When Obama Wins

Roger, I’ve been thinking about your doomsday post that you published yesterday.

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.


6 Responses

  1. “Oh I was so much older than, I ‘m younger than that now”

  2. An inspiring read. Thanks Aaron.

  3. I respect your viewpoint, but disagree.

    We have tons of problems….tons — and no politican will be able to tackle the mess we are in econonomically or foreign policy wise……plain and simple.

    Here is my thought. I dont respect someone who has accomplished so little in his life — BUT IS A GREAT SPEAKER….AND A FANTASTIC COMMUNICATOR.

    Doesnt sell with me.

    I’m not voting FOR John McCain, just voting AGAINST Barack Obama.

    Good post BTW.


  4. Andy: Courageous public admission in our circles and some fair criticism. Of course, this means you wouldn’t have invested in to google or voted for John Kennedy over Nixon to think of a few examples.

    The value of experienced needs to be measured in a more quantifiable way so we can know how much it helps/hurts. ONe might argue we need fresh thinking that is not colored by years of experience right now.

    Finally, voting for McCain/Palin must mean you are praying nothing happens to McCain. Colin Powell walked because of Palin — so could and should you.

  5. I find Aaron’s working definition of progressive useful but do not know why it conflicts with or is inconsistent with liberal in the US context. This is not academic–as this definition goes far beyond what Progressives thought in the Progressive era–Theodore Roosevelt, LaFollettee, George Norris and the reformers who wanted to take the politics out of governing.
    If Obama wins, we have the potential of having a Rooseveltian experience: institutional change and experimentation with quick delivery on some matters.
    Communication will matter as will asking something of us as a people.
    I hope this conversation continues.

  6. On Sarbanes-Oxley–all major reforms have unintended consequences. I can speak to the ones I’ve been involved in such as campaign finance, ethics and congressional reform. They are still essentially with us and their good and public benefits far outweigh some of their weeds and barnacles.
    The key is to understand the specific reform as an ongoing work in progress and be precise about what has to be changed, based on experience, without debilitating the reform’s purpose.
    What specific changes are needed in Sarbanes-Oxley?

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