In this election, too, we have wrongly focused on the personalities at the expense of social forces. The decline and fall of the American Republican Party cannot be laid at the feet and hands, small or large, of Donald Trump. The GOP’s demise is the product of structural shifts: The modern Republican Party was the child of the 1970s and 1980s, a merger of small-government ideology and big-government success, a flourishing of suburban and primarily white voters throughout the country combined with what had been the Southern wing of the pre-Civil Rights Democratic Party.
That coalition is fracturing badly, after decades of demographic shifts, the permanent transformation of manufacturing from high employment and high output to technology-fueled high output and low employment, and the relative flourishing of once-languishing cities. These forces have almost nothing to do with Donald Trump.
No matter what happens in November, the mighty 20th century industrial economic system that brought America such power and prosperity is giving way to something else — at best an economy of technology and services that meets the needs and wants of hundreds of millions of people at lower cost to wallets and the planet, but not immediately, not evenly and not smoothly. At worst, our best days are receding, and no amount of wall-building will stop it.