What possibly could have caused the rise of a presidential candidate as horrendous as Donald Trump?
At first blush, the answer seems to be the motley crew of Trump's supporters. After all, without them, Trump would not have become the Republican presidential nominee. We are shocked and appalled that so many of our very own fellow Americans could possibly be so racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and downright foolish as to support a candidate like Trump.
But upon reflection, Trump supporters do not appear to be the cause of the problem. We must take care not to blame the victims.
Ordinary Americans are suffering. Real wages for the working class are down, jobs have vanished, and regular people are no longer able to afford a decent lifestyle. At the same time, the stock market has soared to record highs and a very small number of rich people keep getting richer.
Ordinary citizens have had enough. Now they are reacting.
Trump supporters are merely a response to a preexisting condition. They are not the problem itself. To get to the root of the problem, we must look beyond the actions of Trump supporters to identify the underlying forces that cast the middle class down into misery in the first place.
Clearly, the people in the middle class are not at fault. They did not bring to bear this suffering upon themselves.
So then who is at fault? Who created the underlying unfairness in our society that gave rise to Trump?
The answer is plain: the elites.
The ringleaders are wealthy investors and their henchmen executives who control corporations. They implemented an all-out assault against workers from every direction, such as by suppressing wages, off-shoring jobs, slashing benefits, eliminating pensions, imposing layoffs, crushing labor unions, and marginalizing government.
The game is to reduce the labor costs of the rank-and-file down below, and then shift these cost-savings up to the wealthy shareholders. This boosts corporate stock prices and causes a small number of shareholders and executives to become ever richer, all at the expense of the many workers.
Even worse than these corporate elites, however, are the political elites. Politicians are charged with the duty of representing the people, especially the powerless little people who are most in need of representation. The politicians should have intervened with legislation to protect the working class against this corporate onslaught.
Instead, however, the politicians sold-out and sided with the powerful corporations. In doing so, they abandoned the masses of ordinary citizens. In no small measure, this was due to a backward campaign finance system that places politicians at the mercy of corporate political contributions that fund their election campaigns. This system is nothing less than a modern-day form of pervasive corruption. Here again, the politicians failed the masses of ordinary people by not standing up to this corruption and implementing an honest system.
But why in the world would the middle class seek their salvation in the likes of Trump? After all, Trump will not solve the problems of the middle class. Indeed, Trump would only make matters worse for the middle class with initiatives like huge tax cuts for the wealthy and drastic cuts to beneficial social programs.
The phenomenon of Trump can be understood as a reactionary backlash by the suffering middle class. And backlashes, of course, are not rational. Actions motivated out of desperation and distress tend not to be prudent, measured, and wise. Instead, they tend to be explosive, chaotic, and destructive.
The Trump mayhem represents a further step along our downward trajectory of societal decline that began when the corporate and political elites plundered the middle class and triggered the scourge of economic inequality.
We need a new breed of egalitarian politicians to step in and do the right thing by rejecting corporate bribery, prying off the corporate claws from the levers of power, taxing the wealthy, and reinvesting the proceeds back into society for the overall good of everyone.
If we fail to undertake the difficult task of reversing our current descent into drastic economic inequality, our society is headed for far greater backlashes than Trump.