American society split openly in 2016 as populists exposed class differences that led in unexpected directions. Donald Trump appealed to the rural white “forgotten man” working class as an un-owned and unfettered champion who could bring back their jobs, respect, and pride in being white. These populists spoke of a war against men and believed that American society had drifted too far to the multicultural liberalism of civil rights issues on full display in the black body of President Obama and the female body of Hillary Clinton. Issues of gender and race link to class in myriad ways. Other populists, who might share the economic class dimension of the Trump populists, but who lived in big cities and preferred stronger governmental and institutional guarantees, nearly captured the Democratic Party for an avowed socialist turned democratic socialist. Bernie Sanders wanted to use the Danish welfare state and tax system models to remake American society. Rather than pushing for laissez-faire capitalism, the word “socialism” was embraced as a model for a caring community and a virtuous citizenry wanting a redistribution of wealth. The expanding inequality in America offered proof that capitalism had gone astray (Stiglitz, 2015). The 2016 presidential campaign highlighted the discontent as many voters drifted either toward authoritarian populism (and maybe fascism) or democratic populism in the form of socialism.
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