Electoral Systems, Regional Resentment and the Surprising Success of Anglo-American Populism

Electoral Systems, Regional Resentment and the Surprising Success of Anglo-American Populism Abstract As populist movements, partly fuelled by voters in excluded regions, drive national electoral backlashes to globalisation, why have their only outright successes come in the USA and UK? Synthesising urban/regional development theory with comparative politics, this article examines a previously unconsidered contributing factor: the interaction of globalisation’s rising inter-regional disparities with majoritarian electoral systems. Majoritarianism’s distinct internal dynamics and imperfect representation mechanisms yield insufficient state responses to rising inter-regional inequality, stoking populist discontent. Global integration may thus be less stable today under majoritarian than proportional electoral rules. This has implications for urban/regional development scholarship, globalisation’s durability and electoral reform. Introduction Harnessing discontent over globalisation and rising inequality, nationalist populist movements are again on the rise across rich democracies. Despite this broad wave of activity, the only cases of outright populist success among rich democracies have occurred in the USA (Trump) and UK (Brexit). A critical role in these ‘surprising’ (Flegenheimer and Barbaro, 2016) electoral outcomes was purportedly played by voters in post-industrial regions (Longworth, 2016; McQuarrie, 2016; Walley, 2017), such as the USA’s Rustbelt and UK’s Midlands and North, left out of the greatest economic gains of global trade. On the margins, they delivered unexpected electoral results. Yet globalisation-related regional disparities and discontent in other rich democracies have not produced outright populist victories. If populist movements are expressed as national electoral backlashes to globalisation, partly fuelled by voters in excluded regions, why have their greatest and surprising successes come in the USA and UK, and not elsewhere? Can urban and regional development theory, or comparative politics, explain this? What does the answer imply for globalisation’s durability? In addressing these questions, I offer two contributions. First, I synthesise regional theory with comparative politics to examine why national populist movements’ recent outright successes have only been in the USA and UK. Among Trump’s and Brexit’s many causes, one relevant and heretofore unconsidered cause is the interaction of globalisation-induced, rising regional disparities with majoritarian national political systems. Regional theory has demonstrated how globalisation has led to rising inter-regional disparities. From comparative politics, Duverger’s law and related research show majoritarian electoral systems generally evolve to two parties, enhance party polarisation and do not well represent some voters’ interests, leading to reduced turnout and weakened ideological congruence between voters and parties. Combining literatures, as globalisation proceeds over time, winner-take-all, first-past-the-post systems stymie the ability of marginalised, excluded regions to effectively express, through political parties, their Hirschmanian (1970) ‘voice’ and dissatisfaction with globalisation’s regionally concentrated negative effects. Such frustrations persist until a ‘legitimation crisis’ (Habermas, 1973) yields opportunity for fuller expression. This occurred a century ago, as it does today. By undermining turnout, majoritarianism may also thus contribute to a globalisation ‘legitimation crisis’. The second contribution is to advance multi-disciplinary, multi-scalar conceptual frameworks in regional development scholarship. Recent notable works (for example Storper et al. (2015)) have transcended disciplinary boundaries by linking regional divergence with new institutionalism from political science and sociology. Such dual theorisations remain rare, due to technical and sociology of knowledge limitations. Technically, multi-scalar quantitative studies (that is, including national and urban/regional scales) are hampered by the ‘small N’ problem of few countries within which to nest regional analyses, limiting the ability to fit robust models.1 From a sociology of knowledge perspective, locally and nationally scaled analyses are each typically conducted in separate fields’ silos, reflecting the reality of ‘traditional binary subfields aimed at the cross-national and urban scales’ (Glasmeier et al., 2008). This article attempts to bridge this divide. In what may be a lengthy period of global instability, such approaches may aid in foreseeing future shocks and evaluating possible policy responses. Nationalist populism’s return: regional backlashes to globalisation? Populist movements raise questions across disciplines, as Trump and Brexit were not produced by a single cause. A host of factors was at work, including race/ethnicity, gender, age, national identity and immigration (Bonikowski, 2017). Many of these factors, however, are also present as serious political issues in other rich democracies, where populists did not win. Scholars may be unlikely to isolate a singular cause which methodologists would consider a veritable ‘smoking gun’ (Bennett and Checkel, 2014; George and Bennett, 2005) for Trump or Brexit. But in popular and academic narratives since both the USA and UK elections, regional inequality—and resentment—is argued to have played a prominent, unforeseen role (Cramer, 2017; Florida, 2016; Goodwin and Heath, 2016; Langella and Manning, 2016; McQuarrie, 2016; Wahby, 2017). Given this posited role of rising regional disparities in driving populist electoral shocks, understanding why populists have succeeded only in the USA and UK takes on heightened importance for urban and regional development scholars. Reflecting globalisation’s broader ‘legitimation crisis’ at hand, those in excluded regions ‘voted for the wrecking ball’ with ‘their middle finger’ (Bodenner, 2016) to elites. This was a protest both against globalisation, as former UK prime minister Gordon Brown (2016) has argued, and ‘progressive neoliberalism’ as well (Fraser, 2017). In so doing, voters also defied big data predictions (Bell, 2017). Some initial, econometric autopsies by regional scholars have tried to counter this narrative. They find little independent regional effect or categorical differences in electoral behaviour vs. prior elections. UK results largely reflect age and qualifications of voters (Manley et al., 2017), with little independent regional effect; the USA’s results reflect a deepening of existing, long-term voter behaviour trends along related lines (Johnston et al., 2017). These analyses ignore a serious empirical issue: voter age and qualifications are not evenly distributed, but highly regionally concentrated. This is so well established as to be a stylised fact of the day. It is also well established that this spatial concentration is neither random nor exogenous to the question at hand, but endogenous. Predictive individual characteristics of Trump and Leave voters are unevenly distributed across regions in both countries because of the powerful forces of regional agglomeration. These forces have drawn young, highly skilled, socially diverse labourers to leading regions’ high value-add ICT and finance industries so critical in constructing globalisation today (Florida, 2016; Glaeser, 2011; Storper et al., 2015). These forces accelerated during several decades (Moretti, 2012) of neoliberal globalisation. It is the effects of these forces of globalisation which voters were responding to in these same elections (Rodrik, 2017). This endogeneity problem applies not just to age and education, but to race/ethnicity: in the USA, for example, white, native-born Trump voters were disproportionately in non-metropolitan areas, which have become whiter compared to the rest of the USA, in part the result of globalisation-fuelled migration patterns.(Frey, 2017) Similar UK trends prevail (Easton, 2013). In particular, the deindustrialised American Rustbelt and North of England provided unforeseen, unexpected support in 2016’s twin electoral shocks (Florida, 2016; Goodwin and Heath, 2016). Both regions’ economies have comparatively lost out, as comparatively weak net beneficiaries from their respective nations’ trade gains (Autor et al., 2016; Colantone and Stanig, 2016; Hakobyan and McLaren, 2016; Martin and Gardiner, 2018). Northern and Rustbelt voters had been expected to support centrist, orthodox mainstream positions—of Labour and, to a lesser degree, the Conservatives—of remaining in the EU, and of centrist American Democrats’ and Republicans’ pro-globalisation stances. On the margins, they did not. Comparatively left out of neoliberal growth regimes in place since the Thatcher-Reagan eras, as EU integration and globalisation gains flowed disproportionately to finance and other highly skilled workers in the City, Britons voted to leave the EU. A similar dynamic, with Coastal Cities cast as London, describes the USA, plainly visible in election results (Figures 1 and 2). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA) by majority outcome in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA) by majority outcome in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA): box plot distribution by quartile of votes in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA): box plot distribution by quartile of votes in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Such regional electoral cleavages align well with existing urban/regional development theories, which explain rising inter-regional inequality over 40 years of neoliberal globalisation. In the UK, this maps onto the ‘North-South’ divide (Martin, 1988, 2004), aligning with popular notions: Brexit is the consequence of the economic bargain struck in the early 1980s, whereby we waved goodbye to the security and certainties of the postwar settlement, and were given instead an economic model that has just about served the most populous parts of the country, while leaving too much of the rest to anxiously decline. (Harris, 2016) In the USA, Trump’s election reflects a similar fault line, between urban development scholars’ ‘creative class’ regions (Florida, 2003, 2014) or ‘superstar cities’ (Gyourko et al., 2006), and everywhere else. This divide’s electoral salience was well articulated by filmmaker Michael Moore. In July 2016, in the wake of Brexit and months before Trump’s election, he became the rare observer to predict which states would unexpectedly vote Trump, correctly naming all the Upper Midwestern states in the surprising ‘Blue Wall’ collapse, a ‘Rust Belt Brexit’ (Moore, 2016). Though regional theory helps explain these two spatial cleavages, it does not well explain why populists succeeded only in the USA and UK, but not elsewhere. France has similarly seen rising and significant inter-regional income inequality under neoliberal globalisation (Figure 3), with current levels near the UK’s at the T2 level of geography. Mirroring voter trends in the USA and UK, Marine Le Pen’s support in the 2017 Presidential election was highest in regions excluded from globalisation’s gains and bearing its costs—the French ‘rustbelt’ near the Belgian border, and in foreign immigration centres near Calais and the South (Figure 3). Beyond France, populist and ‘anti-establishment, right- and left-wing parties’ share of votes across Europe have doubled this century, as globalisation and EU integration has deepened (Heino, 2017). And yet outright success has been elusive, outside the USA and UK. Why? This result is even paradoxical, given the winner-take-all voting systems in these two countries: populists needed majorities to win. How was this accomplished? To explain these differences, I combine regional theory with comparative politics, reviewing theories from each, in turn. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide French second-round presidential election, 2017—department results by majority outcome and box plot quartile distribution. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide French second-round presidential election, 2017—department results by majority outcome and box plot quartile distribution. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities: ratio of GDP per capita, richest/poorest regions (OECD TL2; Piacentini, 2014). Figure 4. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities: ratio of GDP per capita, richest/poorest regions (OECD TL2; Piacentini, 2014). Regional theory and the emergence of ‘different worlds’ Regional theory explains the emergence of two ‘different worlds’: the economic worlds of Trump and Leave voters, as compared to that of Clintonites and Remainers. Regions have long grown at different rates (Kaldor, 1970). But as, noted by Moretti (2012), the last three decades have witnessed the ‘Great Divergence’. Variation in per capita regional incomes increased, reversing the prior period’s convergence. There is strong evidence this divergence reflects regional specialisation under globalisation (Moretti, 2012; Storper, 2013; Storper et al., 2015). As some regions specialised in high value-added sectors of the economy, they accrued outsized shares of the income growth. While urban and regional scholars agree that regional specialisation under globalisation is driving rising inter-regional inequality, they disagree on specialisation’s underlying and proximate causes, driving different regional policy recommendations. To expeditiously review these differences, I deploy Storper et al.’s (2015) typology to adumbrate competing explanatory schools: New Economic Geography (NEG), Regional Science/Urban Economics (RS/UE) and Institutionalist/Economic Sociology (I/ES).2 For NEG, rising inter-regional income differences is primarily a function of place, rooted in different factor endowments and other place-related drivers, giving rise to variation in industrial and functional clusters in different regions, with different returns. Governments can enact cluster policies to remove cluster development barriers (Chatterji et al., 2014; Delgado et al., 2014, Ketels, 2013). But other policies may unintentionally exacerbate ‘natural’ market differences generated by clustering, by remaining facially agnostic regarding place (Martin, 2015). Governments might seek to implement ‘place-neutral’ (Martin et al., 2016, 2018) or ‘place-sensitive’ (Iammarino et al., 2017) policies as a distributional offset. For RS/UE scholars, inter-regional income differences reflect labour market sorting and migration/mobility. Skilled individuals increasingly migrate to certain amenities-rich regions (for example Silicon Valley or London), generating outsized returns. Others remain stuck in regions ‘left behind’. As lower-skilled workers would (Moretti, 2012; Storper et al., 2015) be better off migrating to highly productive regions, this informs regional policy solutions addressing this geographical mismatch. Examples include vouchers/credits to improve inter-regional labour mobility (Caliendo et al., 2017) or reducing land regulations in highly productive regions (Hsieh and Moretti, 2015). For I/ES, the problem is weak civic capacity, limited social capital and incomplete civic institutional networks, resulting in a lack of nimble ‘bridging institutions’ at the urban and regional scale with which to respond to and engage with a changing global economy (Briggs, 2008; Safford, 2009; Storper et al., 2015). Solutions focus on constructing more robust civic institutions at the city-regional scale, so as to build more compelling public and private responses to global economic change, and with which to claim resources from national and supranational institutions, including national governments and the EU. This palette of regional policy solutions imposes search and transaction costs on excluded populations, without always offering clear near-term improvements in relative income. Those in targeted regions, for example, may lack skills to participate in NEG’s cluster strategies. The ‘most appropriate’ cluster for a region’s factor endowment and assets may be low-returning: as Storper et al. (2015) observed, a region specialised in arts or logistics—like Los Angeles—will not accrue income returns like a tech-focused cluster—San Francisco and Silicon Valley—and fall behind. Meanwhile, absent success in lobbying for strong spatial rebalancing policies to offset uneven returns generated by specialisation, what can those in globalisation’s ‘losing’ regions do? Move, as RS/UE scholarship would suggest? They may not want or be able to, due to social and financial costs incurred, social ties (that is, sunk social capital costs) or other place-based factors. Williams (2017), building on Lamont (2000), demonstrates how dislocated workers can be especially resistant: their local community may be their most valuable asset, network and source of social meaning. Last, given limited personal and individual resources such individuals may have at their disposal, they may lack skills to rebuild stronger local ‘bridging’ institutions, as I/ES scholarship proposes. Citizens in globalisation’s losing regions have another option, a way to express dissatisfaction with current institutional arrangements. It imposes lower search and transaction costs. To express dismay, these individuals need not move, nor retrain for a new industry, nor affiliate with local institutions. Instead, they can vote. This is what such disaffected individuals did in the 2016 elections in the USA and UK. But how individuals vote matters, and the institutional design of voting systems affects how regional resentments over rising inequality are expressed in different national contexts. Regional specialisation under globalisation shaped the UK’s and USA’s different worlds of North-South and Rustbelt-Coastal Cities; voting rules have similarly shaped different electoral worlds. Compared to other rich democracies, the USA and UK inhabit a starkly different electoral world. While regional theory explains rising inter-regional income inequality within countries, and its connection to globalisation and supranational integration, it does not explain its comparative electoral and political consequences, nor does it link these regional inequalities to national political outcomes. It does not explain why populist movements dramatically succeeded in the USA and UK alone. Cross-national variations in electoral systems are largely omitted from such scholarship. Despite globalisation’s supranational integration projects (NAFTA, EU), nations remain the primary, if contested, sovereigns. Nations and electoral system still matter, as these recent political contests well showed. How do those in excluded regions influence these results under different electoral rules? Before answering, I turn to comparative politics. Comparative politics: