Economic anxiety & the rise of Donald Trump

What Role Did Economic Inequality Play in Donald Trump’s Victory?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory, more and more people are asking tough questions about the politics of class and the consequences of entrenched economic inequality.

Was Trump’s upset win, like the Brexit vote in Great Britain before it, a sign we’re in the midst of a political backlash against global economic elites? Was Trump’s remarkable performance in the Rust Belt, in particular, an indication that the political establishment has failed to speak to the economic anxieties and struggles of working people? Just how much of a factor was economic inequality anyway, compared to other factors like racism, sexism, and xenophobia?

If you’re looking to explore questions like these with your students, we highly recommend the critically acclaimed documentary The Divide, British filmmaker Katharine Round’s powerful exploration of the personal and political costs of global economic inequality.

The Divide, which is based on Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s international bestseller The Spirit Level, just wrapped up a successful run in theaters and community venues across the UK, inspiring productive discussions about inequality and the politics of economic anxiety with a diverse range of audiences. Now, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, Round thinks the film is uniquely positioned to do the same with classroom and community audiences in the U.S.

“The most striking part of this has been the way the screenings have provoked discussions about how to tackle inequality and the effects it has,” Round said. “We believe that organizing these sorts of screenings [in the U.S.] could be a part of the response to the election of Donald Trump. What we have found in the UK, from screening the film to a wide range of communities — from those on lower incomes to those running businesses in the financial sector — is that there is a way to get beyond a divisive rhetoric and ask the big questions of how we can make an economy that works for everyone.”

MEF has released The Divide on DVD in the U.S. You can now screen the DVD on campuses or in community settings. We hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of the DVD, and also bringing the filmmaker to speak at your screening.