There is nothing he can do about this, because his politics are based on a fading economic model in resources and manufacturing, he rules by instinct rather than through data, and his allies practice a rigid ideology out of step with the times.
Nothing illustrates this better than his selection of Reg Tillerson as his Secretary of State. Tillerson’s job is to make peace in the oilpatch, or at least bring about a détente among producers that can result in higher profits for Houston’s majors (like Exxon), and save the economies of Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are failing under the pressure of a war President Obama did little to discourage.
Oil and other resources, meanwhile, are becoming fungible under the onslaught of technology. Right now, oil and gas are only competitive in the West because of infrastructure built out over decades. Emerging economies don’t have the capital to both build out an oil infrastructure and continue paying the price of oil, not in the face of decentralized renewable energy systems and the pressure of efficiency, which is only going to increase as 2020 approaches. Nor do they need it.
Clouds are also going to kill Trumpism. We have already seen this in the markets, where “big swinging dicks” running hedge funds have been losing out to “quants,” using computers, in the search for profit. It’s the John Henry story all over again, but this time a John Henry of the mind. You can’t beat the house when the house has unlimited computing power behind them.
Just as individual intellect can’t beat data processing, so ideology can no longer overcome data in setting policy. Not only is the economic world more complex than before, but everyone’s cards can be seen by every other player in the game. If you have a set strategy, your opponent has everything they need to beat you – you have a “tell” your opponent can use to take every pot.
This is what will beat Trumpism. Not parties, but progress. Not the Democrats, but the underlying economic realities that supported Barack Obama as a matter of course.
The Internet industries will also find every reason to hate Trumpism, and Republicanism. Right now, people like Mark Zuckerberg are searching for a middle ground, but that middle ground will disappear quickly because technology’s economic interests are fundamentally different from those of the resource and manufacturing industries, industries that can’t keep up financially.
To the resource industries, access to the product that means everything. We have had constant war for a generation in the name of controlling access oil, minerals, and the other war materials manufacturers use to make their products. Control of resources gave America fat margins. Control of capital let American manufacturers dominate the world.
But computers have unlocked all this. Resources are now fungible, replaceable by other resources. You can make solar panels out of the same material used in sand. You can improve them with perovskite, possibly the most abundant mineral on the planet. We no longer need oil, and we no longer need as much infrastructure as we once did.
On the other hand, we do have a huge, and increasing need, for human capital. The more a mind is trained, the more a mind is incentivized, the more a mind is free, and the more a mind is surrounded by other, similar minds, the more any mind can produce.
America has led in the production of such minds for generations. Those we didn’t produce ourselves we import. The technology economy is not well-served by policies which close off imports of its most vital raw material, smart and hungry minds. Technology is not well-served by education policies that deny scientific reality, or which seek to impose a rigid ideology or religious test on free minds. Technology is not well-served by social policies that seek to keep the industry from making full use of black minds, or gay minds, or female minds, relaxing those minds, making them comfortable and welcome.
Everything about the Trump Republican Party, both its pragmatic wing under the President and its ideological wings, are delivering policies that are anathema to the dominant industry of our time. Pessimists will argue that these industries can always move, and they can. There is no certainty, and no guarantee, of American leadership in the economy of the future. But how are American voters going to react to the wealth of the world leaving for China, or Europe, for Canada, or for Singapore? They’re going to revolt against it.
This is hidden from view by the natural optimism attending any new Administration. But five of our 10 largest companies, by market cap, are now tech companies. How will Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon.Com react to an Administration that denies them the people they need to keep growing, whose economic priorities are fading resource and manufacturing industries?
The Internet was hacked by its enemies in 2016. The people who own it are not going to stand idly by and see it destroyed by those enemies. Starting this year, there will be enormous efforts to make truth pay, to make networks more secure against intrusion, and to create policies more fitting to our technological future. This is what the resource industries did during the Carter Administration. It’s what the technology industries will do now.
Trump, in short, is doomed. What replaces it will not be conventional Democratic liberalism of the Clinton sort, but a more pragmatic, less ideological party that respects human rights because it’s in its economic interest, that supports unbiased education and research for the same reason, and that can point to the coming ecological catastrophes of the next few years as a far more important conflict than any between Muslims and Jews, Communists and Capitalists, or liberals and conservatives.
Beneath the surface of the year’s headlines you will see technology move to take responsibility for the world it has created. This maturation will result in the creation of issues, and interest groups, that may not seem to be working on technology’s behalf, but will be working in its long-term interests. Watch this space.