly. I didn't give Trump much of a chance last year, but by January it was clear he had been greatly under estimated.

That's why I call it vandalism. Besides the fact that it's disgusting behavior to purposefully try to get another party to get a bad candidate, it just might backfire, too.

It's all about the dang furriners.

"cultural anxiety — by dissatisfaction with cultural change and perceived cultural decline. "

Is culture changing any faster today than it did in the past? Americans have whipsawed between Kennedy and Nixon, and Reagan and Clinton without coming to hate the Establishment. And why would Trump receive the support of cultural conservatives and not fuddy duddy Cruz?

Face it, Republicans no longer see much difference between the GOP and Dems. They voted for a congress to rein in Obama's spending and got a debt approaching $20 trillion. Voters overwhelmingly want the current record rate of immigration slowed and yet both parties vote to accelerate. Voters overwhelmingly want a real border with Mexico and both parties demur, instead dangling the umpteenth amnesty as yet further incentives to more illegals.

And they're tired of being told they're racist, sexist and stupid by an arrogant and incompetent administrative elite that weaponizes the bureaucracy and emasculates the military.

They're pissed off and I don't blame them. Trump is a bull in a china shop, but they re in the mood to smash plates.

If the GOP or conservatives cared one bit about debt, they would never cut taxes without first cutting spending AND PAYING OFF DEBT FIRST.

In 2000, the Federal debt was set to be converted from public debt to entirely internal debt in about a decade, but instead the GOP cut taxes on a straight party line vote requiring VP Cheney to break the tie, and then the GOP increased spending, telling voters to get out the plastic and go shopping as a patriotic duty to fight the terrorists.

Somehow, the GOP establishment and base revel in the debt from GOP budgets and conservatives extolled the debt as the best way to force Democrats to cut government as long as the GOP was in power. Only when the GOP is out of power doespecially anyone get exercised about the debt.

After all, why no Tea Party protests in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008?

It seems to me that when you say "voters overwhelmingly want" you in fact refer to things that you want. I don't think there's even a majority on these files, let alone an overwhelming majority.

70% support a wall

If you're going to so easily misread 70% of Republicans as 70% of Americans, you are demonstrating very high willingness to just see what you want to see instead of seeing what's really out there.

The survey reports 70% of Republicans and 51% of all respondents. And that was last August before it was on the radar, prior to any discussions of how it's probably not even a very effective policy.

Consider, for example, that there's a big difference between the question "would you like a border wall that is paid for by the Mexicans" and "should we make Mexico pay for a border wall even if this significantly damages relations between the two countries and negatively affects America's reputation among allies." Like, are we talking about a fence that a five year old can push over or a 50 higher barrier with 20-foot deep foundations to counter tunnelling? The survey was on an essentially new and undeveloped question, and was adminsitered before anyone had really thought it through seriously.

Emasculates the military? Look at articles 1 & 2 of US Constitution. They say who's the boss and who takes orders.

Yup, "emasculates" is the complaint that explains the psychology. We have the most powerful military in the world. It is emasculated because .. no more false victories in Iraq, I guess.

They want more parades, less reality.

This attitude of disrespect by the educated against low-SES whites is responsible for Trump.

People with bad actual ideas demanded respect for those bad ideas. When they failed to get that respect they went farther out on the crazy branch. Excellent.

An illustration: A "wall" is a crazy solution to America's "problems." People who want a wall hate hearing that. Trump tells them he will build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. Farther out the crazy branch. Mexico says the wall is stupid, "the wall just got taller." Crazier still.

Don't tell me my problem is that I don't respect this stuff.

Elites are elite for a reason. They are 'better' than non-elites on certain metrics, including intelligence. Non-elites are people too, but by definition elites are....more elite. This is by the way very similar to racists talking about whites vs NAMs. So low-SES whites supporting Trump have striking similarities to blacks supporting say Al Sharpton. Marginalized non-elite groups voicing concerns the elites don't listen to.

