How nationalism may undermine support for income redistribution

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Photo: Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian
Media Outlet: Vox

On Vox, Lee Drutman applied a theory about nationalism and income to the 2016 election.

All of this seems eerily resonant with Trump’s whole Make America Great Again gestalt, which calls forth heightened nationalism alongside threats from terrorism and immigration, and then sneaks in generous tax cuts for the rich. Shayo notes that when citizens “identify with a given group, they want to be similar to typical members of that group: from wearing the group’s characteristic clothes and symbols to imitating typical group behavior and expressing typical group attitudes.” Think of all those MAGA hats.
Shayo’s theory is potentially useful because it explains why American greatness and inequality can coexist peacefully in the same party. The GOP has long been the party of nationalism and tax cuts for the 1 percent.
But there’s something else probably going on here too, what Shayo calls the “policy bundling effect” — that is, that in our current two-party system, any voters who want both strong nationalism and more redistribution are out of luck. No party offers that. So voters have to prioritize.
All of this seems eerily resonant with Trump’s whole Make America Great Again gestalt, which calls forth heightened nationalism alongside threats from terrorism and immigration, and then sneaks in generous tax cuts for the rich. Shayo notes that when citizens “identify with a given group, they want to be similar to typical members of that group: from wearing the group’s characteristic clothes and symbols to imitating typical group behavior and expressing typical group attitudes.” Think of all those MAGA hats.
[Moses] Shayo’s theory is potentially useful because it explains why American greatness and inequality can coexist peacefully in the same party. The GOP has long been the party of nationalism and tax cuts for the 1 percent.
But there’s something else probably going on here too, what Shayo calls the “policy bundling effect” — that is, that in our current two-party system, any voters who want both strong nationalism and more redistribution are out of luck. No party offers that. So voters have to prioritize.

Author:

Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015).