Thomas Edsall writes at The New York Times:
In an article to be published in the June issue of Perspectives on Politics, “Trump and the Xenophobic Populist Parties: The Silent Revolution in Reverse,” Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris put their case in blunt terms:
“Postmaterialism,” they write, “eventually became its own gravedigger.”
The rise of postmaterialism here and in Europe, Inglehart and Norris argue,
brought declining social class voting, undermining the working-class-oriented Left parties that had implemented redistributive policies for most of the 20th century. Moreover, the new non-economic issues introduced by Postmaterialists overshadowed the classic Left-Right economic issues, drawing attention away from redistribution to cultural issues, further paving the way for rising inequality.As the Democratic Party in the United States and social democratic parties in Europe shifted their interest away from economic policies, hard-pressed members of the working and middle classes — suffering from stagnant or declining wages and lost jobs — led “a backlash against the cultural changes linked with the rise of Postmaterialist and Self-expression values,” Inglehart and Norris write.
Forty years ago, “The Silent Revolution,” Inglehart’ s seminal 1977 book, argued that “when people grow up taking survival for granted it makes them more open to new ideas and more tolerant of outgroups.”
In effect, postwar prosperity in America and in Western Europe allowed many voters to shift their political priorities from bread-and-butter issues to less materialistic concerns, “bringing greater emphasis on freedom of expression, environmental protection, gender equality, and tolerance of gays, handicapped people and foreigners.”
Not everyone experienced this new found economic security, however, and the number of those left behind has grown steadily. Those who do not experience the benefits of prosperity, Inglehart and Norris write, can see “others” — “an influx of foreigners,” for example, as the culprit causing their predicament:
Insecurity encourages an authoritarian xenophobic reaction in which people close ranks behind strong leaders, with strong in-group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and rigid conformity to group norms.