The American Singularity

 Thursday, July 16, 2015

by Reed Galen

Days Until Iowa Caucus: 208

New Candidate this Week: Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)

Quote by a Smart Person: "Indecision and delays are the parents of failure." George Canning

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Why the Singularity?

·      The presidential nominating process is one in which everything, large and small, is sucked into its gravitational maw, allowing nothing to escape its grasp as events pass through the campaign cycle’s event horizon.

·      There is no more singular political experience on the planet than electing the President of the United States.

·      The United States is still the most free, most prosperous and brightest beacon of hope to billions around the world.

Every action and reaction feeds into this black hole of press coverage, donor reactions, voter sentiment and activist opinions. Nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. Legions of reporters, bloggers, opposition researchers, trackers, social media monitoring services, vacuum up every last syllable.

Every week we’ll take a look at the campaign as it unfolds, and how events reflect the campaigns, the issues of the day and the country at large. Have a tip, piece of advice or something to add? Email me – reed@jedburghs.com

Week 17: Hillary Vs. The Future

This week Hillary Clinton was slated to give a ‘major economic speech’ outlining the problems with America’s job market and her vision for the future. As soon as it was reported that she would take on tech companies such as Uber and Airbnb, Hillary, Inc. apparently watered it down, leaving a collection of quasi-lefty pabulum on the page. What’s more, she gave the speech at the New School in Manhattan, continuing her streak of only doing major events within sight of her $25,000/month office space.

I once caught a fish...Courtesy LA Times

I once caught a fish...Courtesy LA Times

Hey, Uber Here!

I love Uber. Not so much because it’s a new technology, democratizing transportation, which it does, but because it’s made traveling to notoriously bad taxi towns like San Francisco and Washington, DC tolerable. If you’ve been in a cab in either of those places, you too have experienced the bad attitude and lack of local knowledge that has come to epitomize the taxi industry.

Washington, DC taxi drivers block traffic in protest - because that would make you more popular. Courtesy Getty Images

Washington, DC taxi drivers block traffic in protest - because that would make you more popular. Courtesy Getty Images

My uncle is an Uber driver. He’s retired now but got bored sitting around the house so decided to sign up. In Austin, Texas during SXSW, I had two different Uber drivers who drove the 70+ miles from San Antonio every morning because their hometown had banned the service. Another driver taking me to the airport had done so well with Uber that he’d been able to go part-time at his other job allowing him to spend more time with his wife and kids. Turning Uber into a massive national employment agency would make all of their stories impossible.

And while California never saw a good thing it didn’t want to ruin, Hillary and many critics of the ‘gig’ economy are back to their fairness trope. It’s not fair that people don’t get benefits. It’s not fair that we all don’t make $1 million a year. A lot of things aren’t fair – trying to restrain the 21st century American economy, or worse yet, return it to a period that has been gone for 30 years and will never return, is the epitome of what Clinton is advocating for.

Side Note: It probably didn’t hurt Uber’s cause that David Plouffe is able to call the leadership of Hillary, Inc. and rain down fire from San Francisco.

Reality Bites

To return to Uber, and throw in Airbnb, they’ve revolutionized their various industries at a pace that neither government – local, state or Federal, - nor traditional business models can possibly match. Taxi unions and Medallion owners (almost none of whom  are actually the drivers) are mad because their fares are disappearing. Hotels and local tax collectors don’t like giving individuals the freedom to with their homes what they wish (within reason.)

Courtesy Reuters

Courtesy Reuters

To return to my SXSW experience, I rented an apartment through Airbnb for the conference because a) the hotels in downtown Austin had been booked for months and b) available rooms were hovering around $700/night. From whom is Hillary protecting me by trying to make it harder for me to save $550 a night for a bed?

Both companies are yet further examples, as if we needed more, that the market will find a way. If there is an opening to be had, available capital and innovators ready to take the leap, there will be market disruption. To remind Manhattan (and the Brooklyn sub-office) of Econ 101 – this sort of competition is good for the consumer – I get a cheaper ride and a comfortable room at a fraction of the cost I might otherwise.

Which Way Do We Go?

Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign lost because of a once-in-a-generation opponent, internal strife and ultimately a lack of coherent message. While she doesn’t have to face Barack Obama this time, and everyone seems to be behaving themselves, she still lacks a compelling reason as to why she should be president other than it’s her turn. Rather than having a well-reasoned and competent plan for the country’s future, she is stuck in tactical mode – trying to fend off Bernie Sanders (a Socialist!) on her left. Maybe they have survey data that shows Bernie is a real threat – if that’s the case, her troubles have only begun.

