The London-based American writer and broadcaster Michael Goldfarb is frequently asked on air why this year's US election has turned out to be so unusual, and whether insurgent Republican candidate Donald Trump can really win. He has to give a short answer. The long answer, he argues here, involves going back 40 years.
In late 1986, midway through Ronald Reagan's second term of office, with the twin scourges of Aids and crack racing through American cities and New Deal ideas of economic and social fairness consumed by the Bonfire of the Vanities taking place on Wall Street, Britain's Guardian newspaper ran an editorial that said, "for good or ill, [America] is becoming a much more foreign land".
I had just celebrated my first anniversary as an expat in London and wrote an essay trying to explain what America was like away from the places Guardian readers knew. I described the massive population dislocations that followed the long recession that had begun in the mid-70s. I referenced Springsteen. The piece ran under the headline "Torn in the USA".