majoritarian vs. proportional representation One of the most significant stylised facts to emerge from modern comparative politics is Duverger’s (1972) law. Assuming a fixed level of social diversity, electoral systems with double-ballot, multi-member district, and proportional voting (hereafter ‘proportional representation’ or simply ‘PR’) favour multi-partism, while those with single-round, single-member district, first-past-the-post/winner take all voting (hereafter, ‘majoritarian’) evolve towards two parties. Systems can be classified along a spectrum between two ideal types of ‘most proportional’ to ‘most majoritarian’, based on their mix of characteristics. Within countries, there can be deviations in how elections are conducted at supranational (for example EU), national and sub-national scales, further hybridising the mix between ideal types. Duverger’s law is not iron-clad. There are exceptions not well explained by Duverger alone: Canada currently persists in a multi-party system despite having moved to a largely majoritarian system.3 The USA and UK have persisted in maintaining among the most majoritarian electoral systems among rich democracies (Figure 5). In both countries, national and most sub-national elections are conducted with winner-take-all, single-member districts. Critically, they have operated this way for a long period; the USA eliminated multi-member Congressional districts in 1842, but a handful persisted until the 1960s.4 Most Northern European countries are fully proportional; the entire nation is effectively a single parliamentary district with many seats, allocated among parties based on their proportional share of the national vote. France, Italy, Germany, and others occupy a middle ground.5 Figure 5. View largeDownload slide Spectrum of current or recent electoral systems in national representation in developed democracies: from majoritarian (winner-takes-all) to proportional. Figure 5. View largeDownload slide Spectrum of current or recent electoral systems in national representation in developed democracies: from majoritarian (winner-takes-all) to proportional. These differences in institutional design create two ‘different worlds’ of electoral politics: one majoritarian and one proportional, each with distinct dynamics. Majoritarian systems slow the development of new political forces into competitive parties or accelerate a diminishing one’s decline (Duverger, 1972); this dynamic is more severe when the new party’s base of support is spatially diffuse (Calvo and Rodden, 2015). This creates a self-reinforcing internal dynamic: institutionalists refer to this as ‘increasing returns to scale’ in their institutional arrangements (Pierson, 2000, 2004), producing a lock-in along a dependent path, until ‘critical juncture’ punctuates internal equilibrium, and opportunities for significant path change ensues.6 This model well describes the comparative political development of electoral systems. Once put into place, majoritarian rules perpetuate themselves: with one winner per district, strategic voting is encouraged as individuals avoid ‘wasting their vote’ or ‘spoiler effects’ where too many candidates split support. Voters choose not to support parties deemed unviable, discouraging further development of third and other parties, further consolidating power for two parties. Such systems self-perpetuate until crisis, as occurred a century ago, when in the wake of wars and economic crises, many European nations shifted from non-democratic or majoritarian systems to more proportional ones (Cusack et al., 2010; Manow, 2009; Rodden, 2008; Rokkan, 1970). Beyond evolution towards two parties, post-Duverger research has established other majoritarian dynamics. In moving to two parties, such systems will not well represent the unbundled and multi-dimensional interests of voters, reducing ‘ideological congruence’ between voters and parties/elites (Cox, 1990, 1997; Golder and Ferland, 2017; Golder and Stramski, 2010; Powell, 2009), while producing a polarised electorate and reducing turnout (Duverger, 1972; Iversen and Soskice, 2006; Matakos et al., 2015; Riker, 1982). Some of these effects reflect median voter dynamics: two parties move to the centre to capture median voters, pay less attention to minority/specialised interests, reducing turnout. As such dynamics unfold, feedback effects on electorates accrue, exacerbating polarisation around the two parties’ platforms in the underlying voter distribution. In contrast, all else being equal, PR systems will spend more on redistribution and transfers, yielding a lower level of inequality (Manow, 2009), regional or not. As has been empirically shown using a game theoretic approach, they will also have a centre-“left” partisan orientation, due to different ‘median voter’ and class coalition internal dynamics (Cusack et al., 2007; Iversen and Soskice, 2006).7 Due to these dynamics, majoritarian systems skew centre-right, are less redistributive (Cusack et al., 2010; Iversen and Soskice, 2006; Manow, 2009) and reduce ideological congruence, becoming less effective in representing the needs of multi-dimensional, unbundled interests. Missing from these analyses is direct consideration of inter-regional disparities as such an interest. Synthesis of regional theory and comparative politics: majoritarian systems exacerbate the national politics of regional resentment Combining urban/regional development theory with comparative politics, an explanation of why and how populists won in the USA and UK alone, can be more clearly framed. From regional theory, a ‘by-product’ of neoliberal globalisation’s regional specialisation and integration has been greater inter-regional income inequality and divergence. But as certain regions become disproportionately ‘left out’, how do elected representatives and voters respond? In the USA and UK, two of the longest-running and most majoritarian electoral systems among the rich democracies, responses are mediated by majoritarianism’s ideal-type dynamics, adumbrated above. Local or regional ‘seat-specific’ issues, that is, matters disproportionately affecting a local electoral jurisdiction, can be framed as ‘minority’ interests, more readily unbundled from the major parties’ platforms. From comparative politics, reflecting declining ‘ideological congruence’, such interests may be ‘crowded out’ for lengthy periods of time in national parties under first-past-the-post voting, which produces two parties competing for median voters. The deindustrialisation in globalisation’s wake, for example, becomes an issue for Members of Parliament (MPs) from the North or Rustbelt. But such globalisation-related concerns do not become a compelling national issue which either major national party perceives they must address to capture the median voter nationwide. This is how globalisation-induced inter-regional inequality plays a role in declining ‘ideological congruence’ between voters and parties under majoritarianism, contributing to a crisis in their legitimacy. Under PR, such specific interests can be well represented politically at the national scale, either through spatially diffused voting for minor parties or through spatially concentrated voting in a single region or section. Under PR, a new party representing the concerns of dislocated industrial workers, for example, could receive 35% of the vote in deindustrialised regions, equating to 10% of national votes, and obtain 10% of seats. In the USA’s and UK’s majoritarian systems, such results yield no legislative seats. This was precisely the experience of the UK Independence Party (UKIP, see below). The two-party dynamics produced by majoritarian electoral systems will thus be less responsive to globalisation’s rising regional inequality. They impede the ability of regionally concentrated, dislocated workers to effectively voice ongoing dissatisfaction with globalisation-associated regional inequality/dislocation. Majoritarian systems may over time cumulatively allow consequences of regional unevenness to remain under-voiced in, and less effectively addressed by, national political institutions. Lacking an effective voice to make claims on the state, social or industrial policy responses to the plights of regional economies dislocated by globalisation may be weak or insufficient (Figure 6). This explains why calls for spatially redistributive, or at least ‘place-sensitive’, regional development policies, have not been met by stronger action in the USA and UK. Indeed, the USA did not adopt a national cluster policy for regional development until 2010 (Delgado et al., 2014). Figure 6. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities in electoral systems: schematic majoritarian → hybrid → Proportional. Figure 6. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities in electoral systems: schematic majoritarian → hybrid → Proportional. Combined with other factors, such as immigration-related tensions, spatial imbalances in two-party systems build to levels sufficient to raise the probability of electoral shock and crisis, as rising polarisation, along with declining ‘ideological congruence’, undermines turnout, in turn undermining the legitimacy of both the two parties and the two-party system. Over time, this may contribute to what Habermas (1973) termed a ‘legitimation crisis’, as voters come to distrust major parties and lose confidence in their ability to represent them. As majoritarian dynamics reduce turnout—Trump and Brexit election turnout rates pale compared to those of most PR countries—this further increases the power of such voters on the margins to unexpectedly shift results. These mechanisms connect the USA’s and UK’s rising spatial imbalances to the outcome of Trump and Brexit. Utilising Hirschman’s (1970) ‘Exit, Voice, and Loyalty’, the imperfect representation mechanism of majoritarian electoral systems frustrates attempts to assert a ‘voice’ by dislocated workers. They face two-party choices, both of which, over time having shifted their platforms to chase median voters, come to exhibit weak ideological congruence with their globalisation-related regional disparity concerns.8 This weak congruence and lack of party responsiveness increase potential for the two parties to experience a ‘legitimation crisis’, with regional disparities key in today’s ‘steering problems’ in liberal democracies. As articulated by Habermas: in liberal capitalism, crises appear in the form of unresolved economic steering problems . . . crises become endemic because temporarily unresolved steering problems, which the process of economic growth produces at more or less regular intervals, as such endanger social integration. (Habermas, 1973) Habermas theorised such crises, which can manifest as political, economic or cultural, as endemic to liberal capitalist democracies, due to their inherent political-economic tensions. But they may also be spatial. The current case demonstrates one such way in which such a crisis can be exacerbated, through a crisis of representation and political voice which has a distinctly regional and spatial component.9 As Hirschman explained, when voice is ineffective in achieving redress, individuals will instead choose ‘exit’. In this case, when excluded regions’ voices, in expressing frustration over the effects of global integration, are ignored in national political contests in repeated electoral cycles, they may opt, when given the chance, to support exiting institutional arrangements most associated with neoliberal globalisation. Britons voted to exit the EU. Americans elected a candidate promising exit, downsize or restructure of the UN, NAFTA, TPP, NATO, the Paris Climate Accord and other multilateral globalisation agreements. This is not to say that regional inequality is caused by majoritarian electoral systems. Rather, the two interact to pernicious consequence. The process of regional specialisation under neoliberal globalisation has heightened inter-regional disparities most everywhere. This is well established. At issue is how this inequality interacts with majoritarian systems, producing imperfect representation on this issue and resulting in a weak and insufficient policy response by the state. Electoral rules are thus an endogenous factor in exacerbating inter-regional inequality, over time, producing what Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) term a ‘vicious cycle’. In this manner, majoritarian systems exacerbate the national politics of regional resentment, to extend Katherine Cramer’s (2016) term. Theory testing via populism on the ballot: research method and design Quantitatively testing this multi-scalar theory is challenging due to the ‘small N’ problem, further complicated by an ‘apples and oranges’ problem (Locke and Thelen, 1995): different countries, even if similarly majoritarian or proportional, have nuanced but significant differences in electoral procedures. I thus use a qualitative approach, ‘process tracing’ (Bennett and Checkel, 2014), through ‘contextualized comparisons’ (Locke and Thelen, 1995) via brief, analytic case studies of how populist backlashes to rising inter-regional inequality and globalisation were comparatively expressed in different electoral contexts, with a focus on 2016–2017 elections. Though such dynamics build up and evolve over time, path-dependently, these elections arguably constitute what historical institutionalists call ‘critical junctures’, with accordingly significant consequences. In the cases, I primarily focus on the critical juncture events, while secondarily analysing preceding build-up. I use France as a ‘pathway’ case with which to contrast the USA and UK. For detail on case selection criteria and the choice to focus on critical junctures, see the Appendix’s Methodological Note. I thus develop analytic cases of three of the highest profile populist elections of 2016–2017: the USA’s 2016 Presidential Election, the UK’s 2016 Brexit Ballot Referendum and the French 2017 Presidential Election. The two cases of ‘success’ (USA and UK) are in the two countries possessing the longest-running most majoritarian electoral systems among rich democracies. The third case, of ‘failure’, is France, with a mixed-feature system. Prima facie, the theory advanced here, appears problematic. In the USA, Hillary Clinton won the majority of votes cast. How does her loss reflect majoritarian dynamics? She won more votes, yet lost. This seems dissonant with winner-take-all rules. In the UK, an outright majority voted Leave, which won the Brexit ballot. How is PR relevant? How would it have affected the process? The USA: majoritarian by state In the USA, the presidential electoral system is majoritarian, but it is majoritarian by state. And the states containing the metropolitan regions most ravaged by deindustrialisation, globalisation and integration were states that shifted, in both the primaries and the election, from historic support of mainstream party elites to populists. In the final election, this meant (i) shifting from historic support of Democrats to Trump or (ii) strengthening to support Trump vis a vis their historic trend. This includes the former centre-left, organised labour, Democratic-leaning states in the Upper Midwest. Here, where deindustrialised regions have been negatively affected by globalisation and technological change, the marginal decline in Democratic support at the state level—perhaps exacerbated by outmigration-fuelled declining population in these regions—contributed to these states ultimately shifting from Obama to Trump (see Figure 7). In part, due to globalisation-related migration flows, these states, as noted earlier, have become relatively older and whiter. Also strengthening to support Trump were states negatively affected by both global integration in energy markets, and by the shift towards clean energy, which has been accelerated by multilateral climate agreements, for example Paris Climate Accord.10 Figure 7. View largeDownload slide Shifting US states and counties: regions which voted for Obama then Trump. Figure 7. View largeDownload slide Shifting US states and counties: regions which voted for Obama then Trump. Hillary Clinton’s (2017) self-autopsy demonstrates acute awareness of her own shortcomings in addressing these regional concerns. Besides noting her failure to visit Wisconsin in the general election period, she states one of her greatest campaign errors occurred in Ohio. Here, at the nexus of the Rustbelt and Appalachian Coal Country, Clinton said, ‘We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business’, a comment which ‘haunted’ her campaign. With her mixed and shifting support on globalisation’s critical issues such as energy and trade (NAFTA, TPP, Paris Climate Accord), Clinton could capture the national median voter. Such thinking informed the Democratic party’s pro-globalisation shifts over two decades on free trade and immigration (Beinart, 2017; Penn and Stein, 2017) and reflects how majoritarian systems lead to weakened ideological congruence (Golder and Ferland, 2017) between voters and party elites, as the latter shift in pursuit of the median voter, contributing to the build-up towards a ‘legitimation crisis’.11 But under a system which is majoritarian by state, she needed to be able to pivot to and capture the ‘median voter’ in the median state, that is, in at least a few deindustrialising states which might tip the Electoral College.12 The pro-global, Coastal State voter was the median voter nationwide, which she captured. She won the popular vote majority. But such individuals were hyperconcentrated in certain states because of ongoing regional agglomeration and divergence. Further reflecting the migration effects of globalisation, as referenced earlier (Frey, 2017), how many Democratic voters from these Rust Belt states had relocated for jobs in Coastal or other opportunity-rich states, additionally shifting the median voter balance in each state? These figures are not yet available, but could also be significant. The median voter in the median state was thus a different creature entirely from the national median voter. For these voters, social and economic interests, tenuously married as Democrats tacked to centre in the 1990s with a neoliberal, pro-globalisation party platform, had begun to unbundle, shifting to reflect regional concerns on deindustrialisation, globalisation and good jobs. Trump’s economic nationalism, anathema to Clinton, well resonated in such regions, demonstrates the ‘ideological congruence’ problem on globalisation that had developed for both mainstream Democrats and Republicans, leading many Rustbelt counties which had voted Obama (or Sanders) to flip to Trump. Counties voting twice for Obama but supporting Trump (see Figure 7) are highly concentrated in the Rustbelt, which historically included the Upper Midwest and interior Industrial Northeast (Bluestone and Harrison, 1982). The