I’ve never been one to entertain doom and gloom scenarios, but over the past year it seems a lot of eerie ingredients are being poured into a great, big recipe for disaster. Structural power shifts are taking place. Overall, I think what we’re beginning to see is whether democracy can keep pace with technology.
A world in which massive amounts of (mis)information is increasingly produced and consumed at unprecedented quantities, it seems (e.g. Brexit and Trump), will continue to strain our democratic institutions. Actual democracies, and republics by extension, hinge on information. To echo many in the media, I wonder if we’re rapidly approaching a post-factual society, at least as far as campaigns go.
Technology and the media have made it very easy not only to consume (mis)information unwittingly, but enables one to immerse oneself in a sort of quasi-solipsism, to say nothing of the influence of the wealthy elite who control all of these grand media empires. We’ve created a fairly consolidated information apparatus that, I fear, is about to endure some abuses that may leave us scrambling to find even a small bastion of truth or consistency in a world of factual nihilism.
As if misinformation is the only problem, technological innovation outpaces the economy, too. No politician can bring back the manufacturing jobs of the old days. Things have changed. Technological innovation constantly redefines the economy and reshapes the labor force. It paves our destiny. The economy is a lot different now than even 5 or 10 years ago due to technological change, and there’s little we can do to stop that.
We could, of course, remedy the negative economic impacts of technological innovation, but that would require heavily investing in education, tech programs and infrastructure that better equips people for the future. We also need to ensure a social safety net remains in place for those always displaced in a rapidly changing economy.
Even more worrying is Trump’s seemingly protectionist trade philosophy and threats to start trade wars with Mexico and China, which would increase prices, the cost of living and market volatility. Also, it’s a high possibility that Republicans are going to gut healthcare for 22 million people, unless they truly come up with something with which to replace Obamacare.
Right now, most people are protesting under the auspices that something here can go very wrong (for many, it already has). But what happens if, indeed, the economy gets worse and social safety nets like healthcare are taken apart? What happens if the rights of minorities start coming under fire? In other words, the protests we see now are child’s play if we come to endure the worst from President-elect Trump and Republicans. Let’s make no mistake: these people rode into power on a wave of anger and frustration. That’s dangerous.
All of that sounds survivable, though, if we can make it until mid-term elections or the 2020 election, but the prospects look dim with a Republican-majority government that is now heavily entrenched for years to come — the presidency, majority in both houses of Congress, the soon-to-be conservative majority Supreme Court, and Republicans hold the majority of governorships as well — and who knows what damage they’ll cause to the political process as it stands today. As of right now, Democrats are left leaderless and without a war strategy, and if we don’t get it together, we’re going to lose even more seats in Congress.
And what does it mean when Trump appoints as his chief strategist Steve Bannon? For those of you who don’t know, Steve Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a conspiratorial news organization that has been a haven for the “alt-right”, a myriad of white supremacists, homophobes and basically the worst humanity has to offer.
Trump deemed himself the “law and order” candidate during the campaign; my biggest concern is whether Trump and those he surrounds himself with start thinking the protests of minorities are an impediment to “law and order”. How long before minorities, or any US citizen, start too easily falling under the legal definition of “terrorism” when protesting? Even the most powerful, levelheaded Republicans failed to stand up to a candidate Trump. I don’t have much faith that they’ll check a President Trump if the time comes.
President-elect Trump is a man who condoned torture during his campaign, whether or not said torture yields intelligence crucial to national security. He also said he wouldn’t hesitate to ship Americans accused of terrorism off to Guantanamo Bay. He also doesn’t know, having said during a national security debriefing, why we don’t use nuclear weapons more often and said he’d consider using them in certain situations. As I said, this situation continues toward the surreal. It seems to me, in my humble opinion, there’s a lot of dangerous ingredients brewing in this pressure cooker. I’m hoping I’m just paranoid.