Cognitive dissonance is what happens when someone tries to convince you something is true that you know to be false. Wearing a tin foil hat will not protect you from alien body snatchers and clicking your heels three times will not teleport you from the Land of Oz back to Kansas.
Cognitive dissonance is perhaps the best phrase to sum up the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump has spent more than a year trying to convince us that he will build a wall between the US and Mexico and that Mexico will pay for it. He says he is going to revoke every trade deal ever made, beginning with NAFTA. He also says he will deport every illegal immigrant and use nuclear weapons whenever he sees fit. He supports torturing terrorism suspects and killing not only them but their entire family as well.
As preposterous as any of those statements are, still there are millions of Americans who are proud to stand up and proclaim their affection for The Donald. Perhaps a short primer in what the Trumpster has said he will do in just his first 100 days in office will scare some of them into rethinking their support for the pussy grabber in chief.
Trump’s First 100 Days
President Trump would eliminate any and all existing regulations that apply to the extraction of fossil fuels. Drilling companies would be free to invade all lands both public and private in the search for oil and gas. Limits on pollution from coal fired generating plants would be thrown in the trash. The Keystone XL pipeline would be back on the table.
Trump has been especially critical of the commitments the United States made to the world and other nations at the COP 21 climate summit in Paris last December. While he would not have the power to abrogate that agreement unilaterally, he is advocating for a termination of US payments to the UN climate change programs, an action that would have virtually the same effect.
Much of Trump’s support comes from American workers who think they have gotten a raw deal from the global trade treaties negotiated and approved by Congress and every American president since Bill Clinton. They have every right to feel bitter. Many are now working for far less than they earned 10, 15, or 20 years ago while people like Trump have profited handsomely during the same period. But anger and resentment are not on good terms with logic.
Putting America Back To Work
The path forward for America is not to wish we were back in the 1950’s, a time that many think of fondly as a golden age. It is a lie to tell coal miners that you are going to put them back to work when the demand for coal is declining. Simple economics tells us you can’t buy apples for 25 cents apiece, sell them five for a dollar and expect to make a profit.
The simple truth is that renewable energy sources are cheaper than coal and getting very close to the cost of making electricity by burning natural gas. At a recent energy auction in Abu Dhabi, the lowest bid for electricity was under 3 cents per kilowatt. Coal simply cannot compete with that price no matter how much of it miners take out of the ground.
In 2014, the solar industry added more jobs than oil and gas — 50 percent more jobs, in fact, than either the oil and gas pipeline construction industry or the crude oil and natural gas extraction industry. And that trend continued last year, with solar adding more jobs than oil and gas in 2015 as well. Shouldn’t we be supporting industries that are growing rather than ones that are dying? Donald Trump says he wants to help the American worker. The truth is that if NAFTA was repealed today, the jobs that went to Mexico 20 years ago aren’t coming back no matter how much Trump bellows and blusters.
The Promise Of Renewable Energy
What American workers need is not an effort to turn back the clock and recreate some mythical time in the nation’s history. What’s needed is a commitment to make renewable energy the basis of American prosperity. Many unions are offering training programs to show unemployed coal miners how to find work building the infrastructure for clean, renewable energy. More money is needed to support programs like that instead of wishing Conestoga wagons were still traversing the prairie American west.
Trump is peddling promises as thin as gossamer but desperate people cling to them because they see no alternative. Here is the question of the hour. Who will have any jobs at all when climate change uproots millions of people and makes them into refugees? What will be left of our vaunted economy when New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and much of Florida are underwater? What will our children’s health be like when the air they breath makes them sick and the land they live on is rife with pollutants?
The Trump Energy Plan
When Trump released his first energy plan back in May, Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said that Trump’s proposed climate policies constitute “an existential threat to this planet.” Nothing has changed since then, except that The Donald has sunk ever further into dementia and denial. Sadly a vote for Trump is not a vote against Hillary; it is a vote against the long term sustainability of planet earth. It is condemning our children and grandchildren to a world in which America is not great but is in fact a laughing stock for all the peoples of the world.
Trump has done an excellent job of stirring up fear — fear of Muslims, fear of Mexicans, fear of people of color, fear of other countries, and fear of immigrants. Franklin Roosevelt tried to calm a nervous population by telling them “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Trump has stood that message on its head by telling us we should fear everything and everyone. How embarrassed would our forefathers be if they could see a weak, trembling America afraid of its own shadow. Donald Trump brings out the worst in people when what is needed to meet the challenges of the future is our best.
Accepting Responsibility For Our Actions
John F. Kennedy once wrote, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” Trump pounds the lectern and denounces everything about America, calling every political leader since George Washington “a disaster.” He seeks to divide us into factions, not caring that we become weaker when we separate ourselves into discrete groups and learn to hate those who aren’t like us.
Magic realism works well in fiction, but it is not an effective tactic in the real world. When Election Day gets here, please vote responsibly. The earth is depending on you.