PRINCETON – The United States, supposedly the world’s beacon of democracy, is practicing a strange form of it nowadays. One presidential candidate won nearly three million more votes than her opponent, who, with a big assist from a hostile foreign power, was nonetheless declared the winner. Anywhere else on earth, such an event would be called a coup d’état. Here in the US, we call it the Electoral College.
It gets stranger. A Pew Research opinion poll conducted between November 30 and December 5, after the election had cast the usual victor’s glow on Donald Trump, indicated that only 37% of Americans thought Trump was well-qualified for the presidency, just 31% deemed him moral, and a mere 26% viewed him as a good role model. On the other hand, 62% thought he had poor judgment and 65% considered him reckless. And this man won?
Perhaps, despite his appalling personal attributes, Trump’s positions on key issues resonated with the electorate. As an economist, I’ll leave aside Trump’s positively frightening foreign-policy views and concentrate on the economic issues that many pundits claim put him in the White House. In fact, judging by Trump’s own statements and his cabinet picks, he’s on the wrong side of almost every one. It’s a sobering inventory.
Climate change: Only one economic issue poses an existential threat to life on earth. Yet Trump branded it a “hoax” during the campaign, and has picked a climate-change denier, Scott Pruitt, to head the US Environmental Protection Agency, which Pruitt, the attorney general of oil- and gas-producing Oklahoma, has frequently sued. This is not the policy the American public wants. On the contrary, polling data show that Americans’ concern with global warming is now at or near all-time highs. Americans really don’t want Miami Beach or lower Manhattan to be underwater.