Feel the Bern...Courtesy Facebook.

Feel the Bern...Courtesy Facebook.

But in true Clintonian fashion, Hillary talks about a progressive economy while in the shadow of Wall Street. She wants to toughen Dodd-Frank but both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s administrations are littered with big bank honchos, guiding economic policy. Her ability and willingness to say anything to anyone is additional proof that she lacks the sort of depth and core that voters want. While she may be up by 65% in her race for the Democratic nomination, her road beyond  that is not at all clear.

For all the talk of fairness, the middle class and living wages, she has lost the validity as a messenger on these issues. To Millennials and younger voters, whom she will need to turn out in droves next fall, the world which she describes is something they’ve never seen, can’t comprehend and don’t understand. Although they may veer left, they seem unwilling to blindly follow a Democrat because they say the wrong things - rather than voting at all, they'll stay home.

Silicon Valley Ain’t Hollywood

Despite her last-minute decision to scrap whatever she might have said about Uber and other similar companies, Clinton should remember that the technology community is not Hollywood. Though they may share her views on social issues, many of them are staunch capitalists who see undo regulation as anathema to their innovative spirit. Hollywood moguls make their money year in and year out. They’ll give to Hillary because it’s what they do.

Tech titans might max out and may even vote for her (in California it doesn’t matter) but her campaign shouldn’t expect a bunch of CEOs to step up and write seven-figure checks to super PACs in support of a candidate who  doesn’t understand and/or doesn’t like what they’re creating.

Lost in America

Hillary Clinton should have run for President in 1948. Back then she could say one thing to people in New York and another to people in South Carolina and the chances of those streams crossing would be accidental at best. With nothing more than the radio and newspapers to inform the general populace, she would have been masterful at slicing and dicing voters whom had little conception of one another.

Unfortunately, she’s running for president in 2015. Everything she says and does is transmitted instantly around the globe. As she travels the country, she seems to rely more on her celebrity – (Hey! That’s Hillary Clinton!) than anything else. Like Donald Trump, where Hillary goes, the cameras follow – and that will get her a long way. But she is failing the first tests of being a candidate – what exactly do you stand for? What do you plan to do about it? Are you sincere?

The Clinton campaign's version of a moving ropeline. Courtesy @maggieNYT

The Clinton campaign's version of a moving ropeline. Courtesy @maggieNYT

Currently she goes from parades in New Hampshire to Iowa town hall meetings with hand-picked participants and audiences. What is she afraid of? That people won’t believe she’s sincere? Too late. Hillary’s near quarter century  in the bubble has made her tone deaf and uncomprehending. Maybe, just for a minute, she should step out of the limo and walk around for a while.

A Note on Political Interns

Recently, a young woman who’d been a “Fellow” on Hillary Clinton’s campaign penned an op-ed decrying the fact that the campaign, despite enormous ready cash, wasn’t paying its interns. My first Presidential campaign was that of George W. Bush in 2000. It too, was well-funded campaign. As a junior squirrel advance man I got $35 a day in per diem, a hotel room (that I often shared) and a plane ticket. When I was out more than a week, they picked up the tab for my dry cleaning. I relied on the kindness and generosity of the older members of my teams to pick up dinners in Cincinnati and Sioux City.

A lonely desk in the Office of Presidential Advance, circa 2002. Note Blackberry and StarTac belt clip.

A lonely desk in the Office of Presidential Advance, circa 2002. Note Blackberry and StarTac belt clip.

I did it because I was a true believer. I did it because I knew that there was someone else ready and willing to take my spot on every event I did during the primary. Was it easy? No. Did my parents like me crashing at their house between trips? Not really. But I (and they) put up with it and was ultimately rewarded. Three years later, I’d already worked at the White House, seen the world and by 2003 was Director of Scheduling and Advance on the President’s 2004 reelection campaign.

What other industry allows someone to go from doing the tape downs on the press riser in West Des Moines to managing a multi-million dollar budget and 60 people in that span? I made some of my best friends and met my wife. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the experience and as hard as it was, I wouldn’t give back a second of it.

Interning or volunteering on a presidential campaign is a career elevator – you get to do and see things no one else your age does. You begin taking them for granted. Complain about it? They’ll find someone else. Working on these races isn’t easy and it’s not supposed to be. You’re trying to elect the next leader of the free world – the work should be hard.