This column by John Feffer about Poland gets at something I’ve been trying to clearly state (boldface mine):
Since its post-Communist transition, that country is often described as having cleaved into two parts, commonly known as “Poland A” and “Poland B.” Poland A links together an archipelago of cities and their younger, wealthier inhabitants. Poland B encompasses the poorer, older parts of the population, many clustered in the countryside, particularly in the country’s eastern reaches near the former Soviet border.
After 1989 and the implementation of a punishing series of economic reforms, Poland A took off economically. By 2010, Warsaw, the capital, had become one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, outranking even Brussels and Berlin. New entrepreneurs and corporate managers took advantage of a host of economic opportunities, particularly after Poland joined the European Union in 2004.
In the countryside, on the other hand, Poland B fell ever further behind. Factories closed, and many farms couldn’t keep going. Jobs disappeared. Several million Poles decamped abroad in search of better economic opportunities. In other words, as the good times rolled in Poland A, Poland B languished.
Until the elections of 2015, Poland’s liberals dominated political, economic, and cultural life.
…if Poland is any indication, the presidential election this year will not be the critical one. Although Donald Trump may speak for America B, he is a weak candidate. His negatives are high, he has an unenviable record to run on, and his tendency to shoot from the hip will eventually cause innumerable self-inflicted wounds. Even if he does manage to win in November, he’ll still face a divided Republican Party, an unremittingly hostile Democratic Party, and a political-economic elite inside the Beltway and on Wall Street who will push back against his unworkable and unpalatable proposals.
That’s the situation that the Law and Justice Party faced in 2005 in Poland, when it first managed to squeak into power. The Polish parliament was divided and was not able to implement the party’s populist agenda. Two years later, the liberal opposition returned to power, where it remained for eight more years.
But when PiS won again last year, conditions had changed. It finally had a comfortable parliamentary majority with which to power through its Tea Party–like transformation of Poland. Moreover, it was riding high on a Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant wave that had practically inundated the continent.
America B has a fondness for Donald Trump and his almost childlike audacity. (Gosh, kids say the darndest things!) Right now, his fans are attached to an individual, rather than a platform or a party. Many of his supporters don’t even care whether Trump means what he says. If he loses, he will fade away and leave nothing behind, politically speaking.
The real change will come when a more sophisticated politician, with an authentic political machine, sets out to woo America B. Perhaps the Democratic Party will decide to return to its more populist, mid-century roots. Perhaps the Republican Party will abandon its commitment to entitlement programs for the 1 percent.
More likely, a much more ominous political force will emerge from the shadows. If and when that new, neo-fascist party fields its charismatic presidential candidate, that will be the most important election of our lives.
As long as America B is left in the lurch by what passes for modernity, it will inevitably try to pull the entire country back to some imagined golden age of the past before all those “others” hijacked the red, white, and blue. Donald Trump has hitched his presidential wagon to America B. The real nightmare, however, is likely to emerge in 2020 or thereafter, if a far more capable politician who embraces similar retrograde positions rides America B into Washington.
To be clear I am not suggesting Democrats should take a dive in 2016–I fully intended to vote for Clinton. But I’m terrified that Clinton will be a one-term president, especially since she is very unlikely to deficit spend (or significantly raise taxes and then increase spending). Without this, very few of the truly broken things in the U.S. will be fixed. Good jobs will be few and far between. And scarcity makes good people mean.
I hope I’m wrong, but 2020, or with some luck 2024, could be really ugly.