Trump is US President-Elect, Britain is leaving the EU and politicians from the right are making ground in many countries within continental Europe. What is happening, and are all these events linked or relating to country-specific issues? Of course it’s a mixture of both, and never a simple answer.
However, in two recent elections the accepted wisdom that the poor will vote the way of the left has been disproved. In Britain the largest votes to leave the EU were from the previous industrial areas of the North where labour dominates, and in USA Ohio and Pennsylvania have voted for Trump despite all polls suggesting they would go Democrat again.
The left – including liberal media, commentators, and celebrities – assumed that the poor – many of whom previously worked in heavy industry and manufacturing – would continue to vote for them whatever they do or say. Vague – and sometimes not so vague – accustations of racism and not adapting to the new global world we now live appear to have built up resentment against this assumption. The America ‘Rust Belt’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rust_Belt is a good example of the point I am trying to make.
Manufacturing (especially first tier level such as steel manufacture) has been steadily transferred to countries outside the ‘developed’ world. This has been replaced with higher paid service jobs and the ability to focus skills in a country and become specialists. However, that is economic theory – in practice it might work for society as a whole, but it doesn’t work for individuals. If a person has worked in manufacturing for 15 years, and their parents worked there before them, and the plant closes and moves to China then it may make more jobs in New York in banking or trading but that is little help to this person. Left in a town with the primary industry gone, and no alternative employment available this person is left with two choices – stay and struggle, or leave and look for new employment. However, they must leave their houses behind – as no-one will buy them in a shrinking town – and start again, through no fault of their own. So anyone who does escape this trap must start again, and give money to the rich landlords of the populous and successful cities as they will never afford to buy property there.
What I am trying to convey is that this impact of globalisation has not been acknowledged by the left and is only starting to be recognised by those outside the left (and not the traditional parties of the right – the Conservatives didn’t believe Brexit could win, and the Republicans didn’t believe Trump could). Any politician who does acknowledge this impact appears to be certain to increase their votes in these areas, potentially delivering unexpected results.
The real problem occurs if these people are still not listened to. I hope those in power in both UK and USA don’t ignore this requirement and work towards improving the lives of these people left behind by globalisation through no fault of their own.