Populism Analysis

On the Making of Trump – The Blind Spot That Created Him

Otto Scharmer analyses the factors underlying Trump's victory


"Josh_eye" (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by operationotter


According to Scharmer, three main divides within the United States contributed to the success of Donald Trump, which took many by surprise.


Even though Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States fits into worldwide narrative, as Scharmer points out, it still took a lot of people by surprise. This article therefore examines the intellectual “blind spot” that averted the detection and prevention of his electoral success. Scharmer highlights three main divides present in the US as well as (up to a certain extent) in other democratic countries that contributed to this “blind spot”: an Economic Divide, a Political Divide and a Cultural-Spiritual Divide.

He argues, that despite of the vast economic potential of the United States, the economy yet fails to provide decent living conditions and instead excels with regard to income inequality, poverty rate, obesity rate and student debt. The Political Divide is identified within the lack of inner-party democracy within the Democratic Party and the distance between insiders of the Washington system and left-behind communities without powerful interest groups. Finally, in terms of the Cultural-Spiritual Divide, the non-populists failed to come up with an appropriate reaction to nowadays common political problems: instead of “muddling through”, as Scharmer describes Hillary Clinton’s response, democratic leaders should pursue a strategy of “moving forward”. Finally, Scharmer points out specific recommendations that go along with such a strategy, closing in on the topics of Economy 4.0, Democracy 4.0 and Education 4.0.

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT, a Thousand Talents Program Professor at Tsinghua University, and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He also chairs the MIT IDEAS program for cross-sector innovation in China and Indonesia. He is author of Theory U and co-author of Presence and Leading from the Emerging Future.

This contribution was published first on the website of the Huffington Post.