Why did Trump win? Look to post-Cold War politics


A people who were bewildered and enraged,
who felt that they had no place to stand, turned the country over to someone who is
manifestly ill-equipped to serve as president, because they were intent on repudiating the policy consensus that had existed during the post-Cold War period. Now, that’s a phrase I use in the book to
refer to the period, roughly quarter-century, between the end of the Cold War, fall of the
Berlin Wall, 1989, to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. 1989, a moment of enormous euphoria, we believed
we had won, we had triumphed. We believed, in the famous title of the essay
by Francis Fukuyama, that “the end of history” had arrived. And I argue that a policy elite, from that
moment on, set out to exploit what they believed as our great triumph. And their exploitation took the form of some
very specific notions. One of them was globalization, the conviction
that corporate capitalism on a global scale was going to create unprecedented wealth and,
they believed, work to the benefit of everyone. They also believed in a permanently supreme
American military power that could keep order in the planet and bring about the further
advance or export of American values. And operationalizing those ideas, which is
what the post-Cold War presidents — Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama — did, led to results
quite other than those expected. Globalization did make
some people really, really rich. And it also created economic inequality that
we have never seen in our nation, at least never seen since the end of the 19th century. It left behind millions and millions of Americans. And this notion of American military supremacy
as enabling us to keep order and to export our values, well, all it did was to plunge
us into a series of wars, some of which we don’t have any idea how to end. So, I think what happened — there are lots
of explanations for how Trump got elected. The earlier discussion of ads on Facebook,
I’m sure, played a role. But my argument would be that the central
explanation for Trump’s victory, that the election was a repudiation. It was Americans who were not served, and
indeed were hurt, by the post-Cold War consensus saying, “No, we’re not going to put up
with this anymore.” Unfortunately, that led to the election of
somebody who is utterly incapable of correcting the mistakes of the post-Cold War period,
reuniting the country and putting us on a more sensible course, hence the continuation
of this crisis, which will last throughout the Trump years and, in all likelihood, will
last beyond the Trump years.