The often disturbing spectacle of the rise of Donald Trump as a leading Republican contendor in the presidential race prompts many emotional and analytical responses: about the long decline of America as a superpower since 1945, about the dysfunctional features of party politics and American politics in particular, and about the chasm between quality information on one side and public policy and (especially) public opinion on the other.
Many interpret the Trump phenomenon in terms of disaffected voters, as this passage from The Economist describes:
The reason evangelicals vote for Mr Trump has little to do with faith or specifics of policy. It is more a question of attitude. A study by the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, has found that the most reliable way to tell whether a Republican voter was going to support Mr Trump was whether he agreed with the statement: “People like me donâ€™t have any say about what government does.” Trump voters feel voiceless, and whatever attributes Mr Trump lacks, he has a voice. He lends it to them, to express their grievances and their aspirations for greatness, and they love it.
All this at a time when people are prosperous and governments are making easy choices, at least compared with what is likely in coming decades because of our criminal unwillingness to stop burning fossil fuels.
We had better hope that worsening global conditions eventually have a rallying effect, rather than prompting a scramble of every state, region, and ideology for itself.