Donald J. Trump’s Election Day upset defied polls and media expectations. Once the mud-stained curtain of innuendo and accusation is pulled aside, it becomes evident that the Republican candidate appealed to American voters on a diverse array of issues — some of which have been more pivotal than others. Here’s a closer look at how Trump managed to pull off the biggest Election Day surprise many Americans have witnessed.
Obamacare Backlash: Financial Life Support
Trump appealed to those who are grappling with Obamacare sticker shock. Despite the Obama Administration’s best-laid plans, very few cost-control provisions found their way into the Affordable Care Act. The ACA handed the health insurance industry more customers at the risk of levying tax penalties upon Americans who failed to purchase a policy. But the ACA did almost nothing to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, to limit triple-digit premium price hikes and to pare down the “administrative obesity” that has given rise to healthcare cost inflation in the first place. President Obama’s seeming indifference to the fact that the ACA would become increasingly less affordable in the waning days of his administration helped set the stage for a Republican victory. In this respect, candidate Trump didn’t undercut candidate Clinton’s chances of electoral success nearly as much as her presidential predecessor.
The American BREXIT: It’s the Economy, Stupid!
Trump appealed to Americans who have lost living-wage jobs. Trump also appealed to the trade-policy minded who recall then-presidential candidate Ross Perot’s 1992 predictions on NAFTA — which Perot famously characterized as a “giant sucking sound” of manufacturing jobs exiting U.S. borders. Despite the promise that “free trade” would be an economic growth engine for the United States, evidence suggests that corporations — not workers — reap the rewards of this and other trade deals that have pitted First World labor forces in the U.S. and abroad against Third World labor markets in which costs are a fraction of what they are domestically. With more than 20 years of hindsight, it has become increasingly apparent that while early efforts at globalization have indeed created more jobs on a global scale, offshoring has served to suppress wages, reduce the number of living wage jobs available to American workers and grow the national debt thanks to gargantuan trade deficits and the proliferation of corporate tax havens that are available to corporations that have offshored their finances in much the same way they have offshored jobs.
Never was the disconnect between the Establishment and the American people more painfully apparent, perhaps, then when President Barrack Obama squared off against a laid-off engineer’s wife on a videochat in 2012, during which the president’s support of H1-B (foreign) visa workers to fill science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs came under question. President Obama, on the advice of Bill Gates and others, expressed a belief in a shortage of American STEM workers — even though universities in the U.S. turn out more STEM-grads than anywhere else in the world — and despite the fact that high rates of unemployment continued in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The videochat went viral and the dirty little secret known primarily within the tech industry was out: Employment opportunity isn’t merely a product of entering an in-demand field — it’s increasingly a matter of competing within one’s own country, even, against cheap imported foreign labor. In the wake of a widening public appreciation that being properly trained to thrive in the 21st Century American economy is no guarantee of employment stability or success, Hillary Clinton’s campaign promise to invest in retraining American workers, while relevant, failed to resonate — particularly among displaced blue-collar workers.