NEW YORK – The US presidential election is still more than half a year away, and it is impossible to know with any certainty who will be nominated to represent the major parties, much less who will be the 45th occupant of the White House. But it is not too soon to assess the mood of the country's more than 320 million inhabitants and what it will mean for the man or woman who ultimately prevails in what must seem to most people around the world to be an endless political soap opera.
The dominant mood in the United States today is one of considerable anxiety, if not outright anger. The Washington Post recently published a four-part series of articles revealing popular fury aimed at Wall Street, Muslims, trade deals, Washington, police shootings, President Barack Obama, Republicans, immigrants, and other targets.
One of the worst descriptions to be applied to a person nowadays is “professional politician.” The beneficiaries of this state of mind are anti-establishment candidates who espouse policies in opposition to free trade and immigration reform and who call for a radical overhaul of current tax and spending policies. The details of what they advocate may well differ, but their platforms share a promise of radical departure from the status quo.
The basis of this mood is hardly self-evident, as the country is better off economically than it was a half-dozen years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the 2007-2008 economic crisis. Over nine million jobs have been created since then, interest rates are low (making loans for homes and cars more affordable), and the fall in the price of gasoline is the equivalent of a $700 tax cut for the average American family. Moreover, the stock market has risen some 200% since its low of seven years ago, and millions of people who were without health insurance are now covered.