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December 8, 2016 | by Steve Lawrence

Trump’s Win Was There to See

The media and political gurus were blinded by isolation and their own prejudices

“This election was hiding in plain sight from the very beginning,” a somewhat frustrated Peter Hart, the respected NBC/Wall Street Journal Pollster told the MSCI Aluminum Conference recently. “This did not come from nowhere. But the pundits all thought that the election was about boorish, offensive behavior, but it wasn’t. It was about anger and fear.”

Hart, who freely admitted that he thought Clinton would win the election, pointed to a poll taken a little more than 700 days before the voting. “Fifty-two percent said Clinton would not make a good president,” he said and that negativity did not go away. Subsequent polling “showed 70% saying the country was on the wrong track, 69% angry at the political system, 52% saying if they had the chance they would vote every member out of Congress and 54% saying the economy is stacked against them.”

Clinton did not run a campaign that answered this anger, Hart said. “It was all about fear. Trump’s message was about fear of what’s happening in America, Hillary’s was about fear of Donald Trump.” Pre-election focus groups, he said, showed a profound distrust of everything about the political establishment, which Hillary represented to them. “People were worried about making ends meet, about feeding their kids and they resented the feeling that their kids would not be better off than they were,” Hart said. 

The middle class in America has been hollowed out and none of the commentators, or journalists understood what that meant. “The net worth of middle class families has dropped from nearly $138,000 in 2007 to around $83,000, the same as in 1983,” Hart pointed out. “We knew where the American public was coming from, but we lost sight of it because of the kind of campaign Trump was running. But the truth is the more offensive he became, the stronger his supporters grew.”

Behind all this, Hart said has been “a rising tide of incivility” and the conviction that “the traditional power structure is ineffective and only out for itself. Fifty-four percent were saying that the economic and political systems in the country are ‘stacked against me’.” Terrorism and insecure borders, the arrogance of the rich and smug journalists, the new tech economy all became targets for Trump voters’ anger. 

The result was that Donald Trump, in spite of badly fracturing the Republican Party, actually did better with GOP voters than Clinton did with Democrats. “She could not overcome the prevailing feeling that she was not to be trusted,” he said. 

“Now the Trump presidency will rise or fall on his ability to deliver on his promises,” Hart said. Will he be able to deliver a stronger economy, positive changes in health care, tax reform that benefits not just the rich but the middle class as well? And equally important will he be able to heal and govern a country in the midst of dramatic political, social and economic changes?

“This is now the age of women,” Hart said. “Women have earned almost 12-million more college degrees than men since 1982 and more and more they will be leaders. We are now, like it or not, a multicultural society. And an aging one, with more people working longer than ever. And though Trump denies it, climate change is taking an increasing toll on the planet.”

Hart says this election has ushered in what he's calling a “transformational era.” This means, he says, that “the establishment is gone and this power shift is permanent.” 

Get more insights on what to expect from the new administration at MSCI's upcoming conferences.