Systemic Humiliation and Practical Politics: Class Thematic Reasoning and the Rise of Donald Trump

  • Solon Simmons


For decades, we will wonder, why did it happen? How could the 2016 election have upended in so remarkable a fashion? What forces animated the populist surge and nurtured the disruptions that tore through all the checks and balances that the private party systems have put in place to prevent an unqualified outsider from seizing control? Why was the opposition in the Democratic Party so ineffective in mounting effective resistance? Finally, what does this mean for conflict behavior and conflict resolution efforts in the United States moving forward? Definitive answers to these questions will be hard to find, but one thing that is certain is that the conventional view of politics and political dynamics—the climate of common sense that animates the leadership cadre of the country—was out of step with the voting public. How the leadership class came to be so out of touch with the fire of indignation in the mass public, how ideas that seemed so secure were cast aside, and how a mode of thinking that seemed so natural to elites, especially those on the left, became a minority view that helped to create a unified Republican government is a story that social scientists and historians will puzzle over for decades. At the heart of these developments is the problem of society-wide conflict and the role that systemic humiliation—both of those in the cultural/representational majority and of those outside it—plays in conflict dynamics. The asymmetry of cultural power is critical for any explanation of how an appeal to identity works, and power needs to be recognized in its various and separable forms, but the very surprise of an event like this demands a new explanation, albeit one that builds on older ideas about how economic and cultural forces combine and interact in surprising and often unpredictable ways.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Solon Simmons
    • 1
  1. 1.School for Conflict Analysis and ResolutionGeorge Mason UniversityArlingtonUSA

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