How Do We Move Forward After An Era of Post-Truth Politics?

Maybe, just maybe, citizens will come through the Trump era with better BS detectors, more healthy cynicism about political pandering. That’s the hope – not the unhealthy cynicism that makes people give up on citizenship as though they’re above it, not bothering to vote or care because politicians are all liars and we’re all doomed.

Though hoping for realism is usually unrealistic, maybe now is different. Maybe the convenient lies of the current administration will be enough to shock a majority into realism.  

A nation can afford a few cynically indifferent citizens. We should reserve them for the overburdened. The rest of us should show up as realistic citizens, and there’s a chance we might if the GOP goes down in flames. It could be our nation’s rock bottom. Here, I’ll try to imagine how a politician can lead a sobered citizenry in the post-post-truth, post-pandering era.


Traditionally, politicians address a looming problem in ways that are either empty or boring.

Empty:

  • Lamenting it: Trying to out-hand-wring their opponents.
  • Yearning to solving it: Trying to show that they care more than their opponents.
  • Pledging high resolve to solve it, and cockiness that they can.

Boring:

  • Detailing some specific plan to solve it.

What lies between boring-detail minutia and grand empty gestures? A vision, but in a post-pandering era, it would have to be a realistic vision.

How do politicians make visions appear realistic? With vivid details. In fiction writing, journalism and politics, the rule is “don’t tell, show.” Avoid abstractions. Instead, simulate the experience. Here are the popular ways to make a vision seem realistic that might stop working in a post-pandering era.

  • Picture through human interest stories the plight of those suffering from the problem.
  • Picture, through human interest success stories that would result from your vision playing out.
  • Picture the glory of victory.
  • Picture the glorious blow to the enemies of your vision.
  • Picture the panacea that will result from your vision being implemented.

Doing any combination of these has made politicians seem realistic in the past. In a post-post-truth era, they may no longer work. So what’s the alternative?

Paint a realistic picture of what it would take to solve the problem, a vision that assumes people can handle the sober reality of making a change in politics.

Here’s an illustration focused on a problem picked at random. Please don’t be distracted by the vision’s focus. Most people can name higher priorities. That we disagree about priorities is one challenge that leaders face.

A realistic job creation vision from a 2020 presidential candidate

I'm not going to lament the loss of jobs, tell you how much I yearn for them come back, flame past leaders for failing to bring them back, or promise with unrealistic confidence that I'll bring them back. You know how it is. You've seen the same election movie over and over.  Realistically, that's all just pandering and it’s worth nothing to you. Nor am I going to bore you with some measure I support.

Instead, here's the problem as I see it and our best chance at solving it. The tech boom is making old jobs disappear faster than ever. That’s what new tech has always done and now it’s doing it at lightning speed. We need rapid retraining for new tech jobs or we’re going to hit a wall, workers unprepared for the world that’s coming so fast it has already arrived.

Realistically, if I'm elected I'll have a brief chance to move one big issue forward before events and politics close in on me.

So that's my choice, throwing everything I've got behind job retraining to catch us up with the tech boom we all love even though it's killing our jobs. One example: Cashier ranks as the second most common job today and it’s about to be automated out of existence.

Realistically, we're screwed if we don't address this tech boom's job bust. So I'll use my narrow political window to address it through an all-out campaign to replace dying low-tech jobs with new high-tech jobs. Other countries have a head start on us, but being first isn’t always best. We can learn from their successes and failures, and anyway, we’ve had a head start on technology for centuries. We can build on that.  

You know, in past eras, we handled unemployment with war. That’s a miserable solution we’ve got to avoid. So is nostalgia over the jobs that will never come back, or scapegoating others as though they’re stealing our jobs.

Tech is stealing our jobs while creating new ones we can fill if we retrain rapidly, thereby avoiding the temptation to war with other nations and between ourselves in misdirected finger-pointing.

We all love and welcome the tech boom. Just not the job loss. If we retrain, we’ll love the whole transition. New tech, new jobs and a country that knows how to grow with our changing technology. 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.