What’s going on with the 2016 Presidential race? Voters are rallying behind political outsiders, both Republican and Democrat. Campaign front-runners have never been so extreme in their views, leaving the more mainstream candidates scrambling to connect with the voters.
It’s easy to think that we’re seeing something unusual, that this is some sort of perfect storm of voter frustration and fear. Actually, this year’s unprecedented political maneuvering is a logical continuation of economic trends that started over 40 years ago.
I was doing a study for Universal Studios, looking into how Americans are working more and taking less vacation time. I noticed that when average wages were adjusted for inflation, the American worker had actually been earning less and less each year since 1973.
“For most U.S. workers, real wages — that is, after inflation is taken into account — have been flat or even falling for decades, regardless of whether the economy has been adding or subtracting jobs.” (Pew Research Center)
So for more than 40 years, Americans have been struggling just to stay even, let alone improving their standard of living. This period corresponds nicely with the increase of political acrimony and dysfunction. This is also echoed by new books which propose that the American Golden Age stretched from 1920-1970, and then hit a wall of technological and economic stagnation.
Even the recovery from the 2008 recession has been spotty with most of the gains going to large corporations, the wealthy and the well-educated. It’s no surprise that the U.S. electorate has grown increasingly angry and is searching for new political players which promise to restore America’s luster.
Looking at the arc of the U.S. economy over the last four decades and the current state of the global economy, I predict that voters are going to be increasingly attracted to candidates who would previously be classified as “fringe”, and political parties are going to continue to morph to attract these angry and anxious voters.
If you think this Presidential election has been crazy, hang on because it’s only going to get wilder.