Thursday, December 01, 2016

Anyone Can Play

With it all over but the inauguration, Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States.  I know, not everyone likes to hear that, but that's the way it's going into the books.  At the time of this writing, there are still a lot of holdouts fomenting recounts and Electoral College mutinies.  I expect all that will subside by the Rose Bowl's half-time show.

The year of 2016 was exciting, for sure. But I'm a branding guy.  To me, this stuff is already history.  I'm looking out at the horizon, straining to see what lies ahead.  And from where I'm sitting, it's already beginning to look fairly amusing.  Indulge me on this.

I don't care if you're conservative or liberal: Any way you look at it, the Democrats got flattened in 2016, losing the House of Representatives, the Senate and more than likely, any voice in filling vacancies on the Supreme Court.  The big enchilada, of course, was their "shocking" loss of the presidency, but from the 100,000 foot view, the real sea change was the long-awaited delivery of the internet's promise.  Outspent and outnumbered, Republicans -- Trump in particular -- leveraged social media even better than Obama did in 2008.

That was only the second half of the change, however.  The first half occurred earlier in the year, as the United Kingdom roundly rejected the European Union, spectacularly defeating globalism while reclaiming its cultural and economic sovereignty.  "Brexit" was, as they say, huge, a  tremendous -- and possibly the most important -- boost not only to the Trump effort, but to the realization that the internet really can move millions of individuals to action.  By utilizing the intricate channels of social media, the public actually felt as though it was really participating actively.  All of a sudden, people weren't simply reading about the news; they were discussing it, adding to it and re-igniting  political passions on which they'd long past given up for dead.  For the first time, people really felt their voices were being heard -- whether they actually were or not.

In short, for the first time in decades, the concept of possibility became more real than ever before.  With the United Kingdom, that meant the European wasn't indomitable.  In America, it meant any boy really can grow up to be President.

This is where it gets really fun.

From where I sit, the rebirth of possibility is what the next four years will be all about.  With the Democrats having no place to go but up, and Donald Trump's victory reaffirming the concept of wide open possibility, there's a real chance that the next Democratic candidates for president will be Donald Trump knock-offs.   Prepare yourself for a host of beauty contestants, each one a CEO or such "stepping down to pursue personal interests," as they parade past the judges in search of political support.

Think it can't happen?  It's already started.  At the moment, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has conveniently stepped down as CEO on December 1, 2016, and is not exactly vehemently denying his political interests. Schultz leans left and has never vigorously opposed the idea of seeking public office. In fact, he's gotten burned more often than French Roast for his attempts to drag coffee into politics. As for ego, there's plenty of it in the tank, and like many successful people, I'm sure he believes that if he can make a few billion dollars selling coffee, he can do anything.  Maybe he can.  At this point, the only thing of which we can be certain is that we're going to be seeing more of him -- and he won't be hawking java.

What can we take away from this?  Maybe nothing. But more likely, if the world is anything as I imagine, we'll spend the next year or two watching more rich commoner Democrats thinking that if Trump can do it, so can they.  Watch for more CEOs, along with famous non-politicos dipping their toes into the political waters.  Watch it happen even faster if the French decide to exit the European Union.  It's going to be like when the first automobiles were invented and nobody knew if steamers, gas engines or wood-powered vehicles were going to dominate the market.

These are historic times. Not since the turn of the twentieth century, when the bulk of political power transferred from monarchies to republics, have we witnessed so much change happening to so many people in so little time.

Get ready, America.  Grab your popcorn.  The beauty contest is about to begin.