Peter Leyden’s wishful thinking and the Silicon Valley Bubble

image credit: New York Times

Trump’s inauguration is the canker sore that won’t go away

Hillary Clinton won the 2016 popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. If it weren’t for the antiquated electoral college, she would be president today. Even though I felt Hillary was the wrong democratic party presidential candidate at the wrong time. I never imagined she would lose to Trump. But now that we’re forced to live with it, what are we to make of the 60+ million people who voted for Trump? What are we to make of a media that openly gave a billionaire real-estate developer oodles of free publicity for the sake of profits? I would like to agree with Peter Leyden’s assessment that the ascent of Trump is actually the end of an era but upon reading his Medium essay, I found him to be too representative of the Silicon Valley bubble, and I’m not sure what sufficient value technology brings into the equation if it can’t educate and influence the minds of Red state voters.

Dysfunctional American democracy

The majority of Trump’s voters are not college educated. They are disaffected, though affluent, predominantly white men and women,  and get their information from right-wing media sources, such as Fox news. They are part of a segment of the American population that has fallen under the sway of the Republican party, a political organization that continues to fan the flames of anti-government ideology. Republicans feed the minds of voters with the premise that government regulations and taxation are bad and hurt job creation. The majority of Southern states, along with the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, & Wyoming, remain republican party strongholds. These are states that lack any significant type of “Silicon Valley cultural mindset” with a majority of voters who have little reason to believe that technology is going to create new employment, especially when technology and automation continue to eliminate jobs.

While Peter Leyden is correct in how easy it is to whip up fears about globalization and digital technologies that are or will replace human employment, where I believe he’s mistaken is thinking that Trump’s ascendancy to the White House will alienate so much of the republican party agenda that there will be a backlash. Actually, the Republicans, if they are shrewd, can actually do some manipulation of Trump on their own, and when they are ready, pull the trigger.  While Congress may ultimately impeach Trump, the Republican party will continue its ugly tirade against government spending and foment resistance to new regulations. This is a principal reason why democracy is so dysfunctional in America.

We have one body of thought that embraces government as a force for good and devoted to the public interest and one that is contemptuous of government and views it as a constraint on personal freedom. This is what keeps the United States from flourishing as a democracy because this cultural divide prevents the country from tackling complicated problems in a progressive manner. In addition, the lack of quality, heavily invested public schooling across the nation promotes extreme ignorance and a myopic understanding of the role government plays in a democracy.

Transformational leadership and changing minds

I agree with Peter that Hillary Clinton, if she had won the electoral college, would not have been the transformational leader that our country so badly needs. Bernie Sanders was and remains that person (for now). I also previously wrote about the terrible damage done by this country’s 4th estate in giving a man like Donald Trump so much free publicity leading up to the actual election. In a democracy, the press must act on behalf of the public interest and not its corporate stakeholders. It failed.

While California may be filled with progressive democrats that is not the case in Southern states or in regions of the upper midwest. I don’t think the evidence is there that the “next economy,” as Peter describes is working for everyone. It certainly isn’t working for those deprived of the skills necessary to take part in it. We live in the software age. In order to flourish and thrive with gainful employment, it is advantageous to know how to code and learn other software-related skills. You don’t see the start-up world headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi.

I like that Peter has created an organization that seeks to alter the political dynamic in our country. Peter’s company, Reinvent, seeks to further conversations within the Democratic party and with progressives on how to overcome today’s Trump and any future Trumps. I’ve fine with that. But what is missing, or what needs to happen is a deep level engagement in those Red states where progressive change is next to non-existent. It’s painful to read how some of these Red states openly rejected President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, legislation designed to encourage more citizens to get health insurance and do so affordably.

How does one stay hopeful in the face of a country that is so badly polarized?  How do we once and for all do away with the Republican party mantra that government is the problem? How do we sway the minds of those voters who get their information from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or Newt Gingrich?  When you listen to some of the reasoning behind Trump voters, it’s enough to make you shutter for the future of our nation’s democracy.

Obama’s place in history

What of Obama’s achievements will still remain in existence if the country is forced to endure four years of Trump?  One week into his administration, Trump has already signed a series of executive orders, attempting to undo Obama’s legacy. I believe it is too early to say whether Obama’s achievements as president will have laid the groundwork for a sustainable civilization. I wanted Obama to aim higher and fight for even greater achievements, such as Medicare for all and a reversal of Citizens United. But he did not champion either of them. Without getting money out of politics, it’s hard to imagine how democracy will not continue to erode under its own corruption and greed.

If we are to achieve what Peter describes as “the all-digital, fully global, sustainable civilization of the 21st century,” then there needs to be an American body politic that is not engaging in open warfare over the purpose, role, and function of government in a democratic society. We must be uniform in our thinking that government, while not perfect, can be perfected to fulfill the dream that democracy remains the best choice to improve the quality of life for the people it serves.

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