It has been said that any nation is 3 meals away from a revolution — sharp economic downturns and civil unrest go hand in hand — however the social fabric of western civilization was already fraying long before living conditions began to deteriorate. The onset of real physical hardship struck like a match on gasoline.
As the second decade of the 21st century approached public opinion was increasingly polarized, intolerance, xenophobia and race nationalism were on the rise. The left and the right had become like hostile tribes forced to live together in a confined space. This sentiment was captured by a Rasmussen poll conducted in June of 2018 which found that 31% of the American public believed that a civil war was on their doorstep.
A 2015 study which compiled data on nearly 100 financial crises since 1870 observed that far-right parties are the primary beneficiaries of financial crashes. Further research demonstrated that wealth inequality exacerbates this trend.
When living conditions deteriorate and a population is frightened, people tend to gravitate towards strong leadership and groups which offer a sense of collective identity and order. National, religious, and racial heritage provide low hanging fruit. The left typically underestimates these forces, and overestimates the power of their own ideologies. Also their contempt for tradition and authority undermines their ability to organize much beyond brief shows of collective force (Occupy Wall Street for example).
Researchers have found that populist surges are usually temporary, and that within five years voting patterns usually return to their pre-crisis status quo. However in the aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis the response was different. This time around populist movements were still on the rise a decade later, and were gaining strength as a new crisis approached. Why?
Most of the money created by central bank stimulus over the past decade was funneled to the wealthiest strata of society, who mostly reinvested it rather than spending it into the economy. As a result inequality levels increased globally. In 1980 the top 1 percent held close to 10 percent of the wealth, by the year 2016 this share had doubled to 20 percent in the United States.
As central banks begin reversing stimulus (quantitative tightening), money is being sucked out of the economy faster than it was injected. Monetary and credit conditions are being tightened simultaneously into a crash.