The most important thing Trump is wrong about

And why we can’t afford to let his thinking take hold in New Hampshire

Donald Trump’s rise reveals a sickness in our national politics –but even beyond this one man, it is a sickness that has already been quietly threatening us here in New Hampshire for years. Trump isn’t the cause. He is just the loudest symptom. And we must resist the disease he represents: splitting our country or our state into “winners” and “losers.”

Why? Because it’s un-American — and more: because it doesn’t work.

Listen to Trump’s words. His greatest virtue, he tells us, is that he is a Winner. Everyone else — from war heroes like John McCain to protesters at his events– are dismissed as Losers.

In his world, the winners win, and the losers whine. Either you’re rich, or you’re a sucker. Trump’s world is black and white. Us vs Them. It’s propelled by fear and hate — and it is also completely, 180 degrees wrong.

The real world is this: we win when we win together.

When I worked as business manager at Stonyfield yogurt, I learned that shaving a single gram off the weight of a plastic cup holding our yogurt saved money, reduced costs, and boosted profits — all while decreasing harmful environmental impacts. I learned that shipping our products to the west coast by train instead of truck saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs — a better bottom line for the $100 million business I managed, and less pollutants in the air our consumers breathe. We win together.

When I left Stonyfield to help launch a new nonprofit college, College for America at SNHU, dedicated to making a debt-free degree a reality, it was that same lesson that built a model where a nonprofit college, hard-working students, and invested employers all partner to win together. The result? Thousands of students now earning a degree, most completely debt-free. No losers here. Contrast that with the alleged fraud and consumer exploitation of Trump University.

Winning together is how public policy works best, too. Today in NH, roughly 48,000 of our fellow citizens have gained health care coverage through the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Plan (often called Medicaid expansion) we passed just two years ago. We’re now seeing 29% fewer uninsured ER visits. Hospitals spent $142 million less last year in uncompensated care. We paid for it by bringing our own federal tax dollars back from Washington — no new state taxes. On the Executive Council where I was elected to represent a quarter-million NH citizens in 2012, it only passed by a narrow 3–2 vote. But it’s working — for our residents, health care providers, businesses and taxpayers.

This is the real world — the world where we win together, not by separating the winners from the losers.

In Washington, it’s different. DC is where the “winners” (often, the wealthiest and biggest corporations) see government as one more extension of their ability to exploit the “losers” by erecting barriers to competition, limiting innovation, creating tax loopholes, corporate subsidies, and protecting their profits while consumers and workers lose out.

We can’t afford to let that sickness take over in New Hampshire — but it already threatens us here.

Politicians afraid of how solar and renewable energies might threaten the fossil fuel industry drag their feet and vote down important projects — like a recent proposal to build a solar array on the Manchester landfill and lower city energy costs. Failed, by a 3–2 vote.

Commuter rail from Boston to Nashua, the Manchester airport, and the downtown Manchester Millyard is what one business leader recently described as a “no-brainer.” We’ve moved closer, but now we need to cut through the politics and get it done. We need to build rail, and boost thriving bus lines, and accelerate the completion of an expanded I-93. We win together, and we can’t afford to wait while other New England states invest.

And in perhaps the most frustrating example: whether you are pro-choice or not, the practical result of shutting off funding for birth control at our state’s Planned Parenthood health centers is clear: more unintended pregnancies. When you see the world as only as “winners” and “losers”, maybe it’s easy to shut off funding for the “losers”. But when you realize we all win or lose together, it’s easy to see funding for preventive care like birth control, cancer screenings, and annual exams for 13,000 women as a clear win-win.

The way we in is by winning together. The way we win is by expanding opportunity so everyone has the chance to succeed, not just those at the top.

It’s the central lesson I’ve learned from my own life and my work in the private sector and public policy alike. As I run for Governor of New Hampshire this year, it’s the central belief that drives me. And it’s the simple playbook for how we keep New Hampshire an amazing place to live, work, raise a family, and grow a business: by winning together.

Follow Colin’s campaign for Governor of New Hampshire in 2016 at www.vanostern.com/join or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/colinvanostern or twitter at @ColinVanOstern.

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