Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books:
Donald Trump’s quasi-apocalyptic victory marks the end of American exceptionalism: a certain idea of America, as a model of democracy and freedom, is dead. Trump didn’t kill it; he declared it dead with a campaign that was as surreal as it was reactionary. ‘It’s a nightmare,’ a French friend wrote to me in an email. ‘It’s worse than a nightmare,’ I replied. ‘It’s reality.’
But how to explain this reality? How did Trump – the least qualified candidate in American history, a narcissistic, desensitised bully who could not put together a complete sentence, much less an argument – seduce the American electorate? Some see his victory as a misdirected working-class rebellion, staged by resentful middle-class whites who were effectively proletarianised by neoliberal policies promoted by both of America’s major political parties. Others see it as a racist, xenophobic uprising, led by a vanguard of white nationalists who have rallied around Trump as their figurehead.
Both explanations have a kernel of truth. Trump is inconceivable without the 2008 financial crisis, and Obama’s reliance on Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and the other ‘Harvard boys’ reinforced the impression that American liberalism was an elite ideology, and globalisation a luxury that working people could no longer afford. Popular resentment against elites has increasingly been deflected towards vulnerable minorities, especially immigrants and undocumented workers supposedly coddled by liberals.