We’ve had a few days to digest the reality of this election. Surreal as it may seem, it is quite real. Beyond all the rhetoric, it is time to start looking at what America actually voted for. While those who supported him can bask in the glow of electing an outsider, or a businessman, or whatever you perceive him to be, it is time to look at his actual positions. Positions that may have been lost in the fog of Hillary’s emails, the excitement of the movement, or just the possibility of disrupting a system that no longer served its citizens. Now that it is real, now that Donald Trump will forever, from this day forward (post inauguration), be called President Trump, we need to objectively ask ourselves, what did we just endorse? Not the temperament or the sound bites, but the plan. Something we can finally do now that some semblance of it has been released, and we know what his priorities are for the first 100 days.
His first few priorities or so our sound. Not without some level controversy, but viable positions. He wants to set term limits for congress, control government hiring, and simplify regulations by saying for every one created, two must retire. While there may be political opinions on these, they are logical, thought out goals that will make a meaningful impact. Included in this is renegotiating NAFTA. Again, this is a political position with varying opinions, but any successful person would challenge existing agreements and look to optimize them for the future.
The next set of points are around immigration, and the provocative tone begins to pick up. His plan includes deportation of any illegal immigrant with a criminal charge, including drunk driving. A bit more extreme, but this one probably gets some strong support. If you’re not authorized to be here, and you break a law, it is hard to argue with upholding the law. That said, it’s a tough penalty for a father of two, with preteen children born in the US, to be deported for a crime that a wealthy American often gets off with a fine. Bygones. Do the crime, do the time. But the next one is a little tougher to bear. Suspend immigration from terror prone regions. The only agreed upon definition uses the Global Terror Index, which puts countries like Israel and India into the mix. More than likely, Trump’s legal counsel informed him that he can’t simply ban immigration based on religion, leaving this language open to some real problems. Are we really going to stop Israelis and Indians from migrating here? They are considered two of our most important allies in the war on terror. Finally, there’s the wall. An investment of unknown expense and harrowing obstacles like the Rio Grande, vast areas without roads, and both residential and commercial properties that will likely need to be taken down. So if you’re not a fan of big government, eminent domain is a term you better become really familiar with if you live in this region. Also, in the event an alien is caught crossing the border they will face a 2 to 5 year minimum prison sentence before deportation. Meaning our leadership position in the world for having the most incarcerated people per capita is about to hit new heights.
Which brings us to the military that Trump wants to “rebuild”. Much like the ambiguity of “Make America Great Again”, it is tough to know what this means except for more spending. Keep in mind that our currently military spend is bigger than the next 13 countries combined. Our current spend is three times that of China (who has four times our population) and roughly seven times more than Russia. It is easy to say that we all want the strongest military in the world, but we really need to figure out how strong is strong enough. His plan does have a mention of veteran care, which we can all support, but the language positions it as a much smaller part of the plan.
But lets say none of these bother you. Including Supreme Court justices that could overturn marriage equality and Roe versus Wade. In fact, lets assume you support every initiative outlined above, and everything else he stands for. You still have to deal with two more major positions, one of which will impact every citizen, the other will impact every inhabitant of the globe. So I’ll focus on the “easier” one, repealing the Affordable Care Act. Most of us would admit it is a problematic bill, but it also created coverage for millions of uninsured, and eliminated both pre-existing conditions from consideration and lifetime maximums from coverage. Unless there is a bill immediately ready to pass in replacement of this repeal, we cannot even begin to assess the impact of revoking this coverage. Simply hitting the undo button puts the control back into the hands of insurance companies, most of which have to report to shareholders. If you’re one of those unfortunate parents who has a child with cancer or a congenital heart defect, you could literally be left without any coverage at all. That isn’t even accounting for those with chronic diseases like diabetes, Parkinsons, asthma, et al. A repeal of this bill without an immediate replacement will (not just could) have devastating consequences to Americans. Moreover, it could single-handedly put us into a recession. Aside from Americans having to fill the gap, which most can’t, the remainder of the burden will shift to employers. If they can’t cover the cost, then they either go out of business or seek younger employees who are less likely to need expensive healthcare. Quite honestly, we simply cannot assess the impact until it happens, and if we’ve learned one thing from the market, it hates uncertainty.
Leaving us with one final major position that Trump has pledged to deliver, the one that impacts every living and not-yet living being on the planet. Just over 30 days ago, 109 countries ratified an agreement (Paris Agreement) to reduce greenhouse gases. This is quite possibly the largest coalition in human history with a singular goal of ensuring the globe is inhabitable for future generations. To put this in perspective, it took 16 years to get 109 countries to ratify the Geneva Convention. That was fresh off the heels of World War II, which witnessed some of the greatest atrocities the Western world had ever seen. That said, it took less than 6 months for 109 countries to ratify the Paris Agreement. The rationale was simple. The data, which continues to pour in, shows an inarguable correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and the rapidly increasing temperature of the globe. This is not a belief or some “liberal conspiracy”. Assuming you think it is, note that the US spends $1.2T on energy each year, while we spend about $62B on college education. Even if you believe all of that college money went toward creating a liberal conspiracy, it represents only 5% of the money spent on energy. The reality is that less than half of all college degrees are even in a scientific field, let alone an environment scientific field. In other words, if you believe less than one percent of college graduates can outspend or out-market a trillion dollar energy market, you need to focus more of your efforts on facts, not beliefs. Focusing more on the traditional conservative, consider this. Your movement spends millions of dollars every year advocating to end abortion, but a measurable percentage of your demographic doesn’t accept tangible scientific evidence that the man made climate change is real. Assuming you win both battles, what will it be for when your children or their children discover they need to live in a bio-dome?
We must accept the President Trump reality. Just as those that opposed President Obama had to. However, we do not have to accept his agenda, especially not at the expense of our children and the future of our country and the globe. We can navigate changes in our economic policy, challenge pressures on social policy, but we must be absolutely intolerant of eroding decades of progress on our environmental policy. We have attempted to lead the way on climate change all the way back to Bill Clinton. No one ever thought China would come on board, and now they have. If we pull out now, we send a signal to the rest of the world that the US doesn’t believe man made climate change is real. It is. It isn’t a belief, it is a scientific reality as sound as the theory of gravity. It is time to stop complaining about the election and start making our voices heard. This issue should be binary to every human being. So let the process of the transition begin. But know that it will be met with loud resistance. Not just from Trump’s citizens, but from our global population who will have to deal with these ramifications as well. Sound bites and emotional arguments cannot win the day. Evidence must triumph over belief. We will not resort to the disrespect that Trump showed President Obama in attempting to delegitimize the presidency. We will respect the office, even if we do not respect the man sitting in the chair. Because no man, especially the man sitting in that chair, gets the write off the future of humanity because he doesn’t understand science.