Time for some words about the coming election (aka, It is not Democrats vs Republicans anymore)
Republicans vs Democrats — right? In searching for the image above I ran into a meme from the 2012 election showing Obama and Romney with the caption, “Voting changes nothing. Revolution is the only solution.” Well, for 2016 America has been voting for a revolution — or at least the beginnings of one. The race the nation was hoping for, socialism vs social popularity — Sanders vs Trump, may not have happened but to still say there is not major change coming is insanity.
I believe Naval Ravikant was the first person to use the term ‘American Spring’ and it is a great description of what is happening now. When you see a headline on CNN that reads, “GOP Delegate Group Working to Stop Trump,” you can more or less translate that into, “GOP Delegate Group Working to Stop Direct Democracy from Voting Them Out of Power.” It was not much different for Sanders and Clinton but America still is America and thankfully, though a generation is growing up with the reality of falling short in the lifestyle high water mark their parents had the fortune to set, there is still a deeper belief that true socialism is not the answer.
The revolution has come. This time not with violence but with a direct democracy which spells as much trouble for government in its current form as it does for the current two party system. Seeing an IBM Watson powered graph in February of how socially connected the candidates were, one could determine Sanders did not have a chance, which was the biggest surprise to me, and no one was even close to Trump.
Need more evidence of the obvious? Nassim Nicholas Taleb posted the following on Facebook:
The *establishment* composed of journos, BS-Vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other “well thinking” members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments. People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment.
With a direct democracy also comes speed. It is the speed that no longer tolerates multi-year processes that end up going nowhere. It is the same speed that is turning many traditional businesses into ashes with new ones rising to replace them nearly overnight. Innovation in technology is actually only the juice of the real driving force behind the changes we see today — speed is everything…and you cannot have the speed needed when you devote energy to keeping the walls in place that either only support your point of view or artificially protect your position in business or politics. Speed is even more important than IP (think NDAs).
From atomic energy to space exploration the government may have got us there but now scalable technology and the open ability to share knowledge and discovery has made the need for government obsolete in many cases. It was Craig Venter who, in 2000, made the announcement of the mapping of the human genome, a full three years ahead of the expected end of the Public Genome Program. Though there have been others look to Elon Musk’s work to see what has driven change to what people thought possible for space and alternative energy. (…and I wrote those words before the news came out about the possible combination of Tesla and Solar City which makes perfect sense giving where they have both grown to become) The tough change government needs to make is to focus on what the public has trouble doing and get out of the way for everything else. In other words government in its current state tends to do what it is bad at and doesn’t do what it needs to do. Obamacare is one example of government attempting to force an end result without doing what is needed to get there. The technology exists to learn from what works and what doesn’t — to save more lives and to reduce the cost of wasted efforts and time. Craig Venter might lead that future for the elite who can opt-in to Health Nucleus but in the meantime the rest of us have trouble transferring information from doctor to doctor or worse yet, even having access to our own medical records. The goal should be to make universal health care as opposed to coverage universal.
Not long ago I heard the headmaster of an independent school say, “We live in anxious times.” The other thing I think people miss is that in anxious times risk needs to be increased to match the social mood. However, it might be interesting to read a perspective on the risks of Trump presidency and our tendency to overestimate the limited ability of one man to make a difference. Presidents tend to be judged by the tide that rises or falls around them rather than by their direct actions. Another unusual source of perspective on this topic is from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. I encourage you to read his views on the risks of a Trump presidency along with several other articles on his blog.
Limited ability, however, still comes with moments that can change the course of a world. Moments that are hard to find and sometimes rarely written about. Take Ronald Reagan, whose legacy usually starts with people bitching about the failure of ‘Reaganomics’ or trickle-down theory. When the real legacy is a memory from Mikhail Gorbachev who said: “The world changed the first time I had my first meeting with Ronald Reagan in Geneva … I will tell you the moment. We had been sitting for four hours arguing back and forth… What happened was that we were in this mad argument, worse and worse, going nowhere, all of a sudden this President Reagan stands up and says ‘this is not working’ with this weird look on this face and he says how about we start fresh? My name is Ron, may I call you Mikhail…. At that moment the world changed. He was no evil, he was no horrible [sic], he was such a nice man.” Yet, how many people voted a choice upon the possilibity of that moment?
Either way it is going to be an interesting election. It is a race of the old elite against what, at least, seems to be something different. In the words of Mark Cuban, “I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.” Think of the irony in that alone — a billionaire businessman, and reality TV host, as the current symbol against the incumbent political elite. As it has been said about many other things, only in America…where stranger things have happened.
Can America be great again? Perhaps so. However, the error in dreaming about it is thinking what worked in the past should be able to work again. Success might leave clues but, at the same time, the world seems to be at a change point that traditional journalists and politicians are actively ignoring in the hope of things returning to their control. Vote Trump, vote Clinton, either way what we are seeing in this election cycle is not just a weird bump in the road — rather it is the moment we will look back on as the change that started to build whatever the future holds. It is with hope that direct democracy is finally going to kill the seemingly arbitrary clustering of values supported by the current two party system — and if you stand back far enough and look at the headlines it seems it is indeed starting to happen. The more interesting question is who will be running in 2020 and will any resemblance of the elite be able to hold on for another four years? As with businesses and empires it usually takes just a blink of an eye to breakdown what has taken decades to build.
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