How the Obama phenomenon and Trump earthquake happened

At the center of the divide are two sets of divergent trends.

The first set contrasts the changing face of America, which is being hastened by the rising influence of the most diverse generation in American history, with a radical political shift among the nation’s still-dominant cohort of older whites, who now act as a more homogenous voting bloc than ever before.

The second set reflects the changing nature of how Americans live, work and build economic power. A generations-long trend toward wage stagnation, automation and globalization is in the final stages of exterminating the blue-collar manufacturing jobs that once sustained America’s middle class in the heartland. At the same time, the nation’s largest cities are booming, creating staggering amounts of wealth and opportunity for those able to participate.

Together, these two sets of trends tell the story of the last half-century, an era in which a gap in what experts call the “lived reality” of different classes of Americans has diverged more than at any time since the Civil War.