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Luiss Open: To beat Trump in 2020, it will take more than your average Democratic candidate

The reflections of Professor Roberto D’Alimonte on Donald Trump’s government and American public opinion

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First of all, to what do we owe the phenomena of Donald Trump?

Following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, only one American citizen out of ten believed that “the system” worked, 57% of Americans defined the system as “a failure” and 33% was unsure (2017 Edelman Trust Barometer.) Public trust in the federal government in Washington was, among other issues, at its historic low in the days prior to the last presidential election.

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The economy, as perceived by the majority of the middle class, contributes and strengthens anti-establishment sentiments. The graph below shows productivity and the average real median income of families in the United States. Until the 1990s, productivity and income grew at the same rate. Then, productivity continued its rapid growth, while the real family income did not. Behind this divergence lies the enormous increase in inequality that has characterized American society over the past 20 years, the winners of the technological revolution and globalization on one side, and the losers on the other. This is only one of the markers of the weakening of the middle and lower-middle classes.

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To use the words of two American analysts, Dan McGinn and Peter D. Hart, following the 2016 vote: “A large sector of our society is deeply, viscerally angry… This election was the clearest possible signal to every institution in the U.S. that the average person expects - and is demanding - a seat at the table. The folks who led this revolution are foreign to Washington, Los Angeles, and New York. They don't go to Starbucks, take their kids on college tours, or watch NPR. They shop at Wal-Mart, dine at McDonald's, and care more about high school sports than pro games. Their incomes are declining and they have no retirement funds. They think their parents and grandparents built this country. And Tuesday night, they screamed that they want their country back.”

What factors could lead to a defeat of Donald Trump in 2020?

First of all, we have to remember that Trump owes his victory to three states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – that he won relatively unexpectedly, and for a total of 77,000 votes. We are talking about 77,000 votes out of nearly 130 million ballots cast across the country. What’s more: in these three states, votes cast for third-party candidates exceeded 77,000. A different distribution of those votes could have changed the outcome of the 2016 elections.

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