LARRY SUMMERS: Donald Trump is what happens when democracy loses its way

Larry Summer is trying to make sense of Donald Trump.

And his basic answer is: Look, America, we trusted you to do the right thing and now look what happened.

Here’s Summers writing in the Washington Post on Tuesday (emphasis ours):

While comparisons between Donald Trump and Mussolini or Hitler are overwrought, Trump’s rise does illustrate how democratic processes can lose their way and turn dangerously toxic when there is intense economic frustration and widespread apprehension about the future. This is especially the case when some previously respected leaders scurry to make peace in a new order — yes Chris Christie, I mean you.

The possible election of Donald Trump as president is the greatest present threat to the prosperity and security of the United States. I have had a strong point of view on each of the last ten presidential elections, but never before had I feared that what I regarded as the wrong outcome would in the long sweep of history risk grave damage to the American project.

Summers says Trump is running, “as modern day man on a horseback,” by which he means Trump sort of just says things and uses his force of personality to convince voters those things can happen.

And this is basically where we’re at.

It seems the election cycle long past the point when sober breakdowns of why Trump’s policies are nonsense — and why Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush have more concrete plans to push the country forward — is going to make a difference at the polls.

Trump came in, said we’re going to be great, and voters have bought this message.

Over the weekend we wrote that, at least from a markets point-of-view, Trump is a “technical analyst.”

And by this we mean that Trump basically sees his poll numbers, runs on his poll numbers, and thus creates a scenario where the victory that what was once just a scattered outperformance in a few states become the thing itself.

Said another way: Trump said he was going to win and then he started winning because he said he was going to win.

Reflexivity, basically.

Summers — who is most widely-known at this point for re-surfacing the idea that the global economy is facing “secular stagnation,” or slow economic growth, due to a lack of aggregate demand in the economy — argues that this economic malaise and uncertainty is behind Trump’s rise.

“Donald Trump’s rise goes beyond his demagogic appeal,” Summers writes.

“It is a reflection of the political psychology of frustration — people see him as responding to their fears about the modern world order, an outsider fighting for those who have been left behind. If we are to move past Trumpism, it will be essential to develop convincing responses to economic slowdown.”

Read the full Summers piece here »

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