Trump-swinging counties in post-industrial Northeastern states were offset by pro-global voters of the urbanised regions like Boston and New York, which have been ‘winners’ under neoliberal globalisation, and dominate the electoral landscape of these states. In the Upper Midwest, particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin, with wider post-industrial restructuring and the lack of ‘superstar cities’ as an offset, the median voter chose Trump. Much to the Democrats’ chagrin, in multiple Rustbelt states, political scientist Schaffner (2017) has found that the number of voters who chose Sanders in the primaries, while ultimately voting for Trump, was greater than the final margin of victory. This is a critical finding and demonstrates how the majoritarian system shapes outcomes: in a proportional system, Sanders’ primary voters would not have needed to vote for Trump, because there would be more viable party options, perhaps a social democratic party led by Sanders.13 Such dynamics do not exist under a PR parliamentary system, whereby several parties can speak to multi-dimensional, unbundled interests. Voters need not engage in strategic voting to ensure against vote ‘wasting’, as occurs in first-past-the-post. Instead, they can vote for any party best representing their interests, assured of proportionate legislative seats. This aligns well with the expansive literature on ideological congruence between voter preferences and party elites (cited earlier), which demonstrate that proportional systems, given they support more parties, have less ‘mismatch’ between voter preferences and parties. Voters in the post-industrial Upper Midwest might instead have had choices of the parties of Clinton, Trump or a third-party featuring Sanders, whose policy positions were more congruent with the interests of voters in post-industrial regions. Political research has long identified a number of distinct US political ‘typologies’ (Ornstein et al., 1987) or cohesive groups of individuals with shared world views, which shape distinct and multiple sets of voting preferences that do not align well with a two-party system.14 Mapping such views onto primary candidate positions to demonstrate these cleavages and the potential value of a proportional system has become common among US political advocacy groups (for example Eberhard, 2016). In applying voter polls to develop such a projection, one analysis during the USA’s 2016 primary season (The Economist, 2016) projected a five-party US system using PR rules would have produced a majority ruling coalition of the hypothetical two parties of Sanders (with 26% of the vote for a hypothetical Social Democratic party) and Clinton (receiving 28% of the vote on behalf of a Liberal party).15 Trump’s People’s Party would have received 26% of the vote. Notably, Trump’s scenario share is comparable to LePen’s in France. These vote shares for Clinton and Trump are also close to the actual total share of adults ultimately voting for each candidate. In November 2016, they received 28 and 27%, respectively, of the eligible voting age population. Forty percent of eligible voters did not turn out. Though this turn-out level was actually the third highest since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, it is far below those in most proportional democracies, consistent with the finding that two-party systems produce diminished turnout due to polarising dynamics. These data also reflect the broader ideological congruence issue: a 60% share of the US population believes a third major party is necessary, an all-time high (Gallup, 2017). Meanwhile, more Americans (39%) identify as independent. This is higher than affiliation with either major party, a recorded 75-year high (Pew Research, 2016). Similarly, a majority expresses dissatisfaction with the two-party system (Pew Research, 2017b). Such findings follow broader polls showing 80% of Americans distrust US government (Pew Research, 2017a), collectively leading journalists to argue US democracy is in a ‘legitimacy crisis’ (Cohen, 2016; Goldberg, 2017). These data reflect majoritarian dynamics: poor ideological congruence on globalisation led to ‘hollowed out’ support for the two parties, making both ripe for ‘hostile takeovers’ by populist candidates, Trump and Sanders, both of whose support was strongest in excluded regions.16 To be sure, ‘vote wasting’ and imperfect representation due to poor ideological congruence exist as issues in all states: red voters in blue states, for example, might experience improved ideological congruence through proportionality’s expanded parties. But on the critical dimension of inequality-generating globalisation, these voters, who live in Coastal regions benefiting from globalisation, are well represented by both major parties, which both chase the benefits of globalisation for the ‘median voter’, ignoring their distributional consequences for those in the country’s interior. This is how US majoritarianism has a spatially unequal effect regarding the representation of voters’ interests as to globalisation. In contrast, Rustbelt voters are left poorly represented by elites of either party regarding the issues of globalisation. These voters face two choices: sit out elections or vote for one of two major party candidates, neither of whom typically well represent their interests. This well explains why voters expressed ‘holding their nose’ to vote or ‘voting with their middle finger’. Just as in 2000, voters in these states ultimately picked a ‘winning’ candidate, who did not win 2016’s popular vote, with just 27% of eligible voters. But in winning the battle, they may yet lose the war. Though Trump may espouse populist views, he may not produce action, given the poor ideological congruence between Trump and Republican Party elites. Trump may thus be only a stopgap in the ongoing ‘legitimation crisis’ in American democracy. The UK: majoritarian dynamics—how Brexit got on the ballot With the UK, a winner-takes-all referendum directly produced the Brexit campaign’s successful result. The leave decision was a simple yes/no, two-option vote: whichever option received the most votes won. How could majoritarian vs. PR systems be relevant in such a binary-choice situation? Winner-take-all electoral rules played a direct role in determining how the issue became a referendum item. UKIP, formed in 1991 and renamed in 1993, during 20 years had grown from a non-issue to a major force in national elections. From garnering 1% of total votes cast in the 1990s, it won 12.6% of votes cast in the 2015 parliamentary elections.17 Reflecting the ‘ideological congruence’ problem of majoritarianism, this rise was driven by interest in a very narrow issue unaddressed by the major parties: anti-immigration and anti-global integration, specifically focussed on the EU. UKIP’s support varied widely across regions, from almost nil in Greater London, which had reaped great gains from global integration, to upwards of 25% in areas bearing the greatest costs of globalisation and integration (for example, the North and Midlands). Despite UKIP’s rapid rise, and again reflecting how winner-take-all rules slow the rise of a new political force, UKIP had only one seat in Parliament. Even this seat was gained under special circumstances.18 Notably, despite receiving the third highest number of votes in the 2015 parliamentary elections, at 12.6%, UKIP accounted for less than 0.2% of the seats: 1 out of 650 (Figure 8). This is exemplative of the imperfect system of voter representation under winner-take-all, single-member district rules. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide UKIP: national election results. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide UKIP: national election results. Contrast these results with UKIP’s performance in the EU elections, which send representatives from the UK to stand in the EU Parliament and are required to be held using proportional rules. In the 2014 election, UKIP won the election: it received 26.6% of the vote, slightly more than Labour or the Conservatives, and carried its pro rata share of seats: 24 of 73. It is difficult to directly compare the EU 2014 and UK 2015 parliamentary results. They were not only held a year apart and under different rules, but there were different stakes. Historically, voters have supported non-ruling parties in ‘lower stakes’ local (and EU) elections in the UK. UKIP support may have been bolstered by a wish to ‘send a message’ to the EU on regulatory over-reach. But support was also higher due to the different PR rules: there are no wasted votes in these elections, and voting strategy is different: one can vote for who one wishes, without worrying whether they can ‘win’, as occurs in first-past-the-post. Against this backdrop, the then-prime minister David Cameron placed Brexit on the ballot (MacShane, 2016). Though this had been discussed for some time, the Conservative party was under no obligation to follow through on this 2015 manifesto item. How had this become a manifesto item, and why had it then been acted upon? Among many relevant factors, one was the majoritarian system pressures that UKIP support placed on Conservatives’ Parliamentary seats. This pressure exerted itself in two ways: first, in globalisation’s ‘losing’ regions, the Conservatives faced risk of outright loss to UKIP: Cameron’s own seat had been targeted by UKIP. But second, UKIP created a margin threat: by siphoning off erstwhile Conservative voters, UKIP might cause the Conservatives to lose seats to Labour by sufficiently shifting the winner-take-all outcome on the margin. This was a serious threat, for if Labour, as the other major party, could swing enough seats away from the Conservatives, they might form a government, either alone or in coalition with minor parties. Brexit was thus placed on the ballot in part to reduce the majoritarian electoral threat of UKIP: given their chance in an up-down Brexit vote, if UKIP lost, margin pressure on otherwise ‘safe’ Conservative seats would likely dissipate. This is representative of the unexpected ways majoritarian dynamics can shape and structure elections. Margin threats, of the variety at work in the fateful decision to place Brexit on the ballot, do not exist under PR, where seats are allocated based on the vote proportion won. Under PR, there would be no risk of Cameron losing his seat to UKIP. The Conservatives would not have been worried about losing a ruling majority: they might not have been in power at all. One can envision multiple ruling coalitions, based on vote share as a determinant of seats, involving Labour and other minor parties (Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Greens), or even the Conservatives in coalition with other pro-EU parties. UKIP, given other parties’ hostilities, would not have been in the coalition. And under PR, Brexit might never have been on the ballot. France: blunting regional resentment with the two-round system France’s electoral system includes separate Presidential and parliamentary elections. Both are conducted using ‘winner-take-all’ rules, but utilising a two-round general election system, designed in the 1960s by Charles de Gaulle at the creation of the Fifth Republic (Bon, 1978; Lijphart, 1994). The design enforced a strong Presidency, while still allowing voters to choose multiple parties; the second round additionally could operate as a ‘check’ against extremist candidates and electoral passions, so voters could stop and reconsider their choice. These rules also blunt the two-party dynamics which single-round systems promote: voters need not be so worried in the first round about ‘vote wasting’, making it possible that a third or fourth party candidate might reach the final round. This gives rise to the French vernacular expression (translated): ‘In the first round vote with your heart, in the second round, your head’. The first and second round votes occur two weeks apart. It should also be noted that France’s varied usage of proportional systems—over time and at almost all sub-national levels of geography—also supports multi-partism. Under the Fourth Republic (pre-1962), national elections were proportional, and in the mid-1980s the parliament briefly returned to proportional rules before reverting to winner-take-all systems. Almost all other elections in France today utilise some form of PR, including the municipal, departmental and regional contests. Many involve multi-member districts, which also blunt two-party dynamics. EU elections are also proportional. This is a contrast to the USA and UK, which have consistently maintained winner-take-all rules at the national scale. These rules are utilised in most sub-national elections (though London and some US cities use forms of PR). To be sure, the French electoral system is less proportional than most others in Continental Europe. Its winner-take-all allocation of seats at the national scale, albeit utilising two rounds, has produced two very strong parties during the Fifth Republic: the Republicans and the Socialists. But the institutional design of this system, which is again less majoritarian than those of the USA and UK, not only clearly blunted the ability of LePen’s Front National to win the election, it also enabled the rapid rise of two new political parties in the wake of the French government’s own ‘legitimacy crisis’ (Gaffney, 2013), Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise. Rather than ‘take over’ existing parties like Trump and Sanders, they formed their own. Both of these latter two new party candidates, who had held posts with the Socialists, turned the presidential contest into a four-way race, and finished first and fourth in the first round. They received a combined 44% of the vote, at 24 and 20%, respectively. Two infant parties would not command such vote shares in the fully majoritarian systems of the USA and UK. Shifts to new parties of such magnitude last occurred in the USA and UK in the early 20th century, during the last period of prolonged political-economic instability. But the French two-round system produces different dynamics. Had either François Fillon, the third-place Republican candidate at 20% of the vote, or Melenchon, in fourth at 20%, won and faced off against Le Pen, who finished second with 21%, the popular wisdom was that they would have won. Le Pen’s Front National ultimately finished with just 33% of the vote in the second round, as Fillon and Melenchon voters defected to Macron. Such defection was aggressively encouraged by the ruling party, the Socialists, whose candidate Benoît Hamon had obtained only 6% of the first round vote. In urging voters from his own party to support another candidate (Macron) who had defeated him in the first round, Hamon said ‘this is deadly serious now’. Factors other than the electoral rules also limited Le Pen’s inability to translate populist anger over globalisation and immigration in key regions. And the rise of these two new parties was also fuelled by factors beyond rising inter-regional inequality, globalisation and the institutional design of electoral systems. Scandals for Fillon, the Republican, and governing mis-steps for the ruling Socialists, had produced widespread popular disgust with and rejection of both parties, symptomatic of a broader ‘legitimation crisis’, and effectively creating an opening for new institutional actors. Yet the two-round system enabled a ‘safe’, low-risk way for voters in disaffected regions to not only vote ‘with the heart’, but also to express their voice via multiple ‘anti-globalisation’ options. They could vote for a candidate representing their views, be it Melenchon or Le Pen. They could also cast a ‘protest vote’, if they chose to do so, due to the institutional design of the election: they could afford to vote for someone other than either of the two major parties, knowing they would have a second chance to choose from the top two candidates from the first round. If Le Pen was a choice in the second round, they could then vote against her. That is ultimately what they did. The second round allowed the voters to ask themselves, ‘Are you sure this is what you want?’, effectively offering a second chance not offered in both the USA and UK, despite interest in such a ‘do-over’ (Falvy, 2017; Stanglin, 2016). Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the other French ‘outsider’ who won—Macron, who is pro-globalisation—can leverage France’s fear of a future Front National win to effectively respond to regionally disaffected voices. The Great Transformation and the early 20th century’s great instability From so few cases, it is difficult to draw causal inference regarding populist electoral success as a response to neoliberal globalisation today. But the relationship between rising inter-regional inequality, globalisation and political instability is not new. This is not the first ‘Great Instability’. It was not until the turn of the 21st century that levels of cross-border global trade recovered to surpass the levels seen during the first era of liberal globalisation, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Berger, 2003, 2017; Combes et al., 2008). Though robust data at a sub-national scale to measure inter-regional disparities is unavailable, this period dovetailed with rising levels of income inequality (Piketty, 2014). Income inequality in the USA and UK, for example, as measured by top earners’ income share, peaked in the 1910s/1920s, not to return to such levels until the 21st century. This prior era, the ‘original’ liberal globalisation, began with industrial capitalism, and ended in a single day (Berger, 2017), as war broke out and London’s moratorium on bills of exchange took force. Despite that era’s ICT revolution, which continued apace, the first globalisation was not unstoppable. It was reversible, concluding not only with closure of borders but also with World Wars, Depression, populism and a severe ‘legitimation crisis’ (Fraser, 2015). It also unfolded within national political contexts marked by imperfect democratic representation. Some industrialising nations lacked democratic representation, with limited suffrage, or systems of empire and monarchy (for example Austria-Hungary). Without well-developed democratic political institutions to act as a ‘countervailing power’ (Galbraith, 1954), the industrialised world transformed, from markets embedded in social relations, conversely, to social relations embedded in markets. In the wake of this ‘Great Transformation’ (Polanyi, 1944) came the backlash and that era’s ‘Great Instability’, which included populist, nationalist social movements. Social unrest arose across the developed world; demands on the institutional rules of political representation produced shifts towards universal suffrage and proportional representation (Lipset and Rokkan, 1967; Rodden, 2008). Electoral systems were dramatically restructured towards proportionality, including many in Continental Europe. The causes of these crises, inextricably tied to two world wars and global economic depression, were multifactorial. But the inability of imperfectly democratic and non-democratic systems of political representation to mediate negative effects of disparities stemming from globalisation no doubt played a role. Parallel dynamics appear to be at work today. Implications and conclusions National populist movements are in part backlashes to regionally uneven development under neoliberal globalisation. Yet neither regional theory, nor comparative politics, individually explain why populist efforts would succeed in the USA and UK alone. Together, however, regional theory and comparative politics add to our understanding of these outcomes. Concerns over global trade and integration neglected for a generation under majoritarian politics, those in excluded regions prevailed by voting against the elites of the two major parties, whose support was hollowed out, as part of the broader legitimation crisis at hand. On the margins, this shifted the result. Would such extreme background conditions been sustained, all else equal, in otherwise functional PR systems? Regional disaffection with globalisation, coupled with majoritarianism, is not the sole explanation of outcomes, which are complex and multiple: race/ethnicity, gender and age are all salient, but this is also true in nations where populists lost. Majoritarian exceptions like Canada, which has avoided both populist victory and as severe a two-party system, are notable. In populist backlashes to globalisation, majoritarian, two-party electoral systems may produce necessary, if not sufficient, conditions for outright populist electoral success in rich democracies. For urban/regional theorists, adding comparative politics brings two gains. It explains why place-based policies may have been less politically compelling in the USA and UK (due to majoritarianism), and it exposes a domain ignored by urban and regional scholarship: the institutional design of national and local elections. How might electoral design, at multiple scales, explain other cross-regional variations? This has not been well considered, and offers new research avenues. Such multi-disciplinary conceptualisation may expose other processes at work in disciplines’ blind spots. Other fields may, in conjunction with urban/regional development, be synthesised to answer other compelling questions of today’s ‘Great Instability’. Conversely, the insertion of urban/regional development could yield gains elsewhere: many political and sociological theories apply well at national scale, for example, but do not well explain sub-national variation. This is also promising for future research. Beyond explaining the USA and UK election, the answer to the question of populist success matters for broader questions which loom. If the last Great Instability started with dynamics so well captured by Polanyi (1944), it ended with the world foreseen by Schumpeter (1942), who examined whether democracy and capitalism could co-exist long term. This remains an unanswered riddle, today reframed as the Great Trilemma, which asks whether globalisation, democracy and national sovereignty can co-exist (Rodrik, 2000, 2011; Stein, 2016). Such tensions were also at the core of Habermas’ theory of legitimation crises in liberal capitalist democracies. How can global capital and, to a lesser extent, labour, move across borders, when such borders are still so politically meaningful, as 2016’s elections demonstrated? Nations remain sovereign and operate under markedly different electoral systems. Until the institutional rules of electoral representation are relatively harmonised, a peaceful co-existence for globalisation, democracy and national sovereignty may prove challenging. The differences in these rules of representation within nationally sovereign countries also expose why Trump’s narrative of a ‘rigged’ system powerfully resonates today. It is true that, in countries without well-developed, stable political parties, two-party majoritarian dynamics have been associated with improved political stability (Duverger, 1972). But today, the political development of parties across rich democracies is generally extensive. Thus, to the median voter in majoritarian democracies, such electoral systems, with their imperfect party representations of voice, may simply seem ‘rigged’. They may inhibit the development of a ‘strong and stable’ globalisation which well incorporates the needs and considerations of the many. Such majoritarian systems not only inhibit political representation, including that of regions, but may undermine the political viability of spatial rebalancing policies, that is, the people, place and local institution policies informed by regional theory. Such conditions, combined with other cleavages, may make ‘legitimation crises’ particularly pernicious in such countries, by enabling populist success. Coalitional PR systems already offer national mechanisms through which dissatisfaction with emerging regional unevenness can continually be expressed and potentially mitigated. Reinvigorated electoral reform proposals under consideration in both the USA and UK, at both local and national scales, focus on changing the electoral ‘rules of the game’ to better represent minority interests and regional voices within the context of reasserted national sovereignty and identity, which may enable political institutions to reclaim legitimacy. They may accordingly affect future patterns of regional development and inequality.19 In as much as such efforts lead to improved political representation and transform the politics of regional resentment and global integration, they interest regional theorists in the USA, UK and beyond. 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( 2010) Populism in the Netherlands after Fortuyn: Rita Verdonk and Geert Wilders compared, Perspectives on European Politics and Society , 11: 22– 38. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Wahby, N. ( 2017) Institutions and populism in the global south—lessons for the Brexit–trump era, City & Community , 16: 139– 144. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Williams, J. C. ( 2017) White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America . Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press. Wilson, W. J. ( 1987) The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public Policy . Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago. Endnotes Footnotes 1 With two cases of recent national populist outright success (N = 2), a binary outcome prediction model (logistic regression) would not likely converge. 2 For the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each, cf. Storper et al. (2015). 3 Canada persists in multi-partism, perhaps reflecting prolonged use of multi-member districts in some areas, its lack of parties in sub-provincial elections, and reflecting a history of “Sectionalism” (Johnston and Cutler, 2009) in provinces; the latter occurs in the UK as well, for example, Scotland. 4 See “An Act for the relief of Doctor Ricardo Vallejo Samala and to provide for congressional redistricting,” approved 14 December 1967 (Public Law 90-196; 2 U.S.C. 2c). 5 France and Italy have alternated between proportional and winner-take-all voting, and exhibited variation with multiple vs. single rounds, and multi-member districts. Germany and New Zealand, with mixed-member proportional systems, are more proportional still. 6 See Capoccia and Kelemen (2007); Collier and Collier (1991); Hall and Taylor (1996); Thelen (1999, 2004); Pierson (2004); Mahoney and Thelen (2010) for application of this framework in political science. 7 To summarise, under majoritarianism’s two parties, the “median,” middle-income voter, will have financial incentive to align with higher-income voters to “soak the poor” via a centre-right party’s low tax, low subsidy socioeconomic policies, under which they are personally better off. Under PR, the median voter can support a centre party, which faces an asymmetry in forming coalitions with a left or right party. This asymmetry stems from logistical difficulties in entirely eliminating redistribution to the poor. The centre party can support the right party, in which redistributive resources are bargained between all three groups (low, medium, high income), or it can support a left party, in which resources are split between low- and medium-income groups through “soak the rich” policies, eliminating the rich from redistribution entirely. In the latter scenario, by splitting the pie with a smaller group, middle-income voters are better off. If such policies shift too far left, the centre party or its voters can readily shift via a new coalition with the right party. 8 Voters’ resentment, concentrated in excluded regions, may be amplified by regional “concentration effects.” Wilson (1987) termed this in association with neighbourhood-scaled “concentrated poverty.” 9 The idea of legitimation crises involving a regional or spatial component is not new. Harvey’s (1981) “spatial fix” is the most well-articulated and well-known example of one way which uneven development does not only contribute to such crises, but, through the “spatial fix,” temporarily helps solve them. 10 Appalachian coal state West Virginia voted Democratic in 8 of 10 elections until 2000, subsequently voting Republican, reaching a record level in 2016. A less extreme trend marks neighbour Kentucky. 11 That both parties were blindsided by this regional congruence issue is unsurprising when one considers the last major third-party candidate who successfully spoke to declining ideological congruence with regards to globalisation, Ross Perot in 1992. Anti-NAFTA, which was then proposed, Perot’s support was decidedly not the Rustbelt. NAFTA’s ultimate effects in the Midwest explains today’s regional pattern. 12 The Electoral College itself, majoritarian by state, is also un-proportional in design, with smaller states over-represented. This is another imperfection in US majoritarianism, beyond this article’s scope or focus. 13 Further demonstrating the importance of this dynamic, Trump’s support among a key Sanders demographic—white, non-college educated voters—in the three states most frequently argued to have unexpectedly tipped the election for Trump (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania)—dwarfs the racial minority decline in turn out in these states, as a recent simulation and statistical analyses by political scientists and sociologists for the Center for American Progress (Griffin et al., 2017) well show. 14 This research, building on Fleishman (1986), has been updated repeatedly over three decades, most prominently by Pew Research (2017b), using political typologies to confirm as many as eight distinct US party clusters. Results have also been confirmed (Lee et al., 2017) using Gaussian mixture model clustering/machine learning techniques. 15 The centre-right Conservative party (Republican primary candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich, at 8%) and Christian Coalition (Texas Senator Ted Cruz, at 11%) would have together received under 20%. 16 To this point, it is worth remembering that Clinton had also “unexpectedly” lost two of the three pivotal “Blue Wall” states in the primary—WI and MI—to Sanders, the left-wing populists, auguring the general election results yet to come. 17 These figures reflect UKIP’s share of total votes; the party did not stand in all constituencies. 18 A Conservative MP switched parties mid-term, resigned, triggering a by-election in 2014. He stood as a UKIP member for the same seat, which he won in both this and the subsequent general 2015 election. 19 Previous UK efforts (failed 2011 Alternative Vote referendum) were not well campaigned, nor effectively designed to fully address representations problem identified here. The Electoral Reform Society’s efforts continue, as do the US’s comparable organisation, FairVote. Partial US electoral reforms, such as ranked choice voting adopted in Maine in 2016, have renewed interest: 19 states have recently proposed proportional reforms; the number of cities using such approaches is growing. US Congress also introduced the FairVote Representation Act (H.R. 3057) in June 2017, to enable use of proportional representation. Appendix Case development and selection criteria methodological note To contrast populist successes in the USA and UK with Brexit and Trump, and isolate the interaction between regional inequality and electoral systems, respectively, a “control” comparison case was needed. A fully proportional country with a well-developed populist party, such as the Netherlands, might seem ideal. But, reflecting the theory advanced herein, here the populist response is absorbed into the system through the proportional system (Van Kessel, 2011; Vossen, 2010). Even with a growth in seats driven by rising vote share, such parties are rarely in ruling coalitions (Norway), but nonetheless directly participate in the legislative process and represent constituents (Otjes and Louwerse, 2015). Meanwhile, reflecting the dialectical, endogenous relationship between electoral systems and inequality, such proportional countries have more robust welfare states, and accordingly lower levels of inequality overall (Manow, 2009). There is thus limited evidence regarding regional inequality to examine. Indeed, these fully proportional cases beg the question: at what point is a system become sufficiently proportional or majoritarian to meaningfully tip the dynamics explained in this article? In fact, given this, the ideal for comparison would be an otherwise “most similar” case to the USA and UK. Specifically, one would seek another large, socio-ethnically diverse and multi-regional polycentric rich democracy, in which there has been significant build-up in globalisation-related inter-regional inequality, and an associated and significant populist backlash and contemporarily timed election, but one where the populists failed to win. To isolate the effect, the critical case would also ideally exhibit just sufficient variation across the posited causal dimension—that is, it would possess stable electoral rules which lack the fully majoritarian dynamics of the USA and the UK—and with that sufficient variation, exhibit an accordingly different populist outcome. In being just sufficiently non-majoritarian, the case would fall just below what qualitative methodologist and political scientist Levitsky (with Way, 2010; cf. Collier and Levitsky, 2009), might call a high “tripwire” for success in certain outcome cases: in this instance, an outright populist win. But being just below the tripwire, the case should still exhibit the causal dynamics, merely in weakened form. This is a qualitative analogue to the quantitative design approach of regression discontinuity: one examines cases immediately above and/or below the key threshold which isolates and demonstrates “treatment” effects. By isolating causal dynamics in weakened form, such a case becomes what methodologist Gerring might term a “pathway case” Gerring (Gerring 2007; Gerring and Cojocaru, 2017). Based on these criteria, France is a well-suited case—it has had only once significant shift in its national electoral representation system, moving briefly in the mid-1980s to PR, otherwise maintaining its two-round system continuously since the early 1960s. It is also a large, socially heterogeneous and polycentric country, which held its elections five months after the USA, and 10 months after the UK. It has also experienced significant globalisation-related regional disparities. Neither France nor the UK is as large and polycentric as the USA, of course, but no rich democracy is. This is a limitation to all simultaneous cross-national and cross-regional comparisons with the USA. Other possible cases, such as Germany and Italy, are problematic for this research design, and were deemed unsuitable. Germany is large, diverse and is polycentric. Unfortunately, it has a much less majoritarian electoral system than the USA or UK: it is mixed-member proportional. As with fully proportional countries, populist sentiment is represented and absorbed in the legislative body, through a minority party. The German case also presents with a serious confounding variable, which also generates unit discontinuity: the dramatic shift in country borders which occurred during the onset of current era of neoliberal globalisation, with the reunification of East and West Germany. Furthermore, the most significant source of inter-regional inequality in Germany remains the former East–West border. The reincorporation of the East into the electoral system further complicates analysis. These features make it a weak case. Similarly, Italy has repeatedly changed its electoral rules, most recently in 2015–2016, shifting back to a proportional system; frequent shifts in electoral rules undermine an ability to “process trace” how a single set of these rules might contribute to populist failure or success in response to globalisation’s disparities. The choice to focus the case development on the 2016–2017 elections as “critical junctures” does not imply that the preceding decades are deemed irrelevant. Scholars operating in historical institutionalism’s critical junctures frame have long debated the importance of critical junctures or moments of crisis, vs. the importance of how institutions evolve during intervals between crises. Leading scholars associated with the evolutionists, such as Thelen (1999, 2004) and Pierson (2000, 2004), acknowledge that critical junctures matter, as they reveal the cumulative impact of these evolutionary shifts and shape how path dependent trajectories may “reset”: the importance of such junctures is exemplified in the discussion of the historical, first globalisation at the end of this article, which gives directly relevant precedent of a dramatic realignment of electoral rules during the last legitimation crisis of globalisation, which constituted a “critical juncture.” In writing an article-length treatment, however, one cannot address both the evolutionary inter-crisis periods and the crisis, too. I have thus focused on the crisis or critical juncture itself, with secondary analysis of the preceding decades. Last, to confirm case features, document analysis of media accounts in national newspapers of record and other peer media outlets was supplemented by unstructured background interviews (N = 14) to confirm case features, with informants with direct experience with elections and/or involvement with political parties or candidates in the USA, UK and France. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society Oxford University Press

Electoral Systems, Regional Resentment and the Surprising Success of Anglo-American Populism

