Populist pandering no way to lead U.S.

By Keiko Iizuka / Yomiuri Shimbun International News Editor It is staggering to think there were so many “marginalized” people feeling so angry and discontented in the United States.

Donald Trump, who called for putting “America first” by giving top priority to the interests of the United States, has defied almost all the forecasts and emerged victorious in the U.S. presidential election.

His assertions were antiglobalist, against free trade, isolationist, discriminatory, exclusionary ... a lineup of every conceivable negative aspect.

This was a complete denial of established politics and values, such as capitalism and embracing a diverse society, the United States had hitherto held dear. His victory could harm relations of trust between the United States and its allies, and jolt the U.S.-led global order.

The election campaign that ran for about one year delivered barely any detailed policy discussions and descended into a mud-slinging match. Trump’s comments and behavior were the zenith of a populism that sensationalized the public’s anger and fear. He was lambasted domestically and abroad. Under conventional wisdom in a normal democratic state, Trump offered absolutely no good points.

And yet, in the end, Trump did not scrape to victory. He won comfortably. How did that happen?

Media reports frequently explained that Trump’s most fervent supporters were relatively poor white workers. Despite this, how many people realized just how widespread their anger was?

At the end of June, a book called “Hillbilly Elegy” became an instant bestseller in the United States. A hillbilly is a term for a person who lives in a rural area. In particular, it often refers to poor white workers living around the Appalachian Mountains that stretch southwest from the northeastern United States. The book depicts the anxieties of people who get left behind by a globalized society and are unable to improve their lower-class lives as they face high unemployment and divorce rates, drug addiction and dropping out of high school.

The book’s author, J. D. Vance, was born in the Appalachian region.

William Galston, a former policy adviser to former U.S. President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the current situation regarding the white working class, who form a large chunk of the U.S. population, had barely received any attention until Trump’s emergence.

In an interview with Time magazine, Vance said these people have lost their faith in the American Dream — that if they work hard, it will ultimately result in a positive outcome — and that their feeling of being marginalized had been “one of Trump’s real sources of strength.”

In January, Trump will become leader of the United States — a superpower — and commander in chief of the U.S. military. A “great America” cannot be created through populist pandering that merely fans societal divisions.

I hope Trump strives to bring Americans together “as one united people,” just as he pledged in his victory speech Wednesday. Of course, U.S. economic, diplomatic and security policies have ramifications across the world. Trump must reexamine all the claims he made during the election campaign and fulfill his responsibility. Speech

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