Trump: What happened, and what you can do

montana sunsetI’ve spent much of my time outside the coastal filter bubbles over the last six years living in rural Montana. My neighbors, like many Americans, place high value on being self-sufficient. They take pride in caring for themselves while helping neighbors who need a hand. They have mad skills and know-how—building their own homes, growing vegetables and fruits, hunting, fishing, fixing cars, running heavy equipment, taking care of finances, composting, brewing beer, cooking from scratch, tanning deer leather, canning, sewing, raising livestock, and playing guitar. My neighbors are nurses, contractors, accountants, electricians, and government workers. About half have college degrees. Degrees or not, these are smart people.

And almost everyone is struggling to make it financially—many by cobbling together more than one job and still falling short. Adult children in their 30s and 40s have had to move back in with their parents, their own children in tow. The older parents may be relatively okay financially due to pensions from former union work or long-built savings from when there were jobs that paid a living wage. Those jobs are far and few between now. For various reasons, many are not covered by the Affordable Care Act, so they have no health insurance. Maternity expenses go on credit cards. Medical care is as DIY possible. Necessary medications are rationed.

These are people who voted for Trump for president.

If you have never known what it’s like to be smart, skilled, and out of options, truly understanding where these folks are coming from is difficult. Pair that with their strong belief in self-sufficiency, and you get an irreconcilable conundrum you cannot resolve on your own.

Voting Trump in this case is not as much an ideological move as a move borne out of desperation for something to change. Many of the same people who voted for Trump in Montana also voted in Steve Bullock, a Democrat, for governor. Many of these same people voted for relaxing regulations on medical marijuana, which passed. Montanans are practical people, as are most people in the US. Given the choice between a more-of-the-same establishment candidate and a wild card, you know nothing is going to change with one and at least something will change with the other.

Trump is offering a terrible solution. And we can fix the problem better than he can.

Trump promises to push through the Keystone pipeline. He says he’s doing it to provide jobs to Americans. Trump threatens to renegotiate trade agreements and sanction China for perceived currency manipulation. He says he’s doing it to protect US jobs. Trump promises to build a wall between the US and Mexico and enact “extreme vetting” to stem the tide of immigration. He says he’s doing it because we need to take care of our own first.

While I hear the undercurrent of xenophobia and racism in Trump’s words, others hear he’ll take action to give Americans jobs. And yes, his policies may free up or create some jobs in the short term. But at what cost to the environment, human rights, and world relations—and for how long?

The root problem is not so complicated. People living outside major metropolitan areas need jobs. Moreover, they need 21st century jobs, not 19th century jobs building oil pipelines mass-connectand working in factories.

We have the infrastructure to get people outside metropolitan areas these jobs. Even the most remote areas have internet at this point, and if they don’t, the network is close enough to complete that connection. I’ve been working remotely for the better part of the last decade. Working remotely works very well. There are now thousands of high-quality technical classes taught by professors from top-notch universities available online at low cost. And we have smart kids and adults eager to learn new skills. We need to do a better job connecting the dots between 21st century jobs, technical skills, and remote locations.

Providing 21st-century jobs for communities across this country is something we can start working toward today. We do not need to put smart people back into factories just to be replaced by automation in the near future. We do not need to be investing in fossil fuel pipelines when clean energy is on the way toward replacing oil and gas. Our greatest resources are our fellow citizens. Let’s not waste the talent.

I am reaching out to forward-thinking companies and local communities to help the 21st century economy become more evenly distributed. If you are interested in contributing your thoughts, participating, or simply staying up-to-date on progress, sign up for the email list below.

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We can start to fix what’s broken today, while also setting ourselves up for success in the future.

—Pamela Lund

Twitter: @pamelalund