Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 6, 2016

Brian Gongol

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Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

This week

But first...

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Is this how we should pick a President?

What's up next?

I think all of this defies explanation. Or it would, if we didn't have ample evidence that the relentless dumbing-down of our public discussion of things was almost inevitably going to lead to this kind of nonsense. I mean, there *was* a time when people had to pass editorial scrutiny in order to get a letter to the editor published. Today? It's a race to see who can be the first to crack a joke on Twitter about the latest tragedy.

Not that I think the gatekeepers were all that *good* at what they did in the past, but they provided a form of accountability in the form of ongoing quality control that gets lots in the firehose of "user-generated content" that exists today. I say this, acknowledging full well that I'm responsible for posting 5,125 tweets under @briangongol.

The left deserves a lot of blame for this, after the messianic fervor that built up around Obama and that they continue trying to sustain today (it's moved in spirit, if not entirely in ideology, to Bernie Sanders). They substituted "hope and change" for substance, and now that's just an acceptable way of doing business.

I think that in the past, third-party movements stayed in third parties. Now what we have is a fringe movement infecting a major party like a virus and tapdancing close to killing the host. Weak party structure, a plurality of non-party voters (who still have the option to vote in open primaries and same-day-registration caucuses like ours), and 10 to 20 years of middle-class income stagnation are all contributing to the unrest.

My outside bets are these:

1. Trump looks at the tea leaves, sees no way of emerging from this without some kind of loss (in the delegate race, at a brokered convention, or, God save us, at the general election) and decides to pull a George Costanza and quit while he's ahead. He's at peak popularity right now -- it can't go higher than this. Any chance he has at winning a general is built on people hating Hillary Clinton THAT MUCH that they'd just hold their noses and pull the lever for him. Seems unlikely to me. And IMHO, for a crazy self-promoting scumbag whose net worth is 95% tied up in the value of his name, that big a loss is too large to countenance. I said this on the radio yesterday and the Trumpkins lost their minds. I think it's the rational course of action, but I don't have any confidence anymore that he's rational.

2. Trump can't make it to a majority of delgates, so the convention is brokered. It goes to a Rubio/Kasich ticket because ultimately people want to win. Trump launches a third-party campaign that wins a couple of southern states and a couple of northern randoms, and Hillary Clinton is POTUS 45.

3. Trump pulls off the nomination in the delegate count. The GOP goes into full meltdown mode. Sane Republicans turn to Paul Ryan for a nominal leader. A GOP-in-exile organizes around some non-party structure. Not sure what that looks like -- maybe some kind of membership association? Not sure exactly. Elected officials stick with the (R) behind their names. But 50% of the operatives who used to run the Republican Party resign and switch to the GOP-in-exile, which exists in parallel and promotes the kinds of candidates who represent GOP 2.0, which will have to be organized/re-constituted in 2018 and 2020. Unclear whether the Tea Party and/or Cruz wing of the party decide to come along for the ride.

4. Trump gets the nomination. Someone prominent gets in as a third-party candidate, possibly with backing from Koch money. (Many states give until August to get on the ballot.) Whoever it is goes hard after a handful of winnable states (probably western Republican states, where the leave-us-alone streak is stronger than the nativist-populist streak) in an effort to keep either Clinton or Trump from hitting a majority in the Electoral College. It goes to the House.

All are outside bets -- far too many uncertainties in the way. But some kind of pressure-relief valve has got to give.

All I know is that whatever I *want* to happen is certain *not* to happen. I wanted a Kasich/Haley ticket, and that's about as likely as my dog going to the Moon.

* * *

The thing I have come to accept (with great reluctance) is that a pro-business, free-market, classical-liberal party that also embraces Enlightenment thinking on issues like the rights of the a party that's going to be capped at about 10% of the population, even in an advanced civilization like ours. We can find parties meeting that description in the European parliamentary democracies...mostly in the back benches or in the history books.

I look, for example, at the Progressive Democrats in Ireland. Founded 1985, defunct 2009: Pro-privatization, pro-business, mainly hands-off on social policy (even in conservative Ireland, they were in favor of same-sex civil unions). Germany's FDP is still around, but rarely breaks a 10% ceiling and isn't even represented in the Bundestag right now.

So I resign myself to the fact that I'm stuck with having to be part of a coalition if I want to get anything. And under first-past-the-post voting like we have here, we have to form the coalition *before* the general election, and our place has generally been in the GOP. We had counterparts in the Democratic Party when Bill Clinton was in charge -- see the Democratic Leadership Council, also now defunct. (Note that the DLC was also founded in 1985 and went defunct in 2011...about the same as Ireland's PDs.)

So I think for a while the sensible wing of the GOP -- and within that, I'd place Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Rick Snyder, and probably even Nikki Haley -- may be forced to go "underground" for a while. Maybe assemble around a 501(c)(4) like the DLC used to be. Work for a while on think-tank stuff. Let the populist fervor burn out on both sides. Endorse some of the smarter candidates out there. Maybe even form some Super PACs and the like to funnel money to sustain the non-crazies. But for a while, the party may very well be dead, and we may have to be external to the party. God knows that if the National Review is ready to tell off the nominee of the Republican Party, then there's an infrastructure there and a network that may need to spend a little time in the wilderness workshopping a return.

Follow the playbook Margaret Thatcher did to revolutionize the Conservative Party after they turned left and got their asses handed to them in the early 1970s. Be ready for the moment when the people who hated you when you were in charge decide to hate the other guys because their policies (or lack thereof) fail utterly.

Or, maybe, we're in such a bizarre moment that outside groups matter (temporarily or not) more than party organizations. The only way this Trump nonsense came about was that the GOP was too weak as an institution to fight him off. Maybe that says the organizational discipline that parties used to provide in the electoral process is no longer exclusive to parties. One could argue that the rise of Obama's OFA as an non-party organization running (somewhat) in parallel to the party signals that the old structure is immaterial.

And, I suppose, if the public is so easily swayed that after this long they're still tolerating a thinly-veiled Mussolini wannabe, then all you really need to do is start cultivating some celebs to run in 2018 and 2020. Do you suppose Kristin Bell has any classical-liberal leanings?

An untried premium strategy

Premium brands in technology. It hasn't been tried yet, but I see the future of technology branching into "free" and "premium" brands among the big players (Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and others). Thus far, some of them have begun offering upgrades to conventional services (like Amazon Prime) and there are some freemium projects (like Microsoft's varying degrees of "free" cloud services, all nudging you towards paying for Office 365). But what I think is still coming is a branching-off, like Toyota did with Lexus, like Honda did with Acura, and like Nissan did with Infiniti. Automakers got there first, but the technology companies are probably going to find their way there, too. Both represent industries with almost-universal exposure and customer bases, and with major needs to spend on research and development. They also deal with odd price sensitivities -- many people want the cheapest things they can find, and some people want to consume conspicuously.

Inside the Apple ecosystem, things function well but the features are limited. In the Android and Windows ecosystems, there are more choices but there's always something not quite right.

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