For many voters the democratic party stands for:

-- Hey illegals, If you make it across the border , you’re safe, you pretty much have sanctuary
--If you have been here illegally 10 years, you get amnesty
--Islam is the religion of peace, Muslim terrorists have nothing to do with Islam, let’s just ban guns and that will take care of terrorism
--Gay marriage, transgender marriage etc.. is OK and let’s not offend anyone especially in universities
--lack of diversity is what's killing this country

For many voters the republican party stands for:

--We need a tax cut for the top 1% and a bigger one for the top 0.1% this will stimulate the economy big time
--Free trade is good, wait and see ! your manufacturing jobs will be back ! don't worry your wages will rise again soon
--We did not do enough. We need more US involvement in the Middle East, it will solve problems in that region

Trump's message

--you got screwed up on trade, blue collar workers.
--Illigal immigration leads to crime and lowers your wages
--Political correctness is killing us
--I cannot be bought by wealthy donors
--Middle East wars were largely pointless

Free trade is good, wait and see ! your manufacturing jobs will be back

If any free trade advocate has ever said that, they deserve what they are getting in the form of Trump (and Sanders.) If any free trade advocate 20-30 years ago claimed that manufacturing jobs in rich countries wouldn't be affected in any way, they were lying and deserve a comeuppance now.

It has always been well-known that free trade will kill off some sectors of the economy that are inefficient and/or expensive to maintain in their current locations and current forms. But free trade also opens up other sectors that require different skills and may be at least as remunerative as the older (lost) sectors as long as people can acquire the new skills.

Everything that was predicted about free trade has come to pass. Low skill manufacturing jobs (and even service jobs) have migrated from the First to the Third (or is China Second?) world, lifting immense numbers of people in the latter out of poverty and into something like a middle class. Correspondingly other sectors of employment have opened up in the former, but only college graduates have been able to take advantage of them because many people in those countries stuck to the earlier narrative that educations levels didn't matter, and society would still have steady remunerative employment for them; a mismatch of expectations.

"It has always been well-known that free trade will kill off some sectors of the economy that are inefficient and/or expensive to maintain in their current locations and current forms. But free trade also opens up other sectors that require different skills and may be at least as remunerative as the older (lost) sectors as long as people can acquire the new skills."

Yes, it's well known. But you don't rarely hear politicians speak about the first part. And if they do, they waive it off, by putting some money in a "re-training" fund.

"because many people in those countries stuck to the earlier narrative that educations levels didn’t matter, "

And this is a ridiculous response. A factory worker with an IQ of 90 making $20/ hour is never going to be able to increase his education enough to matter. At best, he's going to hang onto his current position as the wages drop, until the plant closes. Then he's going to ride out his unemployment until it ends, attempt to get on disability and eventually find a minimum wage position. Meanwhile, he slowly descends into bankruptcy and genuine despair.

That being said, I'm not against *free trade, but I'm not going pretend it doesn't have significant down sides. And most assuredly, I don't think the negative aspects are the personal faults of the low skilled workers who are bearing the brunt of the down side.

*free trade - this is more hypothetical than true, are various trade agreements seem to be getting more complex over time and the results are less free trade, than carefully managed economic winners and losers.

+1 excellent comment

Let's also not forget that "free trade" is a bit of a euphemism for "free trade for goods, protection for services." Let me know when insurance will cover medical tourism. Is it any wonder that winners/losers have played out the way they have?

as long as people can acquire the new skills.


How much of Trump's rise do you think is a backlash against Progressive Ideology and identity politics? Just looking at the way the political pendulum swings, the US seemed about due for a candidate like Trump.

Not directly, not by itself.

I think the important factor is that the Republicans' Plan A was to give up governance, to block everything, and wait for an implosion. Some seriously did want "Obama's" economy to sour.

Instead we got recovery, we never got run away inflation, the dollar never cratered, we never needed our stockpiles of guns and gold.

