Saturday, February 22, 2020

Credibility | Lefsetz Letter

It killed Elizabeth Warren’s run for the nomination.

Warren was depicted as a true believer. Someone who knew who she was and stuck to it. Was anti-big business. Was on the little guy’s side. Even stood up for Medicare for all because it was the right thing to do.

And then she waffled.

And then she changed her opinion.

She was asked directly how she was going to pay for Medicare for all, multiple times, live on television, in a debate, and she evaded the question. This is exactly why we hate those in power…speak directly to us, give us a straight answer. And then, based on media blowback, she decided to delay the implementation of Medicare for all.

And now Senator Warren has put a stake in her heart by agreeing to take PAC support.

Now why should we believe her? She changed her take, didn’t stick to her guns, and is now taking fat cat money? WE’RE DONE!

This is a gross miscalculation. You speak to your base, you embolden your base, not the professional class. This is how news outlets and pundits make money…creating mountains out of molehills, creating controversies where there are none, being out of touch with the public.

Which is why Bernie Sanders is so successful. He doesn’t take the corporate money while railing at the rich, and his hoi polloi supporters generate more cash in contributions than the fat cats.

For twenty years we’ve been told to go for the money, that credibility doesn’t matter, that it’s fine to sell out, no one cares anymore. Maybe we had to see it played out on the main stage to reveal the fallacy in this message.

When you do a sponsorship deal, when you appear in ads, even when you start selling your own branded tchotchkes, you’re hurting your career.

Don’t confuse this with Kylie Jenner. The Kardashian/Jenner brand is business acumen, that is not the brand of a musician, an artist.

In other words, if you can’t say no, you’re rarely going to get to yes.

And the professional infrastructure of the music business is no different from the professional infrastructure of the media/pundit world. The infrastructure remains, the acts, the politicians, the players, come and go. Believe me, your agent will be in business long after you’re done, as will your label and quite possibly your manager too. They don’t need you, they just need somebody…to hype, to skim money off of. And they only get paid when you take the bait, if you say no, the agent does not get their 10%, the manager doesn’t get paid, nor does the label. They’re all telling you to do it, and the unsophisticated, those who don’t know themselves, do what they say.

They’ve been criticizing Elizabeth Warren from the get-go, she’s too harsh, she’s a schoolmarm. But with straight talk and a plan for everything she gained traction.

But she couldn’t handle being on top. This is what Bob Dylan always does best, he does not bend to how the wind blows. He confounds expectations, with cover records, he refuses to do his songs in faithful arrangements on stage, he realizes his reputation, his credibility, is all about pushing the envelope. Same deal with David Bowie. If he’d just stopped at Ziggy Stardust, he would not be a legend. But Bowie kept reinventing himself, and if he failed, he just kept on going, and then his aura, his credibility, supported him wherever he wanted to go.

Bernie Sanders has never changed his spots. This is what the media/pundit world hates most about him. You’ve got to play the game, but he hasn’t. Which is why Hillary Clinton put Bernie down. She made sausage, he should too.

And then you’ve got people like AOC. She doesn’t care that she’s excoriated, she just doubles down.

This is what those in power don’t understand.

I’m not a huge fan of Peggy Noonan, but unlike the rest of those in the “Wall Street Journal” editorial/opinion pages, she can sometimes be reasonable.

Regarding Mike Bloomberg, today Noonan said:

“Through Mr. Bloomberg’s longtime targeted philanthropy, through his relationships, quiet alliances, generosities and personal loyalties, he has a lot of leaders – mayors, other local politicians, people who run museums and civic organizations, who speak for ethnic, racial and professional groups – who support him. But those leaders don’t fully control their own followers and constituencies. Everyone who’s a leader of any kind now is in crisis: They don’t have a complete hold on their people and wind up following them as often as leading them.”

The Best Democratic Debate in Years

Bingo. Bernie Sanders is the first internet candidate. He speaks directly to his constituency, he bypasses the middleman. The other candidates don’t get it, constantly trumpeting their URLS. Your website is not a vehicle, it’s your essence, your base, your home, where your acolytes rally around you, excluding the media/pundit middlemen. Your website is a middle finger to the establishment.

And, as Noonan says, the tail wags the dog. That was the essence of Trump and now it’s the essence of Sanders.

And the media/pundit class doesn’t even get the anti-Trump furor correct. They think it’s a horse race, about statistics, when really it’s about emotions, feelings.

And we keep getting more statistics, more tea leaves read, about turnout, all the old metrics that don’t foretell the future in the new world. If you’re gonna vote for anybody but Trump, do you really have to run out to the caucus or just wait for the candidate to be decided upon and pull the lever?

And speaking of credibility, Michael Bloomberg’s Democratic bona fides dropped dramatically in the past twenty four hours as a result of his endorsement by Clint Eastwood. You remember, the loony-tune Republican who spoke to an empty chair at the convention. I mean if Bloomberg were really a Democrat, would he have gained Dirty Harry’s support?

Of course not.

Bloomberg believes if he’s got money he can pull the wool over our eyes. This is another thing the media/pundit class doesn’t understand. It no longer dictates, it can try and spin but frequently it doesn’t work, because the public can communicate online, peer to peer, generating a feeling that overwhelms the initial prognosis.

So Elizabeth Warren had a good debate. She should have doubled down on who she was. She should have mea culpaed her previous faux pas. Owned them and moved on. Instead, she dug a deeper hole for herself, all in the name of expediency, putting the end goal ahead of the process.

Everything today is a process, taking a long time. That’s why Bernie is where he is, he started long ago, and people became familiar with him in 2016.

So, the media/pundit class believes it’s business as usual. These are the same people who missed Trump, the internet, the same people who rail against technology, the same people who believe we live in a broadcast television world with advertisements as opposed to a streaming world sans commercials. Sure, Bloomberg’s millions got him name recognition, but when we finally saw the act, we wanted nothing to do with it. In the internet world, you follow the people, you don’t lead them, unless you start way ahead of them and wait for them to catch up, which was Steve Jobs’s paradigm. Jobs famously did no consumer research, he created what he wanted, what he thought people should have, and waited for them to catch up with him! As a result, Apple is the world’s most valuable company. And never forget, when Jobs came back to Apple the company was moribund. It wasn’t the iMac, that was only a start (which had no legacy ports if you remember). It was the iPod. Now Jobs was on a streak, people were listening to him. To the point where the iPhone killed BlackBerry and Palm, despite only working on a second-rate network, i.e. AT&T, and only working at EDGE speed and consuming tons of bandwidth.

You throw the long ball and you stick to your guns.

Bloomberg is a latecomer, an interloper, and that does not resonate in internet world. The media/pundit class needs an interloper to make the story more enticing, the public feels trampled and ignored.

It is not business as usual. Whether Bernie wins or not, whether a Democrat wins or not. Once the system begins to crack, it’s inevitable that change ensues. This is the story of Napster, this is the story of income inequality, this is the story of now.


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