The model is not the thing itself. The map is not the territory. Our attempts to turn reality into data are inevitably imperfect, and sometimes they’re way off — like they were last night. On Election Night, everything the experts and their algorithms told us was likely to happen came out different.
Trump’s against-all-predictions win doesn’t mean we should give up on the very idea of empiricism. It does mean that each time we inquire into the state of reality, we should begin with humility. We could always be wrong, and we often will be.
The lesson is universal — but especially pertinent to the founders of new companies and the leaders of the tech-driven economy, who have a tendency to get drunk on their own numbers.
Whatever you do, one morning you will wake up and find that your model is broken. You will need to recalibrate everything, fast.
That’s what we’re all doing today. NewCo pays attention to the world of companies driven by missions that sit at the nexus of business, tech, cities, climate, and generational change. Here’s where we stand on this timeline in which Trump is president-elect:
The City vs. the Country
While 80 percent of Americans live in cities, our political system is weighted towards the country. The U.S. Constitution gives extra electoral power to sparsely populated rural states.
In this election, people in cities divided their votes, while the rural areas voted heavily for Trump (The Wall Street Journal). Clinton still swept the big cities and their states — California, New York, and Illinois. And she beat Trump in the popular vote by nearly 200,000 votes. But that’s not how the U.S. chooses presidents. Someday we may view this as a bug in the system and try to fix it.
The Planet Is In Deep Trouble
President Obama took his strongest actions against global warming as executive actions. That means Trump can quickly reverse them (Grist). He can also abandon the nation’s commitment to global agreements to cut carbon emissions.
With a Republican Congress and control over executive branch arms like the EPA, there’s virtually nothing to stop a President Trump from treating climate change like the hoax he says it is. When his Mar A Lago resort ends up underwater, maybe he’ll have a change of heart. But it’ll be too late by then.
Obamacare Is Doomed — What’s Next? No Clue
When it comes to the healthcare system, the GOP is now the proverbial dog that caught the car. The party has its trophy: Obamacare will likely be repealed as promised. But Republicans never laid out a plan to replace it.
Parts of Obamacare, like the ban on excluding coverage of “preexisting conditions,” are very popular. How will Trump preserve those popular elements, pay for any replacement plan, or get the healthcare industry on board for the trip? With no answers in sight, the entire healthcare universe is headed for some serious disruption (Stat News).
Trade Is Out, But That Won’t Bring Jobs Back
Trump’s most potent issue, one with strong appeal across party lines, is his populist hostility to global trade deals. His election means that the Trans Pacific Partnership is dead, trade with China likely to be slowed, and trade with Mexico disrupted. The theory is that all this trade-war saber-rattling will somehow “bring back manufacturing jobs.” Good luck with that. What it will almost certainly achieve is a cut in the long-term economic growth rate.
One explanation for Trump’s victory (propounded by Henry Blodget and many others) is that Trump tapped into widespread discontent over stagnant middle-class incomes. That might be true — but abandoning global trade isn’t going to help raise those wages. One thing that we know does lift average paycheck size is unions. But a Republican Congress is more likely to cripple unions with “right to work” laws than to bolster them.
Putting Locks on U.S. Doors
That wall on the border isn’t going up tomorrow, or maybe ever. The U.S. economy runs in part on the labor of non-citizens and Trump can’t wave a wand to change that. But Trump’s win does cast doubt on the long-term vision of the U.S. as a place that welcomes newcomers — and one that draws the best minds and most energetic people from around the world to drive its growth. Silicon Valley is a global village. Isolating it won’t create more jobs for Americans.
How determined is Trump to reverse the U.S. tradition of openness? And how far can he go? That may be the largest question the Trump presidency poses for America’s future, and its soul.