And so the GOP look like losers who let things get better without them. They pouted. The progressives were the good roommates who cleaned up after the party.

That is what led to Trump. The utter failure of Plan A.

(Note that Establishment GOP candidates were running as if Plan A had worked, and left the country in enough ruin for them to rescue.)

All politics is identity politics. Trump's identity is "I am a strong white male who cannot be controlled by the social structures that have been put in place to control strong white men." Ultimately, for better or worse, I think this will be a winning hand.

The "reinvention" wing of the GOP believed that demographics made this path impossible. We'll see.

Trump's rise is a backlash against the Republican elite using this base of voters for 20 years and and not delivering a thing.

20? A lot more than that.

I think it's not the main factor, but surely it contributes for some.

I'm pretty moderate about most things, and am very tolerant of gays, LGBT, not racist at all, supportive of a legal environment where people get their pants sued off for breaking related rules in order to create an environment where people are not treated like garbage for things they have no control over, etc.. But am quite willing to explain both sides of the story. Also, I categorically refuse to be told which words to use when and where so long as it should be aparrent that I intend to communicate respectfully, and do so in good faith.

But there are some days ... man oh man the SJWs ... that I think "maybe a few years of Trump and we'll be able to speak openly about any and all problems without getting lynched for pointing out that the legitimate historical victims also bear some responsibility for getting their shit together."

Personally, it would never make me vote Trump. But, does this sort of situation get Trump 1% more votes, 5%? It could be rather high. PC (which I define as "just try to have some God damned respect for people") can be good, but in some circles it has run amok and is certainly creating backlash, even from some pretty PC people.

Donald Trump's the real-life analogue of The Mule from the Asimov's Foundation series. Normally the rules of Psychohistory tend to work out pretty predictably in political science. As Bryan Caplan identifies popular democracy tends to avoid the worst impulses of various populist flash-in-the-pans. Elites naturally have much more patience and focus, and the masses tend to quickly lose interest with whatever they're currently hysterical about.

Trump turns this formula on his head. He's in the WWE Hall of Fame for God's sake. Nobody's losing interest in Trump, because he's just so damn entertaining to watch. Normally the rubes would be tuning out with boring politics by now, but they just keep massing at his rallies. I suspect now that Trump's demonstrated the viability of this approach, we're bound to see celebrity and entertainment become much more significant forces in national level politics.

How would summarize the 2016 election cycle up to now as succinctly as possible? Here's what I'd say: Whatever your p-value was of Kim Kardashian eventually being the President of the United States, that estimate has to now be at least two orders of magnitude higher than last year.

Donald Trump’s the real-life analogue of The Mule from the Asimov’s Foundation

Really? Trump has special psi-power?

Seems that way, yes.

Obama is responsible for the rise of Trump. It was a political masterstroke.

He is responsible for this in his choice of an intensely partisan approach to governing when a unity government was possible. The Republicans, in disarray, retrenched around the base and its legitimate fear of cultural marginalization and its dreamland ideas about how it might win the war. Although the Democratic agentda turned out to be quite unpopular, they lose the battle only to win the war. The Republican whacko faction is now dominant within the party, and will now goad the party on to total defeat.

Describe the "unity government" policies?

After all, McConnell declared he was leading the GOP in total opposition to Obama two months before Obama took office.

Everything Obama signed into law was passed with at least one Republican vote plus the vote of McCain's biggest suporter.

The GOP frames issues so they are the losers and Obama the winner when bills pass Congress with both Republican and Democratic votes and Obama signs them and says "this is good for America".

In six years, the GOP has failed to agree on a replacement for Obamacare because every proposal looks too much like Obamacare, or cancels everyone's health insurance.

Not even Bush could get permanent tax cuts passed, or get a doc fix to the GOP Medicare fix from the 90s, but Obama did. Of course, by doing those things, the fake reduced deficits in GOP budgets vanished because gone was the fiction that tax rates were going up, or doctors would see a 50% cut in the fees they were paid.

