The 72.000.000 question

The US presidential election, our digital future, and a question for the friends at ODI’s Digital Societies programme

A week has passed since Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the US presidential election. Donald Trump has not yet conceded and has launched a flurry of probably ineffectual court cases. Votes are being recounted in Georgia but they are not going to change the outcome.

I listened to many commentaries since the election: NYT\’s The Daily, the Guardian’s Politics Weekly and Today in Focus, Talking Politics with David Runciman. They all agree that the support to Donald Tump has not changed since 2016, it has even increased. On the other hand, a huge number of Democrats have cast their vote for Biden and Harris which has tipped the election in their favour. That shows also in the popular vote where Biden has received ca. 77.000.000 votes vs. the 72.000.000 for Trump.

During the last few days I found myself thinking about those 72.000.000 people who voted Trump. The large part of those voters are older, white, non-college educated, and living smaller towns and rural areas. They are angry. They believe that the economic and political system has let them down. Their factories have closed. Their jobs have gone overseas or have been taken by immigrants. Trump listens to them and speaks to their anger and fears.

The economy of today (and tomorrow) is marked by an increase in productivity and a decrease in the demand for labour. This trend is pushed by digital technologies and automation and will only accelerate during this century. So, what will happen to those 72.0000.000? Early retirements for tens of millions? Not likely. Tens of millions of bullshit jobs, in the word of the late Prof. David Graeber? Probably.

If this is the trend, are we going to see more populist and right wing leaders being voted in office as hundreds of million of citizen are left stranded by the digital revolution around the world?

I realise this is quite a bleak view of the future, but that number, the 72.000.000, left me with questions about our democratic future which are not simple to answer.

So, I turn to the friends at ODI’s Digital Societies programme: what do you think?


Photo credit: Trump rally in Wildwood NJ by David Todd McCarty on Unsplash.

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