Leave it to a Republican lobbyist, working for a bipartisan firm, to lay out in detail how President Donald Trump has taken advantage of America’s “Age of Disruption.”
Lifelong Republican Bruce Mehlman has crafted a document that explains the nation’s cultural anxiety that lifted Trump to the presidency in 2016, the endless itch for change in Washington among voters, and the surprising strength Trump enjoys among Republicans amidst an onslaught of investigations and legal challenges.
“The forces that set the stage for Donald Trump’s election are long-term, structural and global,” Mehlman told The Washington Post. “Much like Uber, Trump perceived the opportunity to reach directly to the public to disrupt a dysfunctional marketplace that lacked innovation and failed to satisfy consumers. Also much like Uber, he flouted conventions and tested the limits of traditional rules, fighting the entrenched establishment while seeking its acceptance … Disruption is hard and, well, disruptive. It usually leaves observers feeling exhausted, uncertain and ultimately either angry or exhilarated.”
The lobbyist, who works mostly for Silicon Valley tech firms, presented his analysis in a new PowerPoint presentation for his clients that is a must-read for political junkies everywhere.
One key point is that fickle voters sought change in five of the past six federal elections, and the percentage of the electorate that sees America on the “wrong track” far exceeds the numbers from 10 or 15 years ago.
If it hasn’t sunk in by now within media circles, the key takeaway from exit polls last November showed that a candidate’s ability to “bring change” mattered far more to voters than whether they had the “right experience” or “good judgment.”
The picture painted by this presentation is a restive and agitated electorate, with Trump voters instinctively resisting changes in American society.
The long-term trends in the U.S. are dramatic. In 1967, less than 10 percent of kids were born out of wedlock; now it’s 40 percent. Twelve percent of the nation’s population was non-white; in 2017, it’s 32 percent. Those ages 18-34 living with their parents now represent about one-third, and women in the workforce are approaching two-thirds. The portion of foreign-born residents over the past 50 years has nearly tripled to 14 percent. And the top 1% has seen its share of overall wealth jump from 27 percent to 42 percent.
At the same time, American institutions have declined considerably – everything from marriage and religion to union membership and trust in government.
Trump serves as the disrupter in this timeline, which is probably why, despite the perception that the White House is under siege, his approval rating among GOP voters remains at the same level in Gallup polls as George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan at this point in their presidencies.
Yet, Mehlman warns that Trump cannot beat back the furious path of fast-moving change led by advances in technology and automation.
Consider this: It took the telephone about 75 years to reach 100 million users. It took the mobile phone about 15 years to reach that mark. Instagram managed to do it in roughly two years.
The overall impact of high-tech changes has had a whirlwind effect on jobs in the U.S. In 1967, it took nearly 388,000 workers to produce $1 billion worth of manufactured goods. In 2017, industry needs less than 27,000 workers to match that $1 billion output.
That is an economic overhaul that dwarfs the impact of globalization and trade and taxes.
So, that is why Mehlman concludes that 2018 will likely be another change election as forces beyond government’s control are not just disrupting Washington, they are “wreaking havoc.”