Just remember, Arlen Specter NEVER WON AN ELECTION AS A DEMOCRAT but was only ever elected as a conservative Republican defeating Democrats.

"After all, McConnell declared he was leading the GOP in total opposition to Obama two months before Obama took office."

Don't let reality get in the way.

Bear in mind, the mulp isn't actually a sentient creature

Using "at least one Republican vote" as a definition of bipartisanship is as good as agreeing with me on that point.

As for what alternative possible, Obama was elected while campaigning for a rather open mandate to change the way D.C. worked. It could have meant anything, from my point of view, except what he actually did, what was more of the same, only much more. Much to my personal disappointment. Whatever.

I predict that Obama will be seen (apart from hagiographies) as the politician who brought about the End of the Republican Party as We Knew It. It wasn't exactly easy; it came at the price of presiding over 6 years of political deadlock. I imagine he will be proud to remembered thus. But it is not what he was elected for, at least not the first time. Consider the tenor of his re-election campaign, which was not "Hope + Change" but "Fear Republican Rule." And he marginally defeated who?

Ah, I think you better read this:

But, by the way, I do not dispute suggestions that Republicans were instrumental in their own defeat. They were weak; Obama exploited the weakness.

Lee Kuan Yew said "In multiracial societies, you don't vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion"

Identity trumps policy. It's no different than all the nonsense about how many people preferred to have a beer with George W than with Gore or Kerry. That's fine if you're hiring someone to be a drinking buddy.

Alternately no single factor is responsible for the rise of Trump as much as Trump.

Basically Trump combines 3 major characteristics.

1) A lower class conservative blue collar personality. His comments that are so outrageous and unprecedented on the national stage are probably quite common on work sites, I feel like this subgroup would be his core demographic.

2) He's an A-list celebrity, able to generate his own media coverage.

3) He has an outrageous amount of money, seemingly from business (really from inheritance), this makes him seem competent.

I think that blue collar demographic has always existed but it hasn't really had a representative since people with Trump's personality are rarely in a position to launch a major political campaign, they rarely have the resume to look like viable candidates, and even when they do the establishment locks them out because they recognize how terrible their ideas are.

The difference with Trump is his wealth and celebrity status meant they couldn't lock him out so that base was able to surround him. They weren't created by the economy or political culture (though it did certainly make them extra active), they were just sitting around holding their noses for mostly Republican candidates until someone looking like Trump came along.

2) He’s an A-list celebrity, able to generate his own media coverage.

I wonder if anyone besides Trump have done what Trump has done? Could any existing Republican office-holder have done it?

I wonder if anyone besides Trump have done what Trump has done? Could any existing Republican office-holder have done it?

That's a good question, I think their biggest obstacle would be their prior political experience, the bravado in Trump's platform is a lot harder to pull off if you have an established record of either compromise, ineffectiveness, or being hated by everyone (Cruz). There's also a huge risk since they lose not only the party support but their prior base and there's no guarantee that Trump's base accepts them, if they lose they're probably done in politics.

That doesn't mean it's impossible though, it will be interesting to see if someone tries Trumping in 2020, maybe Chris Christie is examining that strategy now.

Pat Buchanan was doing it, he just didn't have the money. In a different campaign finance regime he would have gotten a lot farther and been more of a force in the GOP. Trump sees this section Republican base clearly, GOP Elite is lying to them, Dem's can't take them and keep minorities. They don't really have anywhere to go and the Palin pick in 2008 opened the door up to completely hucksters. Perfect opportunity, although I'd bet it has gone farther than he really expected.

"seemingly from business (really from inheritance)"

Dude, no

The best estimates I've seen suggest he'd be just as rich, if not more so, if he'd simply invested the money his father gave him in the stock market.

"The best estimates I’ve seen suggest he’d be just as rich, if not more so, if he’d simply invested the money his father gave him in the stock market. "

Well sure. But of course the people who write those articles always ignore the billions of dollars Trump has spent on his lifestyle in the last 30 years. He's lived about as lavish a lifestyle as the planet supports and still has as much money as if he had invested it from the get go and never spent a dime.

