Trump’s Election Represents an Evolutionary Clash Between Eras in Human HistoryPhoto courtesy of Getty Politics Features Donald Trump
If you do not believe in evolution (and a reported 42% of you don’t), well, studies have shown that any amount of evidence I give you will only harden your position, so I’ll just leave it at: I may not be right, but my side has millions of years of tangible evidence while yours has a book translated through several dictionaries whose words may not have initially come from humans, but whose text was handled and taught by them for centuries. If you haven’t noticed lately, we’re not the most trustworthy species. But can you really blame us? We used to live in trees.
Australopithecus descended from the forests between 3.5 and 4.2 million years ago. We know this because its wrist bones became less adapted to swinging from trees and instead became geared towards a multitude of tasks. Essentially, this is proof of when we began to really walk, which lead to a new home for humans: caves. Thirty million people in China still live in caves, and not in the prehistoric vein that is typically portrayed. Others around the world are even available to rent on Airbnb. We are transitioning from a life dominated by the “cave” to one situated in the cloud. This is a major shock that is one of the primary drivers behind the election of Trump.
As soon as Neanderthals established their permanent home inside pieces of the earth, this dramatically changed our habits from when we would spend our days dangling close to the heavens. For example, we had to warm the cave during the winter, so we discovered fire. Having a home to retreat to enabled us to create a more tactical relationship with nature.
Around 700,000 to 200,000 years ago, we began to build our own homes. The reason for the wide range is that this evolution did not transition seamlessly across mankind. Those of us in harsher climates had a more difficult task at hand than people living in future San Diego. Around 170,000 years ago, humans began wearing clothes (we know this thanks to lice found with human remains – isn’t science neat?). This advancement accelerated our evolution, as we could now travel to exponentially more places, while winter was not the death sentence it used to be. As humans explored more of the land, they understood how to tame it, and agriculture set us on a firm evolutionary track that we are just now transitioning away from.
The move from the cave to the countryside was mankind’s greatest evolutionary feat prior to the circuit board. Making our lives dependent on a plot of land established communities which would sprout into some of the greatest economic, political, and social engines the world has ever known. Hunters and gatherers did not go extinct with the advent of farming, as they still exist to this very day. However, residing on or near a farm was clearly the most efficient way to live, and evolution shifted all of us from wild beasts into civil servants so we could share in the bounty of our collectivism.
The impact of agriculture on our evolution cannot be understated. Cities require a large stable of resources, and humanity would be nowhere near as advanced without its municipalities. Six hundred cities are projected to generate over 60% of global GDP over the next decade. Economies of scale simply cannot exist without large groups of people all living near each other on land that can support them. It’s a cute story that the heartland is where “Real America” lives and cities are just mooching promoters of sin, but it’s simply not true and it hasn’t remotely been since the Industrial Revolution (OK, some of the “promoters of sin” part definitely is).
The common man’s alienation from cities used to be a widely-shared experience. In the early 1800s, only 3% of people in the world were living in an urban area. Over half the planet lives in one right now. The UN estimates it will be 67% by 2050. Humankind is smack dab in the middle of a seismic shift unseen since the advent of agriculture, which created the society we are currently leaving behind.
Those out in the country may not have controlled the economic and political consequences of its region, but for 17,000 years they could outnumber its interests. No more, as we happen to be the generation witnessing the violent removal of the final attachment to our post-prehistoric selves. Home used to be wherever the cave was, now it’s wherever a Wi-Fi connection and a full battery is.
We treat the Bible as ancient history, but it is very much the recent past on an evolutionary timescale. We are the descendants of these familiar tales told around the globe, and our astonishingly rapid technological rise is barreling us towards an uncertain future that looks like it has little use for those of us still tethered to the past through no fault of our own, other than the fact that we had the misfortune of growing up in one of the final stages of an evolutionary epoch.