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Abstract

Abstract As populist movements, partly fuelled by voters in excluded regions, drive national electoral backlashes to globalisation, why have their only outright successes come in the USA and UK? Synthesising urban/regional development theory with comparative politics, this article examines a previously unconsidered contributing factor: the interaction of globalisation’s rising inter-regional disparities with majoritarian electoral systems. Majoritarianism’s distinct internal dynamics and imperfect representation mechanisms yield insufficient state responses to rising inter-regional inequality, stoking populist discontent. Global integration may thus be less stable today under majoritarian than proportional electoral rules. This has implications for urban/regional development scholarship, globalisation’s durability and electoral reform. Introduction Harnessing discontent over globalisation and rising inequality, nationalist populist movements are again on the rise across rich democracies. Despite this broad wave of activity, the only cases of outright populist success among rich democracies have occurred in the USA (Trump) and UK (Brexit). A critical role in these ‘surprising’ (Flegenheimer and Barbaro, 2016) electoral outcomes was purportedly played by voters in post-industrial regions (Longworth, 2016; McQuarrie, 2016; Walley, 2017), such as the USA’s Rustbelt and UK’s Midlands and North, left out of the greatest economic gains of global trade. On the margins, they delivered unexpected electoral results. Yet globalisation-related regional disparities and discontent in other rich democracies have not produced outright populist victories. If populist movements are expressed as national electoral backlashes to globalisation, partly fuelled by voters in excluded regions, why have their greatest and surprising successes come in the USA and UK, and not elsewhere? Can urban and regional development theory, or comparative politics, explain this? What does the answer imply for globalisation’s durability? In addressing these questions, I offer two contributions. First, I synthesise regional theory with comparative politics to examine why national populist movements’ recent outright successes have only been in the USA and UK. Among Trump’s and Brexit’s many causes, one relevant and heretofore unconsidered cause is the interaction of globalisation-induced, rising regional disparities with majoritarian national political systems. Regional theory has demonstrated how globalisation has led to rising inter-regional disparities. From comparative politics, Duverger’s law and related research show majoritarian electoral systems generally evolve to two parties, enhance party polarisation and do not well represent some voters’ interests, leading to reduced turnout and weakened ideological congruence between voters and parties. Combining literatures, as globalisation proceeds over time, winner-take-all, first-past-the-post systems stymie the ability of marginalised, excluded regions to effectively express, through political parties, their Hirschmanian (1970) ‘voice’ and dissatisfaction with globalisation’s regionally concentrated negative effects. Such frustrations persist until a ‘legitimation crisis’ (Habermas, 1973) yields opportunity for fuller expression. This occurred a century ago, as it does today. By undermining turnout, majoritarianism may also thus contribute to a globalisation ‘legitimation crisis’. The second contribution is to advance multi-disciplinary, multi-scalar conceptual frameworks in regional development scholarship. Recent notable works (for example Storper et al. (2015)) have transcended disciplinary boundaries by linking regional divergence with new institutionalism from political science and sociology. Such dual theorisations remain rare, due to technical and sociology of knowledge limitations. Technically, multi-scalar quantitative studies (that is, including national and urban/regional scales) are hampered by the ‘small N’ problem of few countries within which to nest regional analyses, limiting the ability to fit robust models.1 From a sociology of knowledge perspective, locally and nationally scaled analyses are each typically conducted in separate fields’ silos, reflecting the reality of ‘traditional binary subfields aimed at the cross-national and urban scales’ (Glasmeier et al., 2008). This article attempts to bridge this divide. In what may be a lengthy period of global instability, such approaches may aid in foreseeing future shocks and evaluating possible policy responses. Nationalist populism’s return: regional backlashes to globalisation? Populist movements raise questions across disciplines, as Trump and Brexit were not produced by a single cause. A host of factors was at work, including race/ethnicity, gender, age, national identity and immigration (Bonikowski, 2017). Many of these factors, however, are also present as serious political issues in other rich democracies, where populists did not win. Scholars may be unlikely to isolate a singular cause which methodologists would consider a veritable ‘smoking gun’ (Bennett and Checkel, 2014; George and Bennett, 2005) for Trump or Brexit. But in popular and academic narratives since both the USA and UK elections, regional inequality—and resentment—is argued to have played a prominent, unforeseen role (Cramer, 2017; Florida, 2016; Goodwin and Heath, 2016; Langella and Manning, 2016; McQuarrie, 2016; Wahby, 2017). Given this posited role of rising regional disparities in driving populist electoral shocks, understanding why populists have succeeded only in the USA and UK takes on heightened importance for urban and regional development scholars. Reflecting globalisation’s broader ‘legitimation crisis’ at hand, those in excluded regions ‘voted for the wrecking ball’ with ‘their middle finger’ (Bodenner, 2016) to elites. This was a protest both against globalisation, as former UK prime minister Gordon Brown (2016) has argued, and ‘progressive neoliberalism’ as well (Fraser, 2017). In so doing, voters also defied big data predictions (Bell, 2017). Some initial, econometric autopsies by regional scholars have tried to counter this narrative. They find little independent regional effect or categorical differences in electoral behaviour vs. prior elections. UK results largely reflect age and qualifications of voters (Manley et al., 2017), with little independent regional effect; the USA’s results reflect a deepening of existing, long-term voter behaviour trends along related lines (Johnston et al., 2017). These analyses ignore a serious empirical issue: voter age and qualifications are not evenly distributed, but highly regionally concentrated. This is so well established as to be a stylised fact of the day. It is also well established that this spatial concentration is neither random nor exogenous to the question at hand, but endogenous. Predictive individual characteristics of Trump and Leave voters are unevenly distributed across regions in both countries because of the powerful forces of regional agglomeration. These forces have drawn young, highly skilled, socially diverse labourers to leading regions’ high value-add ICT and finance industries so critical in constructing globalisation today (Florida, 2016; Glaeser, 2011; Storper et al., 2015). These forces accelerated during several decades (Moretti, 2012) of neoliberal globalisation. It is the effects of these forces of globalisation which voters were responding to in these same elections (Rodrik, 2017). This endogeneity problem applies not just to age and education, but to race/ethnicity: in the USA, for example, white, native-born Trump voters were disproportionately in non-metropolitan areas, which have become whiter compared to the rest of the USA, in part the result of globalisation-fuelled migration patterns.(Frey, 2017) Similar UK trends prevail (Easton, 2013). In particular, the deindustrialised American Rustbelt and North of England provided unforeseen, unexpected support in 2016’s twin electoral shocks (Florida, 2016; Goodwin and Heath, 2016). Both regions’ economies have comparatively lost out, as comparatively weak net beneficiaries from their respective nations’ trade gains (Autor et al., 2016; Colantone and Stanig, 2016; Hakobyan and McLaren, 2016; Martin and Gardiner, 2018). Northern and Rustbelt voters had been expected to support centrist, orthodox mainstream positions—of Labour and, to a lesser degree, the Conservatives—of remaining in the EU, and of centrist American Democrats’ and Republicans’ pro-globalisation stances. On the margins, they did not. Comparatively left out of neoliberal growth regimes in place since the Thatcher-Reagan eras, as EU integration and globalisation gains flowed disproportionately to finance and other highly skilled workers in the City, Britons voted to leave the EU. A similar dynamic, with Coastal Cities cast as London, describes the USA, plainly visible in election results (Figures 1 and 2). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA) by majority outcome in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA) by majority outcome in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA): box plot distribution by quartile of votes in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Anglo-American populism: local authority districts (GB) and counties (USA): box plot distribution by quartile of votes in 2016 Brexit and presidential elections. Such regional electoral cleavages align well with existing urban/regional development theories, which explain rising inter-regional inequality over 40 years of neoliberal globalisation. In the UK, this maps onto the ‘North-South’ divide (Martin, 1988, 2004), aligning with popular notions: Brexit is the consequence of the economic bargain struck in the early 1980s, whereby we waved goodbye to the security and certainties of the postwar settlement, and were given instead an economic model that has just about served the most populous parts of the country, while leaving too much of the rest to anxiously decline. (Harris, 2016) In the USA, Trump’s election reflects a similar fault line, between urban development scholars’ ‘creative class’ regions (Florida, 2003, 2014) or ‘superstar cities’ (Gyourko et al., 2006), and everywhere else. This divide’s electoral salience was well articulated by filmmaker Michael Moore. In July 2016, in the wake of Brexit and months before Trump’s election, he became the rare observer to predict which states would unexpectedly vote Trump, correctly naming all the Upper Midwestern states in the surprising ‘Blue Wall’ collapse, a ‘Rust Belt Brexit’ (Moore, 2016). Though regional theory helps explain these two spatial cleavages, it does not well explain why populists succeeded only in the USA and UK, but not elsewhere. France has similarly seen rising and significant inter-regional income inequality under neoliberal globalisation (Figure 3), with current levels near the UK’s at the T2 level of geography. Mirroring voter trends in the USA and UK, Marine Le Pen’s support in the 2017 Presidential election was highest in regions excluded from globalisation’s gains and bearing its costs—the French ‘rustbelt’ near the Belgian border, and in foreign immigration centres near Calais and the South (Figure 3). Beyond France, populist and ‘anti-establishment, right- and left-wing parties’ share of votes across Europe have doubled this century, as globalisation and EU integration has deepened (Heino, 2017). And yet outright success has been elusive, outside the USA and UK. Why? This result is even paradoxical, given the winner-take-all voting systems in these two countries: populists needed majorities to win. How was this accomplished? To explain these differences, I combine regional theory with comparative politics, reviewing theories from each, in turn. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide French second-round presidential election, 2017—department results by majority outcome and box plot quartile distribution. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide French second-round presidential election, 2017—department results by majority outcome and box plot quartile distribution. Figure 4. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities: ratio of GDP per capita, richest/poorest regions (OECD TL2; Piacentini, 2014). Figure 4. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities: ratio of GDP per capita, richest/poorest regions (OECD TL2; Piacentini, 2014). Regional theory and the emergence of ‘different worlds’ Regional theory explains the emergence of two ‘different worlds’: the economic worlds of Trump and Leave voters, as compared to that of Clintonites and Remainers. Regions have long grown at different rates (Kaldor, 1970). But as, noted by Moretti (2012), the last three decades have witnessed the ‘Great Divergence’. Variation in per capita regional incomes increased, reversing the prior period’s convergence. There is strong evidence this divergence reflects regional specialisation under globalisation (Moretti, 2012; Storper, 2013; Storper et al., 2015). As some regions specialised in high value-added sectors of the economy, they accrued outsized shares of the income growth. While urban and regional scholars agree that regional specialisation under globalisation is driving rising inter-regional inequality, they disagree on specialisation’s underlying and proximate causes, driving different regional policy recommendations. To expeditiously review these differences, I deploy Storper et al.’s (2015) typology to adumbrate competing explanatory schools: New Economic Geography (NEG), Regional Science/Urban Economics (RS/UE) and Institutionalist/Economic Sociology (I/ES).2 For NEG, rising inter-regional income differences is primarily a function of place, rooted in different factor endowments and other place-related drivers, giving rise to variation in industrial and functional clusters in different regions, with different returns. Governments can enact cluster policies to remove cluster development barriers (Chatterji et al., 2014; Delgado et al., 2014, Ketels, 2013). But other policies may unintentionally exacerbate ‘natural’ market differences generated by clustering, by remaining facially agnostic regarding place (Martin, 2015). Governments might seek to implement ‘place-neutral’ (Martin et al., 2016, 2018) or ‘place-sensitive’ (Iammarino et al., 2017) policies as a distributional offset. For RS/UE scholars, inter-regional income differences reflect labour market sorting and migration/mobility. Skilled individuals increasingly migrate to certain amenities-rich regions (for example Silicon Valley or London), generating outsized returns. Others remain stuck in regions ‘left behind’. As lower-skilled workers would (Moretti, 2012; Storper et al., 2015) be better off migrating to highly productive regions, this informs regional policy solutions addressing this geographical mismatch. Examples include vouchers/credits to improve inter-regional labour mobility (Caliendo et al., 2017) or reducing land regulations in highly productive regions (Hsieh and Moretti, 2015). For I/ES, the problem is weak civic capacity, limited social capital and incomplete civic institutional networks, resulting in a lack of nimble ‘bridging institutions’ at the urban and regional scale with which to respond to and engage with a changing global economy (Briggs, 2008; Safford, 2009; Storper et al., 2015). Solutions focus on constructing more robust civic institutions at the city-regional scale, so as to build more compelling public and private responses to global economic change, and with which to claim resources from national and supranational institutions, including national governments and the EU. This palette of regional policy solutions imposes search and transaction costs on excluded populations, without always offering clear near-term improvements in relative income. Those in targeted regions, for example, may lack skills to participate in NEG’s cluster strategies. The ‘most appropriate’ cluster for a region’s factor endowment and assets may be low-returning: as Storper et al. (2015) observed, a region specialised in arts or logistics—like Los Angeles—will not accrue income returns like a tech-focused cluster—San Francisco and Silicon Valley—and fall behind. Meanwhile, absent success in lobbying for strong spatial rebalancing policies to offset uneven returns generated by specialisation, what can those in globalisation’s ‘losing’ regions do? Move, as RS/UE scholarship would suggest? They may not want or be able to, due to social and financial costs incurred, social ties (that is, sunk social capital costs) or other place-based factors. Williams (2017), building on Lamont (2000), demonstrates how dislocated workers can be especially resistant: their local community may be their most valuable asset, network and source of social meaning. Last, given limited personal and individual resources such individuals may have at their disposal, they may lack skills to rebuild stronger local ‘bridging’ institutions, as I/ES scholarship proposes. Citizens in globalisation’s losing regions have another option, a way to express dissatisfaction with current institutional arrangements. It imposes lower search and transaction costs. To express dismay, these individuals need not move, nor retrain for a new industry, nor affiliate with local institutions. Instead, they can vote. This is what such disaffected individuals did in the 2016 elections in the USA and UK. But how individuals vote matters, and the institutional design of voting systems affects how regional resentments over rising inequality are expressed in different national contexts. Regional specialisation under globalisation shaped the UK’s and USA’s different worlds of North-South and Rustbelt-Coastal Cities; voting rules have similarly shaped different electoral worlds. Compared to other rich democracies, the USA and UK inhabit a starkly different electoral world. While regional theory explains rising inter-regional income inequality within countries, and its connection to globalisation and supranational integration, it does not explain its comparative electoral and political consequences, nor does it link these regional inequalities to national political outcomes. It does not explain why populist movements dramatically succeeded in the USA and UK alone. Cross-national variations in electoral systems are largely omitted from such scholarship. Despite globalisation’s supranational integration projects (NAFTA, EU), nations remain the primary, if contested, sovereigns. Nations and electoral system still matter, as these recent political contests well showed. How do those in excluded regions influence these results under different electoral rules? Before answering, I turn to comparative politics. Comparative politics: majoritarian vs. proportional