If he didn't consume anything, that is. Poor analysis.

That's a good point and is addressed by the Business Insider article I cited below that compares Trump's net worth to other billionaires. He is either an extraordinary spendthrift or someone who hasn't made many worthwhile investments in the past quarter century compared to his billionaire peers.

Well, 'extraordinary spendthrift' seems right doesn't it? Especially compared to those others listed.

This argument about timing the stock market is foolish, but easily eaten up by the ignorant Berners who think wealth is easy to create - once you have more than they do.

Takes money to make money. No?

Donald Trump took a stake in his father's company at a very young age. The company did rather well in the 1970s and early 80s -- it seems fair to give Donald some credit for that. By 1988, though, it seems clear that he has been coasting on his fame instead of making sound investments or pursuing bold new ventures. This "Business Insider" article shows his net worth increase is very low compared to other billionaires: Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, Warren Buffett, Phil Knight, etc. all ran circles around him over the past 27 years.

Trump is the Kim Kardashian of the business world. He is very good at being on TV and getting coverage in the tabloid press and in capitalizing on that name recognition. However, he has not accomplished anything of note in the past quarter century that suggests he can build and lead strong companies.

Good point, why do those impressed by the virtue of success reject the positions of Bill Gates?

Regarding Bill's opinion that AGW solutions don't begin and end with giving 10 trillion dollars to Democrats to distribute as they see fit? I don't know why Bill Gates holds a 'denier' position like that.

Thomas - where's this $10 trillion dollar number you're throwing around come from? Doesn't remotely reflect anything I've heard of before.

If Trump lived in China he might be the world's richest man.

seemingly from business (really from inheritance)

No, his net worth was many multiples of his father's as early as 1984. He was working a quite different subsector in the world of real estate development.

Another way of framing this is that Trump did do quite well for himself up through the mid-1980s but it is unclear if he has initiated any sound business ventures since then. Trump is a playboy and a narcissist who has built a brand around himself. He has reality TV shows and buildings carrying his name but little evidence of monetary returns on these ventures. His peer in the younger generation is Kim Kardashian (thankfully, minus the sex tape), not Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

thankfully, minus the sex tape

There's still time!

Here we go again. First, Trump is appealing to the non-pc crowd who are tired of being silenced, by threatening to sue people who disagree with him. Now, people concerned with culture are gravitating to a foul-mouthed rich kid who has the morals of a gigolo. I'm getting dizzy and it's only March.

It should be noted that virtually all of the self-proclaimed conservative punditry corps, including virtually all of talk radio and most of the higher-rated talking heads from TV and internet blogs, has been on a long-term campaign to fuel discord within the Republican Party by blaming failures to stop the Obama agenda upon the lack of unspecified "fighting" action instead of electoral and institutional reality. The mythical "Establishment" is guilty, they've pounded home to their audiences, of gross negligence and failure to serve the voters, although the only specifics they ever offered up were spurious.

Shutting down the government/blocking budgets and CRs only closes 17% of the government at best - all of which spending is always later made up - and affects little other than the parts which directly serve citizens, who will demand their reopening quickly. Refusing to confirm Lynch as AG would have left Holder in place, a clearly inferior choice.

The rage was ginned up for ratings, most of the right-media thinking it would help nominate Cruz - but Trump's crude, overtly racist appeal preempted the anti-establishment anger, leaving Cruz chasing and the GOP in shambles, at risk of losing not just the White House but the Senate as well, and even putting the House in play.

Agree, what I tried to say with "Plan A" above.

Trump's racial politics are racist but the block voting in exchange for racial bias in government by the Democrats is a-ok? Trump exists partially because of racist high-status whites on the left who are willing to, on the basis of race alone, punish low status whites in favor of blacks.

So those in the Republican base aren't your friends any more? In the South we describe a shiftless family member as "sorry", a term which does double duty, expressing both disappointment in the family member and an apology for him.

