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Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games: Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election

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The U.S. presidential election of 2016 featured frontal challenges to the political establishments of both parties and perhaps the most shocking election upset in American history.

This paper analyzes patterns of industrial structure and party competition in both the major party primaries and the general election. It attempts to identify the genuinely new, historically specific factors that led to the upheavals, especially the steady growth of a “dual economy” that locks more and more Americans out of the middle class and into a life of unsteady, low wage employment and, all too often, steep debts. The paper draws extensively on a newly assembled, more comprehensive database of political contributions to identify the specific political forces that coalesced around each candidate. It considers in detail how different investor blocs related to the Republican Party and the Trump campaign as the campaign progressed and the role small contributors played in the various campaigns, especially that of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. It also critically evaluates claims about the final weeks of the election in the light of important overlooked evidence.