Once machine power became king during the Industrial Revolution, cities began to truly take off as thousands of jobs opened all in one area. The Technological Revolution has built on top of some of this previous urban infrastructure to create cities who produce like they’re countries. Los Angeles’ GDP is larger than the Dominican Republic’s, and Atlanta’s is larger than Paraguay. However, others have been left behind, as America’s once great manufacturing centers now lay hollow. Those places which followed the idea economy became central players in our 21st century, while those who made physical products saw their jobs replaced by robots and foreigners forced to work for a lower wage.
Only 12 of America’s 100 most populous counties voted for Trump, compared to 15 for Romney in 2012. This staggering advantage for the left is due to two main things: gerrymandering, and that these districts house America’s largest cities, which nearly all skew liberal. These counties are not isolated to just the dreaded coastal elite, as they spread across 32 states. Nine of those states had five or more counties in the top 100 (California, Texas, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois). Those nine states account for 52% of total GDP, and they voted for Trump 3% less on average than the rest of the top 100. These things are all related.
The 100 most populous counties in the United States cast over 12 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than they did for Donald Trump. Hillary actually gained over 400,000 more votes than President Obama in 2012, and Trump lost over 1.6 million votes that Romney had won in those districts. Voters in the cities whose economies drive us forward voted two to one against the President-elect; nearly three to one in America’s three most populous counties (Los Angeles, Cook County – Chicago, and Harris County – Houston).
If elections were referendums on evolution, then this one doesn’t look good. Some of the globe’s most important economic engines resoundingly voted against the most powerful man on earth, and were overruled by an influx of those on the countryside who are being left behind by what they see as economic black holes dotting America’s changing landscape. The same thing is happening across the pond in Europe. We are witnessing a primal scream by the final age of mankind’s pre-eminent era, racism and all.
But elections aren’t referendums on evolution; they barely register on its timescale. Americans didn’t suddenly just become racist, and we’re not the only ones in Earth’s history who have been stricken by this disease. Our self-governance is simply a futile attempt to tame the laws of the jungle, and the current jungle is contained behind a keyboard and a screen. No amount of empathy or understanding will change the fact that we are still evolving, and nature has little need for anything that may hold it back. Not only is our technological might proof of our continued evolution, but we have physical evidence as well.
Were you born without wisdom teeth? Well then you’re part of the 35% of people who most easily represent evolution. As we’ve moved away from our hunter/gatherer diet and towards one that uses utensils, we have no need for an extra set of molars. Have blue eyes? That’s new too. No one had them prior to about 10,000 years ago, and the fact that it is virtually impossible to create a blue-eyed baby from two brown eyed parents demonstrates some level of evolutionary selection amongst blue-eyed families to produce your existence.
America building the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen on the back of this system proves Darwin’s theory as much as all the physical evidence surrounding it. Our evolution has always moved in one direction: towards each other. First from the trees to caves. Then from caves to communities. Then from communities to cities. Now we have removed physical space from the question at all.
This isn’t a task for our economy, but for our government. The children of the Industrial Revolution will get left behind in the Technological Revolution. It is upon the rest of us to find a way to care for and integrate these people into a future society, whether it is through re-training or some sort of benefits program.
Yes, there is a tsunami of racism fueling Trumpism. It must be defeated, and the long view of our evolution indicates that it will. But in order to deflate its center of power, we must address the grievance large enough to win an election sitting at the middle of it. Democrats pursued an agenda at the top that is like Republicans’, but they spoke more to the needs of poor—not middle-class—Americans. Giving 20 million people healthcare who didn’t have it is a noble use of our government, but when it is paid for by people already being squeezed by their premiums, it doesn’t feel as altruistic. Had the Democrats focused more on reducing the overall cost of healthcare in what is the farthest thing from a free market, they could have still covered a big chunk of that 20 million without hurting the people who wound up voting them out of office. But hey, at least their corporate masters still got their payoff.
Mankind has always relitigated its moments from the past, as the older generations seem to constantly be dragging the younger ones into the grave with them, but this is different. We are in the middle of a profound shift, and it is time the future made its peace with the past before we lose all ability to control the present.