...the people who have voted for Trump are responsible for the rise of Trump

hello, Captain!

Many reasons for rise of Trump, but he 16 primary ones were/are: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry.

This was thought to be a good and deep field. But it was actually awful. Only Cruz ran a competent campaign by any measure, and he is hated by his own party.

I'm confused why the NR piece links favorably to the Reihan Salam article that specifically refers to economic concerns of the working in an article that claims that economic issues are not driving Trump's popularity.

So who is responsible for the rise of Clinton?

Trump has a constituency that is reasonably large and is playing it very well.

I don't know if it was ever reported, but what kept the Canadian Western conservatives alive during the long years of a divided right and the building of a coalition under Harper was regular and very effective jabs at the pompous Liberals. There would be some pithy thing on some cockamamie thing they were doing, the media (almost all Liberals) would get their panties in a twist, and the small donor base would throw in some cash. It was very effective and put the Liberals on the defensive.

I dare a free trade supporting economist to gather the Carrier employees and the employees of related suppliers in that local area and explain to them why moving the factory to Mexico is good for them. I suggest you wear film body armor, because you will need it.

No one will, you will all go on about how 'angry' these people are and how uncouth they are to support Trump.

By the way, the Republicans are lucky to have this open and bloody fight. They may come out battered and bruised and chastened. These are historic Democrat voters and issues. The Democrats could very well face extinction.

The "pompous" attitude of the Liberals was very much overplayed by the Conservatives. However, when I've encountered upper Liberal operatives at conferences, it is categorically clear that some hold this offensive view of the "natural ruling party" even after 10 years out of office, expressing barely concealed perspectives such as "yeah, that seems like a good idea, but don't even bother because party elites will put the kibosh on it, and this is good and right because that threatens the order which sees us as the natural governing party."

I don't think those types will fare well under the current prime minister. I hope.

How "liberal" is the Canadian media?

Exhibit A: the "liberal" media exposed the Sponsorship Scandal and broadcast it daily for months and years on end, never pointing out that 90% of nations on the planet would feel blessed for this to be the extent of their corrruption.

Exhibit B: The liberal-"appointed" CEO of a crown corporation that was turned from losing money to very profitable, upon his assistant picking him up a pack of gum and submitting a receipt to get the money back, felt the full force of the "liberal media", who broadly and regularly broadcast his statement "I'm entitled to my entitlement", as indeed we are entitled to what our contracts promise, until they managed to achieve his resignation after a very long career of truly exemplary leadership, good management and public service.

Exhibit C: The "liberal media" explicitly and in no uncertain terms endorsed the Conservatives in the last election, comprising the vast majority of media outlets in the entire country.

Canadian media is right wing biased, not left wing biased, on average. But, in an effort to drive coverage even further to the right, even patently right wing outlets (e.g. National Post) and economic conservative but socially liberal outlets (Globe and Mail) are tarred as part of the "left wing MSM establishment" by many Conservatives.

It appears that you take political propaganda at face value.

So who is responsible for the rise of Clinton?

The other Clinton

Chelsea or George?

These are historic Democrat voters and issues. The Democrats could very well face extinction.

Uh... no, Trump is not getting that many black, Hispanic, and Asian votes, and that's coming up on half the electorate. The Democrats are not in trouble long term.

The Trump base in the Republican party are people who never should have been Republican in the first place on economic issues, but went there for gun control and other social issues. Now Trump is there and talking a pretty different game on economic issues (against trade, for health care) while taking an even harder line on immigration and holding the line on abortion, gun control, etc. It's really smart and it will attract some Democrats as well. In the high spending/low spending, social liberal/ social conservative matrix theory of politics, he's picked high spending/social conservative more or less, which has never been done before, at least not recently.

