New Territory

A series of events this week nationally and here in Vermont reminded me that we are very much in new territory across the board – business, politics, sports, the entire culture. 

There is lots at work and I don’t pretend to understand it all. But as Steven Stills said: “Somethins Happenin Here.’’ A few examples:

  1. The WeWork IPO never made it to Wall Street. The CEO was fired after the board realized that investors were balking at his absurd behavior – private jets and worse. 
  2. The U.S. House starts an impeachment inquiry on Trump after a whistleblower blows the whistle. 
  3. Climate strike/environmental activists protest in front of a lobbying firm in Montpelier, VT demanding that the firm quit its fossil fuel clients.
  4. NY Times reporter Michael Schmidt – on Twitter – defended the newspaper’s handing of the Trump/Ukraine/Whistleblower story.  This would never have been done 10 years ago.
  5. A guy walks up to Rudy Giuliani in an airport and says he’s doing a disservice to the country.

The world is upside down and I think there are two reasons for it. 

First – the Internet. It has made us faster and dumber. But it is here and the social media stew that is Twitter is now our key means of getting news. It is fast and instant. There are few if any rules. Nothing is sacred. 

You have heard it all before. We used to sit around the dinner table and watch Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley. That’s gone. The Maddow people are over there and the Fox News people are over there. (I personally believe that’s a false equivalency and that Fox News has become an absurdity)

Second – Ronald Reagan/Newt Gingrich. It was these two guys that drove a stake into the heart of our institutions. “Government is the problem,’’ Reagan said. All these years later, the Republicans have won the argument. Few people under 40 – even liberals – believe that government can do anything well. And they have ZERO confidence in the political parties. Tell that to NASA in heyday.

A few of my children believe the Democratic National Committee is a useless anachronism that protects a system of cronyism that kept Bernie Sanders from the nomination in 2016. (They are right). And they believe that Congress and our political leadership has failed the country. (Right again)

But I believe – like my new idol Professor Scott Galloway @profgalloway – that “immunities’’ are kicking in.

  1. A 16-year-old girl from Sweden cuts through the right-wing junk media and shames we adults who have failed her generation. 
  2. The markets destroy the WeWork IPO in weeks, sending a message that the age of God-like tech CEO’s may be ending. As Galloway says, the board didn’t fire the WEWork CEO, he was fired by the media, academics and math. His company’s value was a joke and the markets figured it out. Get ready for your Uber rates to go up.
  3. Speaker Pelosi launches an impeachment investigation in large part because it is the right thing to do. She may not know the political consequences. None of us do. But she says clearly that she is doing her job. (She is right)
  4. Facebook, Google and Amazon will either be broken up by the government or break themselves up. My free-market Republican friends should rejoice. The breakups will unlock billions in new value and create hundreds of new start-ups. It’s called competition. 

If we are lucky, we may just be entering a phase in history where we figure out how to use the Internet for good, that government will respond to angry voters by doing its job better and a new majority of people heeds the words of the Swedish girl. Go Greta.