I am still reeling from Trump’s election. When I think about what he and the Republicans are going to do — the lives that will be destroyed by mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and the targeting of Muslims, the people who are going to die because they’ll lose their health insurance, the rollback of Roe v Wade — the list of truly awful things that are likely to happen is so long I can’t think about it without shutting down in despair and rage. Even worse: if our side doesn’t succeed, what might come next after eight years of Trump.
In the middle of this disaster, the idea of spending time on dangers that may happen in 2025 or 2040 has been feeling like a complete waste of time. So I’ve been struggling with what part of the new fights I want to join instead.
Two things changed my mind.
First, as folks have been sorting through the wreckage of the election, one thing’s become clear: one big factor in Clinton losing was that a good chunk of white working class voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin voted for Obama but didn’t vote for her. Yes, racism is definitely a major, critical part of the story. But their despair about their community’s economic future was also a very big part.
Put aside what might happen to them by 2040. In 8 years — or two terms of Trump — there’s a good chance that robots/AI will start wiping out the 1.8 million jobs in the long haul trucking industry. In an amazing number of states, these truck driving jobs are most available good paying blue collar job left. And when most of them vanish, it’s going to also devastate a lot of small and rural communities as all the jobs it supports, from mechanics to waitresses to motel clerks, go with it. I doubt most of these jobs will be gone by the 2024 election. But the writing’s going to be on the wall.
And the folks in those communities who voted this time or Trump out of desperation and anger? How do you think they’ll feel in 8 years, when Trump’s going to have failed them? As bad as Trump is going to be, we could be looking at someone much, much worse two Presidential elections from now if our side isn’t paying any attention.
Second, on election day the UN came out with a report that says that up to two thirds of all jobs in the developing world are likely to get wiped out by robot/AI automation. This is about the most grim forecast that any major official body has made. On a topic like this, I would’ve expected the UN to be a lot more cautious. If they’re making this kind of projection today, they’ve got to be pretty confident about their numbers.
I have my doubts about their forecast. There are so many manual jobs in the informal economy in developing countries that won’t be easy to automate for quite some time that two thirds seems pretty high to me. But even if the overall number is too high, one thing’s for sure: they’re pretty confident that a lot of the best blue collar jobs that have helped many developing economies succeed are going to be wiped out. And given how mumbly their conclusions were, they don’t seem to have a clue about what developing countries will be able to do about it.
I’m not going to stick with my original plans of putting all of my time and focus on the future; there are going to be too many critical fights that will be happening right now to save as much as we can from Trump and the Republicans’ onslaught. But as hard as it is to worry about anything other than the horrific crisis right in front of our faces, at least somebody on our side also needs to be spending some time thinking about the potentially even worse disaster a few steps ahead. Given that I’ve got another 1-2 years before my knees injury will have healed enough that I can be seriously politically active, that somebody might as well be me.