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Trump's rise a result of divisions in the US

Published 28/06/2016

I was recently discussing the success of Donald Trump's presidential campaign efforts when a friend asked: "Are Americans just a bit stupid?"

I argued that any Americans I have met have been uniformly polite, friendly and intelligent.

The real question at the heart of US society concerns social cohesion. The US is stratified on many grounds - race, socio-economic, political and religious affiliation, gender and sexuality.

The hyper-competitive political environment has allowed this to reach the level of tribalism, resulting in an increasingly unbalanced and dissonant society. Politicians and public commentators exploit these divisions.

Americans are angry. Low and middle-income wages have stagnated in the past 30 years as manufacturing jobs are lost, labour unions eviscerated and public sector jobs slashed. The powerful in America know this must not to be blamed on decision-makers and capitalists, whose incomes and assets have skyrocketed over the same period.

A primary example is Donald Trump scapegoating immigrants as a cause of US malaise. By demonising a weak group of non-citizens Trump has exploited the underlying sense of anger and frustration and directed it on to an innocent party.

The liberal elite has replied by making accusations of racism. Wanting sovereign control over economic migration is not racist in itself. Liberals could argue in favour of immigration on the grounds of its positive economic impact, but, instead, have taken to hurling insults and name-calling.

This does nothing but escalate the tension between groups. A break from the cycle of civil in-fighting is needed before the US can even start developing a cohesive society with policies that make sense to the rest of the world.

Branding people stupid or racist is dismissive and counterproductive.

WILLIAM O'ROURKE

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