Defending his decision to pull out of the Paris climate-change agreement, President Trump said he was elected to represent “Pittsburgh, not Paris.” However, his conception of Pittsburgh as a heavy-industry steel town is badly out of date. CBS News reports:

The one-time industrial center is now a thriving city focused on health care, tech and clean energy. In fact, Pittsburgh now has more jobs tied to clean energy than to steel. Mayor Bill Peduto has taken to news programs and Twitter to denounce Mr. Trump’s decision.
“As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future,” Peduto wrote.  . . . More than 13,000 people now work in renewable energy and related areas in Pittsburgh, according to a report from the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance and Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Pittsburgh plans to transition to 100 percent renewable-energy sources by 2035.

Trump and his populist puppeteer Stephen K. Bannon seem to think Republicans will cheer climate-change denial. Again, their conception of America is badly out of date. Last October, the Houston Chronicle reported:

The UT Energy poll of 2,043 Americans by the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute found that 89 percent of self-identified Democrats and 62 percent of self-identified Republicans accept the overwhelming scientific consensus about global warming. In 2012, only 45 percent of Republican accepted climate change science as fact.
That’s in direct contrast with Republican leaders, both nationally and in Texas, who still question whether humans burning fossil fuels for the last 250 years has contributed to a warming planet and rising sea levels.

Oh, and the University of Texas at Austin is one of the world’s premier schools for climate science. (Texas’s U.S. senators should drop by and learn something — UT has some great professors at the top of the field.) Major energy companies including ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips wanted the United States to stay in the Paris agreement. Again, the right-wing pols seem oblivious to the 21st-century economy, current public opinion and the state of scientific knowledge.

In the minds of Trump and his allies, coal jobs are coming back. Nope. “Industry experts say coal mining jobs will continue to be lost, not because of blocked access to coal, but because power plant owners are turning to natural gas. At least six plants that relied on coal have closed or announced they will close since Trump’s victory in November, including the main plant at the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, the largest in the West. Another 40 are projected to close during the president’s four-year term.”

Likewise, Trump’s fetish with manufacturing jobs suggests he hasn’t gotten out much since the 1970s. (“Despite the president’s promise to bring jobs back to the United States, technology has caused massive upheaval in the manufacturing industry. Labor-intensive manufacturing is rapidly disappearing from communities like Erie and economists say traditional factory jobs are not coming back.”) He’s pushing for jobs in a sector of the economy that employees a declining segment of the workforce:

Economists say that automation is by far the biggest factor behind the decline in manufacturing jobs across the country. Technological advances mean that fewer factory workers are required to maintain the same level of output.
Since 2001, roughly one-in-three manufacturing jobs have been lost in Erie, but manufacturing output has remained relatively steady. Manufacturing represented 28 percent of Erie’s GDP in 2001. In 2015, it was 26 percent.
This pattern holds true across the country, according to Mark Muro, the director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute. Today, it only takes six workers to generate $1 million in manufacturing output, says Muro. The same level of output would have required 25 workers in 1980.

Republicans are paying a price for cocooning themselves in the Fox News fact-free bubble and vilifying cities where some of the most dynamic parts of the economy are based. While they accuse “elites” of being out of touch, the GOP climate-change deniers and non-college-educated voters — especially those who reside in poorer, rural and small-town America — are increasingly oblivious to the world outside their ideological bubble. Rather than level with voters, their GOP representatives cater to their ignorance and mislead them about the state of science and of our economy.

The more out of touch these voters become, the more they come to resent and distrust people who tell them facts contrary to their isolated world view. (Don’t call us ignorant!) They elect people equally clueless, or willing to feign cluelessness. Even educated right-wing pundits resort to ad hominem attacks on Hollywood stars, meaningless buzzwords (a “raw deal”!) and flat-out untruths about the Paris deal rather than addressing the facts. The “If you can’t convince them, join them” attitude seems to have infected conservative outlets terrified of losing readers/listeners.

So, the gap between those participating in the 21st-century economy and those hiding from it gets wider and wider; the politics of the latter group gets less and less grounded in reality. The result is counterproductive policy decisions and tribal politics — with Trump leading the race to the bottom.