Trump appeals to people who don't feel heard and there is a social issues aspect to that. One of the underestimated factors of the rise of Trump is gay marriage, in my opinion, even though it hasn't been a real topic this campaign. Look at the Prop. 8 case. Here you had a law passed by a majority of voters in an election with very high turnout, yet the state declined to defend it before the Supreme Court. Even some of my liberal friends in California were bewildered by that.

Why are people like Tyler so shocked that the hoi poloi are rising up?

For years, Republicans have cowered in fear that they will be called racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. Along comes a guy who says what he thinks and doesn't give a shit, and he gathers a constituency. To quote His Arrogance's former spiritual adviser "America's chickens are coming home to roost".

He's a populist who's successfully averted attempts to marginalize him, so why wouldn't he rise? Surprise: the common man wants defence of the border and national health care, and doesn't care about perennially aggrieved minorities or the mentally ill who are trying to normalize bizarre lifestyles. Revenge of the "hard hats". Libertarians might be out in the cold for a long time.

The American Psychological Association has rejected the mental illness view of homosexuality since the 1970s. Apparently you didn't get the message ... They aren't trying to normalize anything, they are asking to be treated the same as other people regardless of their different sexual impulses and identity.

Go do some research on fat acceptance, otherkin, gender fluidity, and men in the ladies locker rooms. Engage with the logical conclusions of third wave feminism, which is exclusively Democratic.

Despite homosexuality at the time meeting every criterion they had to define a mental illness at the time, yes, they did. They also say that ADD doesn't exist but ADHD-PI is a thing, and Aspergers doesn't exist anymore, and lots of other dumb shit

Culture or economy? Your title suggests they are distinct. Are they?

I'm blaming alien space pods.

"In hindsight, the various right-wing movements—the fusionist conservatism of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan, neoconservatism, libertarianism, the religious right—appear to have been so many barnacles hitching free rides on the whale of the Jacksonian populist electorate. The whale is awakening beneath them, and now the barnacles don’t know what to do."

Sounds about right to me.

"the people who have voted for Trump are responsible for the rise of Trump"

Good point. The only two people I know are are supporting Trump are my sister, a Bay Area lifelong Democrat with a Master's in engineering, full time job, 6 figure salary, with kids put through college, and a small business on the side. She cites his courage as the single greatest factor in making that decision. The other is a retired colleague, African American, economics PhD, in Maryland, who says Trump upsets all the right people. There are a whole lot of voters out there and a whole lot of reasons why people support whom they do. The labels and theories people attempt to apply to others says more about their own bigotry than the people they are attempting to pigeon hole.

'The labels and theories people attempt to apply to others says more about their own bigotry than the people they are attempting to pigeon hole'

Trump is a demagogue, and what that means was well defined about 2500 years ago by the people that first used democracy to rule polities. Want to guess how many words in that preceding sentence come from the same source?

Trump is not something new, and neither is the fact he has supporters. He would be instantly recognizable to people who would be unaware of what bigotries are considered current, and what pigeonholes are to be filled these days.

Trump upsets all the right people.

Your retired collegue is a man of great insight. That is the most concise summary of the Trump phenomenon I've heard. He's bulletproof. The more shrill his detractors get, the wider his supporters smile.

I don't think you know what the word bigotry means.

Just because one has not been directly affected by the issues which Trump speaks of doesn't mean we can't sympathize with those who have. i work in finance...when my industry got in trouble (banks), we moved mountains to help (and enriched them in the process). When American labor got in trouble we did basically nothing but tell them it's better off "in aggregate" (i.e., san francisco housing will go up and maybe you'll get more food stamps as a result). I don't like that, and would be willing to vote to change it, even if it is against my own self-interest.

Although I think Trump is what most blue collar republicans have always wanted, my guess is that Trumps success is helped by the black lives matter movement and the anti police rhetoric less so the micro aggression complains.

"Although I think Trump is what most blue collar republicans have always wanted, "

Yes, I agree. Of course Trump is also what most blue collar Democrats want.

Trump has a -70% approval rating among Democrats. (Gallup, Jan 11th)

Well I guess we know how many Blue collar Democrats there are now, eh?

