Paul Krugman Reveals What This Election Will Really Come Down To
Paul Krugman weighed in on the state of the presidential election "this politically momentous week" and discussed the concept of "horizontal inequality" in Friday's column.
Helpfully, he defined the term:
Horizontal inequality is the term of art for inequality measured, not between individuals, but between racially or culturally defined groups. (Of course, race itself is mainly a cultural construct rather than a fact of nature — Americans of Italian or even Irish extraction weren’t always considered white.) And it struck me that horizontal thinking is what you need to understand what went down in both parties’ nominating seasons: It’s what led to Donald Trump, and also why Hillary Clinton beat back Bernie Sanders. And like it or not, horizontal inequality, racial inequality above all, will define the general election.
In Krugman's view, one of the reasons Clinton bested Sanders in the primary is that she understood better that, for better or for worse, people tend to identify themselves as part of a group, and she earned more support from racial and ethnic minorities, while Sanders focused more on individual inequality.
Trumpism also arose out of Republicans cynically exploiting aggrieved white, generally working class males. That's been the Republican strategy since Reagan.
But demographic change — rapid growth in the Hispanic and Asian population — has brought the non-Hispanic white share of the electorate down to 62 percent and falling. Republicans need to broaden their base; but the base wants candidates who will defend the old racial order. Hence Trumpism.
And race-based political mobilization cuts both ways. Black and Hispanic support for Democrats makes obvious sense, given the fact that these are relatively low-income groups that benefit disproportionately from progressive policies. They have, for example, seen very sharp reductions in the number of uninsured since Obamacare went into effect. But the overwhelming nature of that support reflects group identity.
Furthermore, some groups with relatively high income, like Jews and, increasingly, Asian-Americans, also vote strongly Democratic. Why? The answer in both cases, surely, is the suspicion that the same racial animus that drives many people to vote Republican could, all too easily, turn against other groups with a long history of persecution. And as I’ve already mentioned, we are indeed seeing a lot of right-wing anti-Semitism breaking out into the open. Does anyone doubt that a reservoir of anti-Asian prejudice is similarly lurking just under the surface?
Krugman, like other pundits, says the odds favor Clinton in the election but with Trump in the race there is simply no telling how "ugly" it'll be.