representation One of the most significant stylised facts to emerge from modern comparative politics is Duverger’s (1972) law. Assuming a fixed level of social diversity, electoral systems with double-ballot, multi-member district, and proportional voting (hereafter ‘proportional representation’ or simply ‘PR’) favour multi-partism, while those with single-round, single-member district, first-past-the-post/winner take all voting (hereafter, ‘majoritarian’) evolve towards two parties. Systems can be classified along a spectrum between two ideal types of ‘most proportional’ to ‘most majoritarian’, based on their mix of characteristics. Within countries, there can be deviations in how elections are conducted at supranational (for example EU), national and sub-national scales, further hybridising the mix between ideal types. Duverger’s law is not iron-clad. There are exceptions not well explained by Duverger alone: Canada currently persists in a multi-party system despite having moved to a largely majoritarian system.3 The USA and UK have persisted in maintaining among the most majoritarian electoral systems among rich democracies (Figure 5). In both countries, national and most sub-national elections are conducted with winner-take-all, single-member districts. Critically, they have operated this way for a long period; the USA eliminated multi-member Congressional districts in 1842, but a handful persisted until the 1960s.4 Most Northern European countries are fully proportional; the entire nation is effectively a single parliamentary district with many seats, allocated among parties based on their proportional share of the national vote. France, Italy, Germany, and others occupy a middle ground.5 Figure 5. View largeDownload slide Spectrum of current or recent electoral systems in national representation in developed democracies: from majoritarian (winner-takes-all) to proportional. Figure 5. View largeDownload slide Spectrum of current or recent electoral systems in national representation in developed democracies: from majoritarian (winner-takes-all) to proportional. These differences in institutional design create two ‘different worlds’ of electoral politics: one majoritarian and one proportional, each with distinct dynamics. Majoritarian systems slow the development of new political forces into competitive parties or accelerate a diminishing one’s decline (Duverger, 1972); this dynamic is more severe when the new party’s base of support is spatially diffuse (Calvo and Rodden, 2015). This creates a self-reinforcing internal dynamic: institutionalists refer to this as ‘increasing returns to scale’ in their institutional arrangements (Pierson, 2000, 2004), producing a lock-in along a dependent path, until ‘critical juncture’ punctuates internal equilibrium, and opportunities for significant path change ensues.6 This model well describes the comparative political development of electoral systems. Once put into place, majoritarian rules perpetuate themselves: with one winner per district, strategic voting is encouraged as individuals avoid ‘wasting their vote’ or ‘spoiler effects’ where too many candidates split support. Voters choose not to support parties deemed unviable, discouraging further development of third and other parties, further consolidating power for two parties. Such systems self-perpetuate until crisis, as occurred a century ago, when in the wake of wars and economic crises, many European nations shifted from non-democratic or majoritarian systems to more proportional ones (Cusack et al., 2010; Manow, 2009; Rodden, 2008; Rokkan, 1970). Beyond evolution towards two parties, post-Duverger research has established other majoritarian dynamics. In moving to two parties, such systems will not well represent the unbundled and multi-dimensional interests of voters, reducing ‘ideological congruence’ between voters and parties/elites (Cox, 1990, 1997; Golder and Ferland, 2017; Golder and Stramski, 2010; Powell, 2009), while producing a polarised electorate and reducing turnout (Duverger, 1972; Iversen and Soskice, 2006; Matakos et al., 2015; Riker, 1982). Some of these effects reflect median voter dynamics: two parties move to the centre to capture median voters, pay less attention to minority/specialised interests, reducing turnout. As such dynamics unfold, feedback effects on electorates accrue, exacerbating polarisation around the two parties’ platforms in the underlying voter distribution. In contrast, all else being equal, PR systems will spend more on redistribution and transfers, yielding a lower level of inequality (Manow, 2009), regional or not. As has been empirically shown using a game theoretic approach, they will also have a centre-“left” partisan orientation, due to different ‘median voter’ and class coalition internal dynamics (Cusack et al., 2007; Iversen and Soskice, 2006).7 Due to these dynamics, majoritarian systems skew centre-right, are less redistributive (Cusack et al., 2010; Iversen and Soskice, 2006; Manow, 2009) and reduce ideological congruence, becoming less effective in representing the needs of multi-dimensional, unbundled interests. Missing from these analyses is direct consideration of inter-regional disparities as such an interest. Synthesis of regional theory and comparative politics: majoritarian systems exacerbate the national politics of regional resentment Combining urban/regional development theory with comparative politics, an explanation of why and how populists won in the USA and UK alone, can be more clearly framed. From regional theory, a ‘by-product’ of neoliberal globalisation’s regional specialisation and integration has been greater inter-regional income inequality and divergence. But as certain regions become disproportionately ‘left out’, how do elected representatives and voters respond? In the USA and UK, two of the longest-running and most majoritarian electoral systems among the rich democracies, responses are mediated by majoritarianism’s ideal-type dynamics, adumbrated above. Local or regional ‘seat-specific’ issues, that is, matters disproportionately affecting a local electoral jurisdiction, can be framed as ‘minority’ interests, more readily unbundled from the major parties’ platforms. From comparative politics, reflecting declining ‘ideological congruence’, such interests may be ‘crowded out’ for lengthy periods of time in national parties under first-past-the-post voting, which produces two parties competing for median voters. The deindustrialisation in globalisation’s wake, for example, becomes an issue for Members of Parliament (MPs) from the North or Rustbelt. But such globalisation-related concerns do not become a compelling national issue which either major national party perceives they must address to capture the median voter nationwide. This is how globalisation-induced inter-regional inequality plays a role in declining ‘ideological congruence’ between voters and parties under majoritarianism, contributing to a crisis in their legitimacy. Under PR, such specific interests can be well represented politically at the national scale, either through spatially diffused voting for minor parties or through spatially concentrated voting in a single region or section. Under PR, a new party representing the concerns of dislocated industrial workers, for example, could receive 35% of the vote in deindustrialised regions, equating to 10% of national votes, and obtain 10% of seats. In the USA’s and UK’s majoritarian systems, such results yield no legislative seats. This was precisely the experience of the UK Independence Party (UKIP, see below). The two-party dynamics produced by majoritarian electoral systems will thus be less responsive to globalisation’s rising regional inequality. They impede the ability of regionally concentrated, dislocated workers to effectively voice ongoing dissatisfaction with globalisation-associated regional inequality/dislocation. Majoritarian systems may over time cumulatively allow consequences of regional unevenness to remain under-voiced in, and less effectively addressed by, national political institutions. Lacking an effective voice to make claims on the state, social or industrial policy responses to the plights of regional economies dislocated by globalisation may be weak or insufficient (Figure 6). This explains why calls for spatially redistributive, or at least ‘place-sensitive’, regional development policies, have not been met by stronger action in the USA and UK. Indeed, the USA did not adopt a national cluster policy for regional development until 2010 (Delgado et al., 2014). Figure 6. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities in electoral systems: schematic majoritarian → hybrid → Proportional. Figure 6. View largeDownload slide Regional disparities in electoral systems: schematic majoritarian → hybrid → Proportional. Combined with other factors, such as immigration-related tensions, spatial imbalances in two-party systems build to levels sufficient to raise the probability of electoral shock and crisis, as rising polarisation, along with declining ‘ideological congruence’, undermines turnout, in turn undermining the legitimacy of both the two parties and the two-party system. Over time, this may contribute to what Habermas (1973) termed a ‘legitimation crisis’, as voters come to distrust major parties and lose confidence in their ability to represent them. As majoritarian dynamics reduce turnout—Trump and Brexit election turnout rates pale compared to those of most PR countries—this further increases the power of such voters on the margins to unexpectedly shift results. These mechanisms connect the USA’s and UK’s rising spatial imbalances to the outcome of Trump and Brexit. Utilising Hirschman’s (1970) ‘Exit, Voice, and Loyalty’, the imperfect representation mechanism of majoritarian electoral systems frustrates attempts to assert a ‘voice’ by dislocated workers. They face two-party choices, both of which, over time having shifted their platforms to chase median voters, come to exhibit weak ideological congruence with their globalisation-related regional disparity concerns.8 This weak congruence and lack of party responsiveness increase potential for the two parties to experience a ‘legitimation crisis’, with regional disparities key in today’s ‘steering problems’ in liberal democracies. As articulated by Habermas: in liberal capitalism, crises appear in the form of unresolved economic steering problems . . . crises become endemic because temporarily unresolved steering problems, which the process of economic growth produces at more or less regular intervals, as such endanger social integration. (Habermas, 1973) Habermas theorised such crises, which can manifest as political, economic or cultural, as endemic to liberal capitalist democracies, due to their inherent political-economic tensions. But they may also be spatial. The current case demonstrates one such way in which such a crisis can be exacerbated, through a crisis of representation and political voice which has a distinctly regional and spatial component.9 As Hirschman explained, when voice is ineffective in achieving redress, individuals will instead choose ‘exit’. In this case, when excluded regions’ voices, in expressing frustration over the effects of global integration, are ignored in national political contests in repeated electoral cycles, they may opt, when given the chance, to support exiting institutional arrangements most associated with neoliberal globalisation. Britons voted to exit the EU. Americans elected a candidate promising exit, downsize or restructure of the UN, NAFTA, TPP, NATO, the Paris Climate Accord and other multilateral globalisation agreements. This is not to say that regional inequality is caused by majoritarian electoral systems. Rather, the two interact to pernicious consequence. The process of regional specialisation under neoliberal globalisation has heightened inter-regional disparities most everywhere. This is well established. At issue is how this inequality interacts with majoritarian systems, producing imperfect representation on this issue and resulting in a weak and insufficient policy response by the state. Electoral rules are thus an endogenous factor in exacerbating inter-regional inequality, over time, producing what Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) term a ‘vicious cycle’. In this manner, majoritarian systems exacerbate the national politics of regional resentment, to extend Katherine Cramer’s (2016) term. Theory testing via populism on the ballot: research method and design Quantitatively testing this multi-scalar theory is challenging due to the ‘small N’ problem, further complicated by an ‘apples and oranges’ problem (Locke and Thelen, 1995): different countries, even if similarly majoritarian or proportional, have nuanced but significant differences in electoral procedures. I thus use a qualitative approach, ‘process tracing’ (Bennett and Checkel, 2014), through ‘contextualized comparisons’ (Locke and Thelen, 1995) via brief, analytic case studies of how populist backlashes to rising inter-regional inequality and globalisation were comparatively expressed in different electoral contexts, with a focus on 2016–2017 elections. Though such dynamics build up and evolve over time, path-dependently, these elections arguably constitute what historical institutionalists call ‘critical junctures’, with accordingly significant consequences. In the cases, I primarily focus on the critical juncture events, while secondarily analysing preceding build-up. I use France as a ‘pathway’ case with which to contrast the USA and UK. For detail on case selection criteria and the choice to focus on critical junctures, see the Appendix’s Methodological Note. I thus develop analytic cases of three of the highest profile populist elections of 2016–2017: the USA’s 2016 Presidential Election, the UK’s 2016 Brexit Ballot Referendum and the French 2017 Presidential Election. The two cases of ‘success’ (USA and UK) are in the two countries possessing the longest-running most majoritarian electoral systems among rich democracies. The third case, of ‘failure’, is France, with a mixed-feature system. Prima facie, the theory advanced here, appears problematic. In the USA, Hillary Clinton won the majority of votes cast. How does her loss reflect majoritarian dynamics? She won more votes, yet lost. This seems dissonant with winner-take-all rules. In the UK, an outright majority voted Leave, which won the Brexit ballot. How is PR relevant? How would it have affected the process? The USA: majoritarian by state In the USA, the presidential electoral system is majoritarian, but it is majoritarian by state. And the states containing the metropolitan regions most ravaged by deindustrialisation, globalisation and integration were states that shifted, in both the primaries and the election, from historic support of mainstream party elites to populists. In the final election, this meant (i) shifting from historic support of Democrats to Trump or (ii) strengthening to support Trump vis a vis their historic trend. This includes the former centre-left, organised labour, Democratic-leaning states in the Upper Midwest. Here, where deindustrialised regions have been negatively affected by globalisation and technological change, the marginal decline in Democratic support at the state level—perhaps exacerbated by outmigration-fuelled declining population in these regions—contributed to these states ultimately shifting from Obama to Trump (see Figure 7). In part, due to globalisation-related migration flows, these states, as noted earlier, have become relatively older and whiter. Also strengthening to support Trump were states negatively affected by both global integration in energy markets, and by the shift towards clean energy, which has been accelerated by multilateral climate agreements, for example Paris Climate Accord.10 Figure 7. View largeDownload slide Shifting US states and counties: regions which voted for Obama then Trump. Figure 7. View largeDownload slide Shifting US states and counties: regions which voted for Obama then Trump. Hillary Clinton’s (2017) self-autopsy demonstrates acute awareness of her own shortcomings in addressing these regional concerns. Besides noting her failure to visit Wisconsin in the general election period, she states one of her greatest campaign errors occurred in Ohio. Here, at the nexus of the Rustbelt and Appalachian Coal Country, Clinton said, ‘We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business’, a comment which ‘haunted’ her campaign. With her mixed and shifting support on globalisation’s critical issues such as energy and trade (NAFTA, TPP, Paris Climate Accord), Clinton could capture the national median voter. Such thinking informed the Democratic party’s pro-globalisation shifts over two decades on free trade and immigration (Beinart, 2017; Penn and Stein, 2017) and reflects how majoritarian systems lead to weakened ideological congruence (Golder and Ferland, 2017) between voters and party elites, as the latter shift in pursuit of the median voter, contributing to the build-up towards a ‘legitimation crisis’.11 But under a system which is majoritarian by state, she needed to be able to pivot to and capture the ‘median voter’ in the median state, that is, in at least a few deindustrialising states which might tip the Electoral College.12 The pro-global, Coastal State voter was the median voter nationwide, which she captured. She won the popular vote majority. But such individuals were hyperconcentrated in certain states because of ongoing regional agglomeration and divergence. Further reflecting the migration effects of globalisation, as referenced earlier (Frey, 2017), how many Democratic voters from these Rust Belt states had relocated for jobs in Coastal or other opportunity-rich states, additionally shifting the median voter balance in each state? These figures are not yet available, but could also be significant. The median voter in the median state was thus a different creature entirely from the national median voter. For these voters, social and economic interests, tenuously married as Democrats tacked to centre in the 1990s with a neoliberal, pro-globalisation party platform, had begun to unbundle, shifting to reflect regional concerns on deindustrialisation, globalisation and good jobs. Trump’s economic nationalism, anathema to Clinton, well resonated in such regions, demonstrates the ‘ideological congruence’ problem on globalisation that had developed for both mainstream Democrats and Republicans, leading many Rustbelt counties which had voted Obama (or Sanders) to flip to Trump. Counties voting twice for Obama but supporting Trump (see Figure 7) are highly concentrated in the Rustbelt, which historically included the Upper Midwest and interior Industrial Northeast (Bluestone and Harrison, 1982). The Trump-swinging counties in post-industrial