This is the worst seven weeks in America since Sept 11 to October 31st 2001. Seven years ago that period was marked by an emotional state of fear that was totally unfamiliar to us. Remember riding the subway or airplanes in the aftermath? We were scared. Our personal safety and sense of peace was inexorably shaken by one coordinated act of staggering terror.
These six weeks are a 9-11 of economic dislocation. Many major media outlets and several political figures have used the world Depression, a period of 25-33% unemployment in America. Confidence in Bernanke and Paulson eroded as both men failed to author a coherent strategy and suffered the embarrassment of misjudging congress. By the time they figured it out, trillions of dollars in wealth was destroyed (much of it outside of America) as we came to learn that our entire country is overextended. It really sucks.
Yet this economic catastrophe destroyed McCain’s meager chances of pulling out a narrow victory. Perhaps we will view this timing with gratitude in a decade. 2008 was already a Democratic year, but the economic meltdown has ensured that we are about to elect a very, very different person as our next President –a true progressive.
Let’s define progressive for the purposes of this post. Here’s a paragraph from the New Democratic Network site. It’s instructive:
… (for) progressives to succeed in the 21st century as they did in the 20th, they will have to do three things: offer a new governing agenda that speaks to the challenges of our day; master the new media and technology tools that are changing the way we all communicate and advocate; and understand and speak to the radically new demographic make-up of today’s America.
Progressives are not synonymous with liberals. We systematically thinking about government problems in the context of new technologies, new demographics, and, I would add, the forces of globalization.
Barack Obama has extremely progressive politics and he is going to have a much larger mandate than Bill Clinton had when he took office. Remember Ross Perot won nearly 20% of the vote in 1992. This will be the biggest opportunity for progressive political change since the Johnson administration. LBJ was among the most gifted politicians of the last 50 years. If Obama can match his skills (no way he could match his experience) we are in for some big changes in America.
And these changes will be felt throughout the world. For all the talk about how interconnected the global economic system has become, nobody that I have read is talking about what the impact of Barack Obama’s election will be on the world’s politics and policy. We are about to elect the child of African man to be the President of the richest nation on Earth. Americans will finally demonstrate to the world the true measure of our messy democracy and convincingly demonstrate that the flavor of our multi-cultural republic is not some abrigded version of democracy in countries where minorities have no real hope of grabbing the leadership. Do you really believe a peasant can become Premier in today’s China? An “Untouchable” in today’s India? Where are the minority political leaders of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom? This isn’t simply symbolic. When pundits discuss Obama’s opportunity to “restore American stature”, there has to be a positive economic outcome from this reconstruction.
Look, I would be lying if I told you, I wasn’t anxious about the American, global and Internet economies. I have had more headaches this month than in the past 3 years. It’s stressful. But at the same time, it’s amazing to me that we are one week away from the most important political moment in the history of the country for anybody under 50 and yet few in our industry media landscape are discussing the impact the new administration can have on the startup economy. Here’s a quick example: Obama himself probably understands the issues with Sarbanes-Oxley and how closed the IPO market has been for 6 years. My guess is that these laws will be rewritten within 18 months. This will be a vital change for an industry that has become blinded by the illusion that every little company can be acquired by Google.
The United States has faced significantly worse crises than what we face now. The difference is that we are no longer a nation of shared sacrifice. We are a nation and a world of wealth creators. It is how we have been trained and how we train aspiring Americas.
We have spent three weeks all aflutter about the Sequoia slides and the Calacannis doomsday scenarios. Meanwhile, the country is about to be given its most progressive politician since Franklin Roosevelt.
The Obama presidency will not be a panacea for this financial crisis. But if the global economy has become this interconnected then surely the prospect of a progressive American presidency can catalyze meaningful world change.
Roger, the only thing we know is that we cannot know. The difference between entrepreneurs and everybody else is a higher appetite for risk and an abiding faith that the glass of progress is half-full. Like everybody who gets older, I’m getting more pragmatic with age.
But it sure feels good to think young again.