Sunday 4 December 2016

David McWilliams: America reaps a whirlwind for undermining its middle classes

Published 09/11/2016 | 02:30

A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a Trump doll during an election night party at a hotel in downtown Phoenix, Arizona on November 8, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Laura SegallLAURA SEGALL/AFP/Getty Images
A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a Trump doll during an election night party at a hotel in downtown Phoenix, Arizona on November 8, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Laura SegallLAURA SEGALL/AFP/Getty Images

We all now know what has happened in America, but the big question is not what has happened, but why it is happening? In order to answer this question we have to look much deeper into the campaign, the insults and the upsets. We have to explore the economic, demographic and political forces that have come together in a perfect electoral storm in the land of the free.

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I can think of no better place to assess this than here in New York, in the back of an imported Korean car. I am in an Uber, driven by Sadique, who is from Bangladesh and at college by night, driving by day. We are avoiding potholes, heading uptown on 3rd Avenue towards 125th Street in Harlem, the new Times Square. Sadique has only been here for three weeks. I remember a time when you needed to know New York to drive a cab. Like London cabbies of old, you needed the knowledge, an exam and a permit. Today, all you need is a car and a smartphone with Google Maps.

Many years ago as an itinerant economics student, I too worked here. I washed dishes on Bleeker Street. Had Uber been around then, I'd probably have been an Uber driver. But would I have been heading to Harlem in the mid 1980s? I doubt it!

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