Northeastern states were offset by pro-global voters of the urbanised regions like Boston and New York, which have been ‘winners’ under neoliberal globalisation, and dominate the electoral landscape of these states. In the Upper Midwest, particularly in Michigan and Wisconsin, with wider post-industrial restructuring and the lack of ‘superstar cities’ as an offset, the median voter chose Trump. Much to the Democrats’ chagrin, in multiple Rustbelt states, political scientist Schaffner (2017) has found that the number of voters who chose Sanders in the primaries, while ultimately voting for Trump, was greater than the final margin of victory. This is a critical finding and demonstrates how the majoritarian system shapes outcomes: in a proportional system, Sanders’ primary voters would not have needed to vote for Trump, because there would be more viable party options, perhaps a social democratic party led by Sanders.13 Such dynamics do not exist under a PR parliamentary system, whereby several parties can speak to multi-dimensional, unbundled interests. Voters need not engage in strategic voting to ensure against vote ‘wasting’, as occurs in first-past-the-post. Instead, they can vote for any party best representing their interests, assured of proportionate legislative seats. This aligns well with the expansive literature on ideological congruence between voter preferences and party elites (cited earlier), which demonstrate that proportional systems, given they support more parties, have less ‘mismatch’ between voter preferences and parties. Voters in the post-industrial Upper Midwest might instead have had choices of the parties of Clinton, Trump or a third-party featuring Sanders, whose policy positions were more congruent with the interests of voters in post-industrial regions. Political research has long identified a number of distinct US political ‘typologies’ (Ornstein et al., 1987) or cohesive groups of individuals with shared world views, which shape distinct and multiple sets of voting preferences that do not align well with a two-party system.14 Mapping such views onto primary candidate positions to demonstrate these cleavages and the potential value of a proportional system has become common among US political advocacy groups (for example Eberhard, 2016). In applying voter polls to develop such a projection, one analysis during the USA’s 2016 primary season (The Economist, 2016) projected a five-party US system using PR rules would have produced a majority ruling coalition of the hypothetical two parties of Sanders (with 26% of the vote for a hypothetical Social Democratic party) and Clinton (receiving 28% of the vote on behalf of a Liberal party).15 Trump’s People’s Party would have received 26% of the vote. Notably, Trump’s scenario share is comparable to LePen’s in France. These vote shares for Clinton and Trump are also close to the actual total share of adults ultimately voting for each candidate. In November 2016, they received 28 and 27%, respectively, of the eligible voting age population. Forty percent of eligible voters did not turn out. Though this turn-out level was actually the third highest since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, it is far below those in most proportional democracies, consistent with the finding that two-party systems produce diminished turnout due to polarising dynamics. These data also reflect the broader ideological congruence issue: a 60% share of the US population believes a third major party is necessary, an all-time high (Gallup, 2017). Meanwhile, more Americans (39%) identify as independent. This is higher than affiliation with either major party, a recorded 75-year high (Pew Research, 2016). Similarly, a majority expresses dissatisfaction with the two-party system (Pew Research, 2017b). Such findings follow broader polls showing 80% of Americans distrust US government (Pew Research, 2017a), collectively leading journalists to argue US democracy is in a ‘legitimacy crisis’ (Cohen, 2016; Goldberg, 2017). These data reflect majoritarian dynamics: poor ideological congruence on globalisation led to ‘hollowed out’ support for the two parties, making both ripe for ‘hostile takeovers’ by populist candidates, Trump and Sanders, both of whose support was strongest in excluded regions.16 To be sure, ‘vote wasting’ and imperfect representation due to poor ideological congruence exist as issues in all states: red voters in blue states, for example, might experience improved ideological congruence through proportionality’s expanded parties. But on the critical dimension of inequality-generating globalisation, these voters, who live in Coastal regions benefiting from globalisation, are well represented by both major parties, which both chase the benefits of globalisation for the ‘median voter’, ignoring their distributional consequences for those in the country’s interior. This is how US majoritarianism has a spatially unequal effect regarding the representation of voters’ interests as to globalisation. In contrast, Rustbelt voters are left poorly represented by elites of either party regarding the issues of globalisation. These voters face two choices: sit out elections or vote for one of two major party candidates, neither of whom typically well represent their interests. This well explains why voters expressed ‘holding their nose’ to vote or ‘voting with their middle finger’. Just as in 2000, voters in these states ultimately picked a ‘winning’ candidate, who did not win 2016’s popular vote, with just 27% of eligible voters. But in winning the battle, they may yet lose the war. Though Trump may espouse populist views, he may not produce action, given the poor ideological congruence between Trump and Republican Party elites. Trump may thus be only a stopgap in the ongoing ‘legitimation crisis’ in American democracy. The UK: majoritarian dynamics—how Brexit got on the ballot With the UK, a winner-takes-all referendum directly produced the Brexit campaign’s successful result. The leave decision was a simple yes/no, two-option vote: whichever option received the most votes won. How could majoritarian vs. PR systems be relevant in such a binary-choice situation? Winner-take-all electoral rules played a direct role in determining how the issue became a referendum item. UKIP, formed in 1991 and renamed in 1993, during 20 years had grown from a non-issue to a major force in national elections. From garnering 1% of total votes cast in the 1990s, it won 12.6% of votes cast in the 2015 parliamentary elections.17 Reflecting the ‘ideological congruence’ problem of majoritarianism, this rise was driven by interest in a very narrow issue unaddressed by the major parties: anti-immigration and anti-global integration, specifically focussed on the EU. UKIP’s support varied widely across regions, from almost nil in Greater London, which had reaped great gains from global integration, to upwards of 25% in areas bearing the greatest costs of globalisation and integration (for example, the North and Midlands). Despite UKIP’s rapid rise, and again reflecting how winner-take-all rules slow the rise of a new political force, UKIP had only one seat in Parliament. Even this seat was gained under special circumstances.18 Notably, despite receiving the third highest number of votes in the 2015 parliamentary elections, at 12.6%, UKIP accounted for less than 0.2% of the seats: 1 out of 650 (Figure 8). This is exemplative of the imperfect system of voter representation under winner-take-all, single-member district rules. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide UKIP: national election results. Figure 8. View largeDownload slide UKIP: national election results. Contrast these results with UKIP’s performance in the EU elections, which send representatives from the UK to stand in the EU Parliament and are required to be held using proportional rules. In the 2014 election, UKIP won the election: it received 26.6% of the vote, slightly more than Labour or the Conservatives, and carried its pro rata share of seats: 24 of 73. It is difficult to directly compare the EU 2014 and UK 2015 parliamentary results. They were not only held a year apart and under different rules, but there were different stakes. Historically, voters have supported non-ruling parties in ‘lower stakes’ local (and EU) elections in the UK. UKIP support may have been bolstered by a wish to ‘send a message’ to the EU on regulatory over-reach. But support was also higher due to the different PR rules: there are no wasted votes in these elections, and voting strategy is different: one can vote for who one wishes, without worrying whether they can ‘win’, as occurs in first-past-the-post. Against this backdrop, the then-prime minister David Cameron placed Brexit on the ballot (MacShane, 2016). Though this had been discussed for some time, the Conservative party was under no obligation to follow through on this 2015 manifesto item. How had this become a manifesto item, and why had it then been acted upon? Among many relevant factors, one was the majoritarian system pressures that UKIP support placed on Conservatives’ Parliamentary seats. This pressure exerted itself in two ways: first, in globalisation’s ‘losing’ regions, the Conservatives faced risk of outright loss to UKIP: Cameron’s own seat had been targeted by UKIP. But second, UKIP created a margin threat: by siphoning off erstwhile Conservative voters, UKIP might cause the Conservatives to lose seats to Labour by sufficiently shifting the winner-take-all outcome on the margin. This was a serious threat, for if Labour, as the other major party, could swing enough seats away from the Conservatives, they might form a government, either alone or in coalition with minor parties. Brexit was thus placed on the ballot in part to reduce the majoritarian electoral threat of UKIP: given their chance in an up-down Brexit vote, if UKIP lost, margin pressure on otherwise ‘safe’ Conservative seats would likely dissipate. This is representative of the unexpected ways majoritarian dynamics can shape and structure elections. Margin threats, of the variety at work in the fateful decision to place Brexit on the ballot, do not exist under PR, where seats are allocated based on the vote proportion won. Under PR, there would be no risk of Cameron losing his seat to UKIP. The Conservatives would not have been worried about losing a ruling majority: they might not have been in power at all. One can envision multiple ruling coalitions, based on vote share as a determinant of seats, involving Labour and other minor parties (Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Greens), or even the Conservatives in coalition with other pro-EU parties. UKIP, given other parties’ hostilities, would not have been in the coalition. And under PR, Brexit might never have been on the ballot. France: blunting regional resentment with the two-round system France’s electoral system includes separate Presidential and parliamentary elections. Both are conducted using ‘winner-take-all’ rules, but utilising a two-round general election system, designed in the 1960s by Charles de Gaulle at the creation of the Fifth Republic (Bon, 1978; Lijphart, 1994). The design enforced a strong Presidency, while still allowing voters to choose multiple parties; the second round additionally could operate as a ‘check’ against extremist candidates and electoral passions, so voters could stop and reconsider their choice. These rules also blunt the two-party dynamics which single-round systems promote: voters need not be so worried in the first round about ‘vote wasting’, making it possible that a third or fourth party candidate might reach the final round. This gives rise to the French vernacular expression (translated): ‘In the first round vote with your heart, in the second round, your head’. The first and second round votes occur two weeks apart. It should also be noted that France’s varied usage of proportional systems—over time and at almost all sub-national levels of geography—also supports multi-partism. Under the Fourth Republic (pre-1962), national elections were proportional, and in the mid-1980s the parliament briefly returned to proportional rules before reverting to winner-take-all systems. Almost all other elections in France today utilise some form of PR, including the municipal, departmental and regional contests. Many involve multi-member districts, which also blunt two-party dynamics. EU elections are also proportional. This is a contrast to the USA and UK, which have consistently maintained winner-take-all rules at the national scale. These rules are utilised in most sub-national elections (though London and some US cities use forms of PR). To be sure, the French electoral system is less proportional than most others in Continental Europe. Its winner-take-all allocation of seats at the national scale, albeit utilising two rounds, has produced two very strong parties during the Fifth Republic: the Republicans and the Socialists. But the institutional design of this system, which is again less majoritarian than those of the USA and UK, not only clearly blunted the ability of LePen’s Front National to win the election, it also enabled the rapid rise of two new political parties in the wake of the French government’s own ‘legitimacy crisis’ (Gaffney, 2013), Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise. Rather than ‘take over’ existing parties like Trump and Sanders, they formed their own. Both of these latter two new party candidates, who had held posts with the Socialists, turned the presidential contest into a four-way race, and finished first and fourth in the first round. They received a combined 44% of the vote, at 24 and 20%, respectively. Two infant parties would not command such vote shares in the fully majoritarian systems of the USA and UK. Shifts to new parties of such magnitude last occurred in the USA and UK in the early 20th century, during the last period of prolonged political-economic instability. But the French two-round system produces different dynamics. Had either François Fillon, the third-place Republican candidate at 20% of the vote, or Melenchon, in fourth at 20%, won and faced off against Le Pen, who finished second with 21%, the popular wisdom was that they would have won. Le Pen’s Front National ultimately finished with just 33% of the vote in the second round, as Fillon and Melenchon voters defected to Macron. Such defection was aggressively encouraged by the ruling party, the Socialists, whose candidate Benoît Hamon had obtained only 6% of the first round vote. In urging voters from his own party to support another candidate (Macron) who had defeated him in the first round, Hamon said ‘this is deadly serious now’. Factors other than the electoral rules also limited Le Pen’s inability to translate populist anger over globalisation and immigration in key regions. And the rise of these two new parties was also fuelled by factors beyond rising inter-regional inequality, globalisation and the institutional design of electoral systems. Scandals for Fillon, the Republican, and governing mis-steps for the ruling Socialists, had produced widespread popular disgust with and rejection of both parties, symptomatic of a broader ‘legitimation crisis’, and effectively creating an opening for new institutional actors. Yet the two-round system enabled a ‘safe’, low-risk way for voters in disaffected regions to not only vote ‘with the heart’, but also to express their voice via multiple ‘anti-globalisation’ options. They could vote for a candidate representing their views, be it Melenchon or Le Pen. They could also cast a ‘protest vote’, if they chose to do so, due to the institutional design of the election: they could afford to vote for someone other than either of the two major parties, knowing they would have a second chance to choose from the top two candidates from the first round. If Le Pen was a choice in the second round, they could then vote against her. That is ultimately what they did. The second round allowed the voters to ask themselves, ‘Are you sure this is what you want?’, effectively offering a second chance not offered in both the USA and UK, despite interest in such a ‘do-over’ (Falvy, 2017; Stanglin, 2016). Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the other French ‘outsider’ who won—Macron, who is pro-globalisation—can leverage France’s fear of a future Front National win to effectively respond to regionally disaffected voices. The Great Transformation and the early 20th century’s great instability From so few cases, it is difficult to draw causal inference regarding populist electoral success as a response to neoliberal globalisation today. But the relationship between rising inter-regional inequality, globalisation and political instability is not new. This is not the first ‘Great Instability’. It was not until the turn of the 21st century that levels of cross-border global trade recovered to surpass the levels seen during the first era of liberal globalisation, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Berger, 2003, 2017; Combes et al., 2008). Though robust data at a sub-national scale to measure inter-regional disparities is unavailable, this period dovetailed with rising levels of income inequality (Piketty, 2014). Income inequality in the USA and UK, for example, as measured by top earners’ income share, peaked in the 1910s/1920s, not to return to such levels until the 21st century. This prior era, the ‘original’ liberal globalisation, began with industrial capitalism, and ended in a single day (Berger, 2017), as war broke out and London’s moratorium on bills of exchange took force. Despite that era’s ICT revolution, which continued apace, the first globalisation was not unstoppable. It was reversible, concluding not only with closure of borders but also with World Wars, Depression, populism and a severe ‘legitimation crisis’ (Fraser, 2015). It also unfolded within national political contexts marked by imperfect democratic representation. Some industrialising nations lacked democratic representation, with limited suffrage, or systems of empire and monarchy (for example Austria-Hungary). Without well-developed democratic political institutions to act as a ‘countervailing power’ (Galbraith, 1954), the industrialised world transformed, from markets embedded in social relations, conversely, to social relations embedded in markets. In the wake of this ‘Great Transformation’ (Polanyi, 1944) came the backlash and that era’s ‘Great Instability’, which included populist, nationalist social movements. Social unrest arose across the developed world; demands on the institutional rules of political representation produced shifts towards universal suffrage and proportional representation (Lipset and Rokkan, 1967; Rodden, 2008). Electoral systems were dramatically restructured towards proportionality, including many in Continental Europe. The causes of these crises, inextricably tied to two world wars and global economic depression, were multifactorial. But the inability of imperfectly democratic and non-democratic systems of political representation to mediate negative effects of disparities stemming from globalisation no doubt played a role. Parallel dynamics appear to be at work today. Implications and conclusions National populist movements are in part backlashes to regionally uneven development under neoliberal globalisation. Yet neither regional theory, nor comparative politics, individually explain why populist efforts would succeed in the USA and UK alone. Together, however, regional theory and comparative politics add to our understanding of these outcomes. Concerns over global trade and integration neglected for a generation under majoritarian politics, those in excluded regions prevailed by voting against the elites of the two major parties, whose support was hollowed out, as part of the broader legitimation crisis at hand. On the margins, this shifted the result. Would such extreme background conditions been sustained, all else equal, in otherwise functional PR systems? Regional disaffection with globalisation, coupled with majoritarianism, is not the sole explanation of outcomes, which are complex and multiple: race/ethnicity, gender and age are all salient, but this is also true in nations where populists lost. Majoritarian exceptions like Canada, which has avoided both populist victory and as severe a two-party system, are notable. In populist backlashes to globalisation, majoritarian, two-party electoral systems may produce necessary, if not sufficient, conditions for outright populist electoral success in rich democracies. For urban/regional theorists, adding comparative politics brings two gains. It explains why place-based policies may have been less politically compelling in the USA and UK (due to majoritarianism), and it exposes a domain ignored by urban and regional scholarship: the institutional design of national and local elections. How might electoral design, at multiple scales, explain other cross-regional variations? This has not been well considered, and offers new research avenues. Such multi-disciplinary conceptualisation may expose other processes at work in disciplines’ blind spots. Other fields may, in conjunction with urban/regional development, be synthesised to answer other compelling questions of today’s ‘Great Instability’. Conversely, the insertion of urban/regional development could yield gains elsewhere: many political and sociological theories apply well at national scale, for example, but do not well explain sub-national variation. This is also promising for future research. Beyond explaining the USA and UK election, the answer to the question of populist success matters for broader questions which loom. If the last Great Instability started with dynamics so well captured by Polanyi (1944), it ended with the world foreseen by Schumpeter (1942), who examined whether democracy and capitalism could co-exist long term. This remains an unanswered riddle, today reframed as the Great Trilemma, which asks whether globalisation, democracy and national sovereignty can co-exist (Rodrik, 2000, 2011; Stein, 2016). Such tensions were also at the core of Habermas’ theory of legitimation crises in liberal capitalist democracies. How can global capital and, to a lesser extent, labour, move across borders, when such borders are still so politically meaningful, as 2016’s elections demonstrated? Nations remain sovereign and operate under markedly different electoral systems. Until the institutional rules of electoral representation are relatively harmonised, a peaceful co-existence for globalisation, democracy and national sovereignty may prove challenging. The differences in these rules of representation within nationally sovereign countries also expose why Trump’s narrative of a ‘rigged’ system powerfully resonates today. It is true that, in countries without well-developed, stable political parties, two-party majoritarian dynamics have been associated with improved political stability (Duverger, 1972). But today, the political development of parties across rich democracies is generally extensive. Thus, to the median voter in majoritarian democracies, such electoral systems, with their imperfect party representations of voice, may simply seem ‘rigged’. They may inhibit the development of a ‘strong and stable’ globalisation which well incorporates the needs and considerations of the many. Such majoritarian systems not only inhibit political representation, including that of regions, but may undermine the political viability of spatial rebalancing policies, that is, the people, place and local institution policies informed by regional theory. Such conditions, combined with other cleavages, may make ‘legitimation crises’ particularly pernicious in such countries, by enabling populist success. Coalitional PR systems already offer national mechanisms through which dissatisfaction with emerging regional unevenness can continually be expressed and potentially mitigated. Reinvigorated electoral reform proposals under consideration in both the USA and UK, at both local and national scales, focus on changing the electoral ‘rules of the game’ to better represent minority interests and regional voices within the context of reasserted national sovereignty and identity, which may enable political institutions to reclaim legitimacy. They may accordingly affect future patterns of regional development and inequality.19 In as much as such efforts lead to improved political representation and transform the politics of regional resentment and global integration, they interest regional theorists in the USA, UK and beyond. 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( 2010) Populism in the Netherlands after Fortuyn: Rita Verdonk and Geert Wilders compared, Perspectives on European Politics and Society , 11: 22– 38. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Wahby, N. ( 2017) Institutions and populism in the global south—lessons for the Brexit–trump era, City & Community , 16: 139– 144. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Williams, J. C. ( 2017) White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America . Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press. Wilson, W. J. ( 1987) The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public Policy . Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago. Endnotes Footnotes 1 With two cases of recent national populist outright success (N = 2), a binary outcome prediction model (logistic regression) would not likely converge. 2 For the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each, cf. Storper et al. (2015). 3 Canada persists in multi-partism, perhaps reflecting prolonged use of multi-member districts in some areas, its lack of parties in sub-provincial elections, and reflecting a history of “Sectionalism” (Johnston and Cutler, 2009) in provinces; the latter occurs in the UK as well, for example, Scotland. 4 See “An Act for the relief of Doctor Ricardo Vallejo Samala and to provide for congressional redistricting,” approved 14 December 1967 (Public Law 90-196; 2 U.S.C. 2c). 5 France and Italy have alternated between proportional and winner-take-all voting, and exhibited variation with multiple vs. single rounds, and multi-member districts. Germany and New Zealand, with mixed-member proportional systems, are more proportional still. 6 See Capoccia and Kelemen (2007); Collier and Collier (1991); Hall and Taylor (1996); Thelen (1999, 2004); Pierson (2004); Mahoney and Thelen (2010) for application of this framework in political science. 7 To summarise, under majoritarianism’s two parties, the “median,” middle-income voter, will have financial incentive to align with higher-income voters to “soak the poor” via a centre-right party’s low tax, low subsidy socioeconomic policies, under which they are personally better off. Under PR, the median voter can support a centre party, which faces an asymmetry in forming coalitions with a left or right party. This asymmetry stems from logistical difficulties in entirely eliminating redistribution to the poor. The centre party can support the right party, in which redistributive resources are bargained between all three groups (low, medium, high income), or it can support a left party, in which resources are split between low- and medium-income groups through “soak the rich” policies, eliminating the rich from redistribution entirely. In the latter scenario, by splitting the pie with a smaller group, middle-income voters are better off. If such policies shift too far left, the centre party or its voters can readily shift via a new coalition with the right party. 8 Voters’ resentment, concentrated in excluded regions, may be amplified by regional “concentration effects.” Wilson (1987) termed this in association with neighbourhood-scaled “concentrated poverty.” 9 The idea of legitimation crises involving a regional or spatial component is not new. Harvey’s (1981) “spatial fix” is the most well-articulated and well-known example of one way which uneven development does not only contribute to such crises, but, through the “spatial fix,” temporarily helps solve them. 10 Appalachian coal state West Virginia voted Democratic in 8 of 10 elections until 2000, subsequently voting Republican, reaching a record level in 2016. A less extreme trend marks neighbour Kentucky. 11 That both parties were blindsided by this regional congruence issue is unsurprising when one considers the last major third-party candidate who successfully spoke to declining ideological congruence with regards to globalisation, Ross Perot in 1992. Anti-NAFTA, which was then proposed, Perot’s support was decidedly not the Rustbelt. NAFTA’s ultimate effects in the Midwest explains today’s regional pattern. 12 The Electoral College itself, majoritarian by state, is also un-proportional in design, with smaller states over-represented. This is another imperfection in US majoritarianism, beyond this article’s scope or focus. 13 Further demonstrating the importance of this dynamic, Trump’s support among a key Sanders demographic—white, non-college educated voters—in the three states most frequently argued to have unexpectedly tipped the election for Trump (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania)—dwarfs the racial minority decline in turn out in these states, as a recent simulation and statistical analyses by political scientists and sociologists for the Center for American Progress (Griffin et al., 2017) well show. 14 This research, building on Fleishman (1986), has been updated repeatedly over three decades, most prominently by Pew Research (2017b), using political typologies to confirm as many as eight distinct US party clusters. Results have also been confirmed (Lee et al., 2017) using Gaussian mixture model clustering/machine learning techniques. 15 The centre-right Conservative party (Republican primary candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich, at 8%) and Christian Coalition (Texas Senator Ted Cruz, at 11%) would have together received under 20%. 16 To this point, it is worth remembering that Clinton had also “unexpectedly” lost two of the three pivotal “Blue Wall” states in the primary—WI and MI—to Sanders, the left-wing populists, auguring the general election results yet to come. 17 These figures reflect UKIP’s share of total votes; the party did not stand in all constituencies. 18 A Conservative MP switched parties mid-term, resigned, triggering a by-election in 2014. He stood as a UKIP member for the same seat, which he won in both this and the subsequent general 2015 election. 19 Previous UK efforts (failed 2011 Alternative Vote referendum) were not well campaigned, nor effectively designed to fully address representations problem identified here. The Electoral Reform Society’s efforts continue, as do the US’s comparable organisation, FairVote. Partial US electoral reforms, such as ranked choice voting adopted in Maine in 2016, have renewed interest: 19 states have recently proposed proportional reforms; the number of cities using such approaches is growing. US Congress also introduced the FairVote Representation Act (H.R. 3057) in June 2017, to enable use of proportional representation. Appendix Case development and selection criteria methodological note To contrast populist successes in the USA and UK with Brexit and Trump, and isolate the interaction between regional inequality and electoral systems, respectively, a “control” comparison case was needed. A fully proportional country with a well-developed populist party, such as the Netherlands, might seem ideal. But, reflecting the theory advanced herein, here the populist response is absorbed into the system through the proportional system (Van Kessel, 2011; Vossen, 2010). Even with a growth in seats driven by rising vote share, such parties are rarely in ruling coalitions (Norway), but nonetheless directly participate in the legislative process and represent constituents (Otjes and Louwerse, 2015). Meanwhile, reflecting the dialectical, endogenous relationship between electoral systems and inequality, such proportional countries have more robust welfare states, and accordingly lower levels of inequality overall (Manow, 2009). There is thus limited evidence regarding regional inequality to examine. Indeed, these fully proportional cases beg the question: at what point is a system become sufficiently proportional or majoritarian to meaningfully tip the dynamics explained in this article? In fact, given this, the ideal for comparison would be an otherwise “most similar” case to the USA and UK. Specifically, one would seek another large, socio-ethnically diverse and multi-regional polycentric rich democracy, in which there has been significant build-up in globalisation-related inter-regional inequality, and an associated and significant populist backlash and contemporarily timed election, but one where the populists failed to win. To isolate the effect, the critical case would also ideally exhibit just sufficient variation across the posited causal dimension—that is, it would possess stable electoral rules which lack the fully majoritarian dynamics of the USA and the UK—and with that sufficient variation, exhibit an accordingly different populist outcome. In being just sufficiently non-majoritarian, the case would fall just below what qualitative methodologist and political scientist Levitsky (with Way, 2010; cf. Collier and Levitsky, 2009), might call a high “tripwire” for success in certain outcome cases: in this instance, an outright populist win. But being just below the tripwire, the case should still exhibit the causal dynamics, merely in weakened form. This is a qualitative analogue to the quantitative design approach of regression discontinuity: one examines cases immediately above and/or below the key threshold which isolates and demonstrates “treatment” effects. By isolating causal dynamics in weakened form, such a case becomes what methodologist Gerring might term a “pathway case” Gerring (Gerring 2007; Gerring and Cojocaru, 2017). Based on these criteria, France is a well-suited case—it has had only once significant shift in its national electoral representation system, moving briefly in the mid-1980s to PR, otherwise maintaining its two-round system continuously since the early 1960s. It is also a large, socially heterogeneous and polycentric country, which held its elections five months after the USA, and 10 months after the UK. It has also experienced significant globalisation-related regional disparities. Neither France nor the UK is as large and polycentric as the USA, of course, but no rich democracy is. This is a limitation to all simultaneous cross-national and cross-regional comparisons with the USA. Other possible cases, such as Germany and Italy, are problematic for this research design, and were deemed unsuitable. Germany is large, diverse and is polycentric. Unfortunately, it has a much less majoritarian electoral system than the USA or UK: it is mixed-member proportional. As with fully proportional countries, populist sentiment is represented and absorbed in the legislative body, through a minority party. The German case also presents with a serious confounding variable, which also generates unit discontinuity: the dramatic shift in country borders which occurred during the onset of current era of neoliberal globalisation, with the reunification of East and West Germany. Furthermore, the most significant source of inter-regional inequality in Germany remains the former East–West border. The reincorporation of the East into the electoral system further complicates analysis. These features make it a weak case. Similarly, Italy has repeatedly changed its electoral rules, most recently in 2015–2016, shifting back to a proportional system; frequent shifts in electoral rules undermine an ability to “process trace” how a single set of these rules might contribute to populist failure or success in response to globalisation’s disparities. The choice to focus the case development on the 2016–2017 elections as “critical junctures” does not imply that the preceding decades are deemed irrelevant. Scholars operating in historical institutionalism’s critical junctures frame have long debated the importance of critical junctures or moments of crisis, vs. the importance of how institutions evolve during intervals between crises. Leading scholars associated with the evolutionists, such as Thelen (1999, 2004) and Pierson (2000, 2004), acknowledge that critical junctures matter, as they reveal the cumulative impact of these evolutionary shifts and shape how path dependent trajectories may “reset”: the importance of such junctures is exemplified in the discussion of the historical, first globalisation at the end of this article, which gives directly relevant precedent of a dramatic realignment of electoral rules during the last legitimation crisis of globalisation, which constituted a “critical juncture.” In writing an article-length treatment, however, one cannot address both the evolutionary inter-crisis periods and the crisis, too. I have thus focused on the crisis or critical juncture itself, with secondary analysis of the preceding decades. Last, to confirm case features, document analysis of media accounts in national newspapers of record and other peer media outlets was supplemented by unstructured background interviews (N = 14) to confirm case features, with informants with direct experience with elections and/or involvement with political parties or candidates in the USA, UK and France. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Cambridge Political Economy Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and SocietyOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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