Few things appear to be as terrifying for the American political establishment as Donald Trump doing everything we’re told a politician should not do if he wants to win an election, yet rising to become the unstoppable front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. Heading into Super Tuesday, he boasts commanding leads, and should he clean up the way polls predict he will, it will be mathematically implausible for his competition to catch up. So, despite often vastly over-inflating his wealth, four bankruptcies, vague stances that change with the weather, and a style of the debate that’s less debating and more spoiled rich kid in high school in a shouting match, this New York tabloid punchline convinced millions of Americans that he’s their hope in an ever-changing world that seems to need them, and care about them, less and less. To the media at large, they seem utterly baffling and grossly irrational, but their despair and possibly newfound appreciation for authoritarianism actually makes sense in their own context.
It’s true that our world is changing. We’re becoming more and more urbanized, small towns in many countries are being left to slowly decay, and what jobs can’t be cheaply outsourced, but won’t require specialized creative skills, are being automated so quickly that almost half of the world is facing unemployment in the next few decades if nothing changes soon. Long gone are the days when you can just get your high school diploma or GED, then go straight to work in a factory for the next 30 years, or sit a cubicle for a similar stretch of time, going to college while your company paid your tuition in exchange for more guaranteed years of your employment to get a return on its investment, while making enough to raise a family and afford for a spouse to stay at home. Most of the factories have been closed for many years and college costs soared by 200% as prices for everything are 55% higher over the last 30 years, while wages over the same time period have remained stagnant when adjusted for inflation. Now you must pay for a $30,000 degree, move to the city, and try to compete for jobs companies who’ll now expect you to be a perfect fit the second you walk in can’t wait to automate or outsource. Fun times.
Oh, and I should also mention that the expensive sheet of paper you will have to acquire to get this lovely experience firsthand is going to be worthless some 73% of the time. Yes, that’s what the typical person has to do today to make ends meet; to start with tens of thousands of dollars in non-dischargeable debt looming over his or her head, and jobs in which her or she is viewed as a disposable, temporary expense, a necessary evil really. And that brings us back to Trump and his most ardent supporters who see the results of this mess and need someone to blame, ideally someone with a foreign accent, or a darker skin color, or young and a little too vocal for their taste, which is exactly what they get from him. We’ve shown them that the system doesn’t care about them in day to day life and reduced them to really, nothing more than numbers in a spreadsheet rather than real people with real problems. Now they get to assign blame and rage against the electoral machine. They’ve been ignored and left behind. Well no more! Hear them roar as those empty government suits fall before their unstoppable, self-appointed avatar who seems to share in their formerly impotent, simmering fury at their nation being neglected.
While we shudder in terror and disgust at the notion of President Trump, voted into power after violating every rule of social decorum we thought were expected of those who are supposed to lead us, what we should be worried about is that there will be more Trumps, and that they’ll get even worse if we don’t fix our education system and provide incentives for sizeable businesses to once again invest in those who labor for them. Yes, mocking Trump’s supporters is easy and pointing out The Donald’s shortfalls is like shooting fish in a barrel with tactical nukes. It’s giving those who aren’t aghast at his antics and disgusted at what’s tricking down to us after 30 years of supply-side economics, hope that things could be better that’s hard. But if we really are that shocked that a narcissistic reality star who fancies himself the world’s finest businessman and engages in antics even a rich frat bro villain in a college movie would find in poor taste when all the spotlights are on him, has a shot at being president, that’s what we need to do. We have to pop the college bubble, create apprenticeships, abolish asinine test-driven education standards created by grossly ignorant politicians, and create every possible incentive for companies not to treat their workers as disposable. We failed to plan for the future. That’s how we got here.