There was broad agreement across the panel that economic discontents and the perceived failure of establishment leaders to stand up for ordinary families were the main drivers of the Trump phenomenon, and also the Sanders insurgency in the Democratic Party. Shanker Singham, Director of the Legatum Institute's Economics and Prosperity work, drew on his experience as an adviser to Republican hopefuls Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio to stress popular perceptions of ‘rigged’ markets and the unfairness of free trade were central to the appeal of Trump and Sanders.
Anne Applebaum, Director of the Transitions Forum at the Institute, agreed and added that voter economic grievances also represented a delayed reaction to the banking collapse and bailout of 2008, when reckless financiers escaped the consequences of the actions while thousands of families lost their homes. She also emphasised the failure of the traditional Republican leadership to reflect the views of its voters, and Trump’s relatively apolitical, ‘showbiz’ appeal, very similar to that of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.
Legatum Fellow Tim Montgomerie, who is covering the US elections for The Times, argued that, away from the headline-grabbing lines about immigrants and ‘the Wall’, Trump was succeeding because many of his proposals were judged ‘sensible’ by voters. Drawing on his recent polling project for CapX, he pointed out that Trump’s defence of existing welfare entitlements and less overseas intervention were actually the ideas that resonated most with voters.
The discussion ended with Singham’s bold prediction that Trump would win both the Republican nomination and the Presidency itself.
About the Speakers
Anne Applebaum leads the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum, a series of projects that examine the challenges and opportunities of radical political and economic change. She is also a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate, and the author of several books, including Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction as well as other awards. Her most recent book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1946, won the 2013 Cundill Prize for Historical Literature and was nominated for a national book award in the US. Since 1989, her journalism has frequently focused on the politics of transition in Russia, central Europe and other former communist states, but she has also written extensively about British, American and European politics and international relations. She is a former member of the Washington Post editorial board, a former deputy editor of the Spectator magazine, a former political editor of the Evening Standard and a former Warsaw correspondent of The Economist. Her work also appears regularly in the New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the Daily Telegraph and many other UK and US publications. She is married to Radek Sikorski, former Foreign Minister of Poland.
Shanker Singham leads the Legatum Institute’s Economics of Prosperity work which examines how countries can become more productive, and the role free trade—with open, competitive markets—plays in helping people of all incomes increase their prosperity. Shanker is currently an economic advisor to the Marco Rubio Presidential campaign, and a former senior adviser to the Romney campaigns in 2008 and 2012. Previously, Shanker was head of market access at Squire Sanders and Managing Director of the Competitiveness and Enterprise Cities project at Babson Global. Currently, he is the CEO of Competere. Shanker has worked with governments and companies around the world on market opening and transition issues, including on the early privatisations of the UK electricity market, the former Soviet Union, the accession of Poland and Hungary to the EU, the transitions in Latin America after the apertura and the WTO accessions of a number of countries, including China and Russia. In 1997, Shanker founded the International Roundtable on Trade and Competition as a way of promoting the notion of free trade, competitive markets and property rights protection around the world. A cleared advisor to the United States government on trade issues, he is also Non-Government Adviser to the International Competition Network.
Tim Montgomerie is a Legatum Fellow and a weekly columnist for The Times. He is currently on special-assignment for The Times and CapX, reporting on the US Presidential elections from Washington, DC. In November 2015, Tim published ‘Prosperity for All: Restoring Faith in Capitalism’, a ten-part manifesto for the Legatum Institute that seeks to understand how capitalism has come to attract such negative public reaction, and what governments must do to prove to citizens that capitalism really can bring prosperity to everyone. In 2005 he founded ConservativeHome.com and edited it until 2013. His book, The Good Right, explores the future of international conservatism and builds on the work of the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank he established with Iain Duncan Smith in 2004. He began his career at the Bank of England and worked for the Conservative Christian Fellowship from 1998 to 2003.
Tim Shipman has been a national newspaper journalist for 19 years and has more than a decade of experience reporting on British and American politics and international relations. Currently Political Editor of The Sunday Times, Tim has been a member of the Parliamentary lobby since 2001. Previously he worked as Deputy Political Editor of the Daily Mail. Tim has covered four British general elections in 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2010 and three US Presidential elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Between 2007 and 2009, Tim was the Washington Correspondent with The Sunday Telegraph and reported the historic 2008 election contest between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain from 42 states. In 2003, he was the main anchorman for coverage of the Iraq War across both Express titles, reporting from US Central Command in Doha, Qatar for seven weeks. Tim moved to the Daily Mail in 2005 as part of their Westminster team. He has also written for The Spectator, Total Politics, the Daily Telegraph and the Cambridge Evening News.