Unless you don't consider low-income blacks and Hispanics to be Real Blue Collar folks, that's a pretty ridiculous statement. Even for whites, I earlier cited a post by John Quiggin showing that about half of whites earning less than $40,000 per year vote Democrat. Basically, people need to update their vision of blue collar America for the year 2016 and consider that this group includes many blacks, Hispanics, women and even some young college graduates of various backgrounds who aren't able to break into high-paying jobs.

Nothing surprising in what you said, Ricardo, and nothing that proves your point. Half under 40k vote Democrat? No surprise there, what portion of that half are students, chronically unemployed, hippies, etc? That being said, 'blue collar' isn't defined solely by household income, much less a terrible definition like <40k. Typically it refers to somewhat physical labor, a certain income, and a certain culture. It's safe to say there are very few blue collar Democrats. Earning 35k in a Democrat jobs program for minorities is definitely world's apart from the prideful plant worker.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

Now of course, that's a very optimistic version. It should probably end with: ", then somebody wins". Nonetheless, this is a pretty accurate description of the Trump campaign so far.

First ever favorable comparison of Trump and Gandhi LOL

Gandhi's success was predicated on non-violence as the first and foremost guiding factor in political opposition. It worked because it made the Brits look like the bad guys, and because the Brits always considered themselves as the good guys, they had little option but to "do the right thing".

Trump is the opposite of Gandhi in this respect, and this leads many to view him as the bad guy.

I haven't noticed any suggestions by Trump that Trump supporters violently depose the ruling class. Bernie on the other hand, probably wouldn't mind a proletariat revolution, what with his near constant identifying of a scapegoat minority.

So ... who's playing the game of scapegoating minorities?

This post is interesting, but not for the reason Prof. Cowen thinks. He believes he's getting in a smug little barb at Trump supporters who (he implies) are their own worst enemies. But what it really shows is that he's realizing FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME that these flyover blue-collar folks actually have independent agency - something he previously never seriously considered.

I agree. A couple of years ago, my neighbor, who is a retired union painter, told me about meeting Trump in Atlantic City. Trump came in to inspect my friend's work and complimented him on it. I found that interesting at the time, but even more now that he is heading for the Republican nomination. First, he knows good work from bad and he knows the nuts and bolts of building. Second, he respects working people and does not treat them like a lower form of life. He is almost like an anti-snob. He connects with people and inspires loyalty in those who have worked with him (e.g., the butler described in an earlier MR post).

I think Trump has some odd ideas - his trade ideas are execrable. But I think he is open-minded and adaptable. I like Cruz, but I don't think he's going to beat Trump. In that case, I hope Cruz is one of the forces to keep Trump on track in repairing the damage done by the Obama administration.

What damage was done? The economy is in plus territory by every measure. It IS true that benefits have not accrued to all workers, but that's been a Democratic position all along. In a weird jiu-jistu Trump challenges Democrats by adopting their positions?

Is Trump for the 99%?

He meant "... damage done by the Bush administration." Freudian slip.

Shh... don't question the narrative that all our economic challenges emerged only when Obama took office.

Trump's nuts and bolts knowledge and things like immediately knowing how well carpets are vaccumed and many other tiny details are to his credit. But, it makes it essentially impossible to believe that the man who instructed his building managers not to rent to blacks is the same guy who claims utter ignorance about hiring illegal workers on his sites.

Shorter Scott Winship: Its not the economic policies but college PC culture and black lives matter that is behind Trump's rise.
Shorn off the verbiage, see if you agree with his thesis.

Exactly the wrong kind of analysis. You can't average over the whole state. You need to look at Trump voters, not the whole state. Many states have extreme regional differences. Use classic methodologies: survey Trump voters. Survey their communities. Compare to non-Trump voters. This seems straightforward to me, given that you can often look on the county level for some of this information.

Far better than i could say it.

Yes, that's an interesting post.

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