Though some, I assume, are good ideas.
But who is the “they” here I’m speaking of. If you guessed “the Clinton campaign”, well, actually, you’re wrong this time. But, the who isn’t really all that important here. For this discussion, we’ll focus on the why.
The answer we were looking for, by the way, was the Democratic National Committee. They had a lot of ideas for this election cycle and, based on the way things shook out, most of them probably weren’t very good.
But let’s get back to the why. I believe that the DNC, the group that was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s biggest ally in getting her in the White House, was actually one of her biggest hurdles and ended up being one that she couldn’t clear. And they knocked her over by breaking one of the most important rules of war, they did not avoid the trap of “Group-think”.
Chapter 5 of War covers that dangers that come when a group of people all think the same idea, and don’t fight to challenge solutions put together by the coalescence of the collective mind. It typically comes from an attitude where someone in charge either overtly or by policy creates an attitude where people are either afraid to challenge them or disposed to agree. When a difficult problem arises, it often takes a different perspective to tame that problem. If everyone is taking the same position, it essentially eliminates the advantage of a group. The myopia of only being able to focus on one solution actually eliminates your ability to see if it’s going to be effect or not. It has to work, because it’s all you have.
To illustrate this point, I’m going to go to one of my favorite past-times: professional wrestling. The main event of Wrestlemania 32 showed the negatives that come with making a plan or a decision and sticking to it, despite overwhelming evidence that it’s not a great idea. Essentially, management made a decision that Roman Reigns would win the championship in the main event, despite months of fans booing him and internet message boards voice their hate for him. This was, reportedly, due to owner Vince McMahon making an executive decision. In a turn of events that surprised absolutely no one, the crowd booed anytime Reigns did anything and the entire thing was a bit of a disaster. That’s nothing against Reigns, he was the wrong guy at the wrong time. The funny thing, years earlier, the WWE almost made the same mistake with now movie star Batista before including white hot fan favorite Daniel Bryan in the main event of Wrestlemania XXX. The match ended with Bryan finally winning the championship in what is considered one of the greatest moments in the history of sports entertainment.
In both scenarios, the WWE had made up their mind about what was going to happen at a show months in advance. In one, they chose to adjust their plan based on feedback. In the other, despite getting the same information, they refused to change course. One was a landmark event, and the other was forgettable. Sometimes, it’s important to pick the right horse.
The Democrats, had two very different primary candidates in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton was option one, she been discussed at length on this blog, so we’re not going to cover much there. I’m sure you’re aware of her history as first lady and secretary of state. She was the heir apparent to the democratic party after Barack Obama finished his eight year term, and rightfully so, she was arguably their highest profile member not currently in the white house.
The other was a Senator from Vermont. You might have heard of him, a guy named Bernie Sanders. He ran on a radical campaign filled with very far left leaning socialist platforms. Despite being in the same party, he held very different views from Clinton in several key areas. In doing so, he became a very attractive presidential option for a large part of the Democratic voting base. Starting out as a relatively unknown option, Sanders caught fire with the American public and had a very strong showing in the primaries, winning 23 states and collecting more than 13 millon votes.
However, that wasn’t enough to overcome the presumptive favorite. After a race that was tight at times, Sanders fair and square and dropped out of the race, meekly endorsing Clinton on his way out.
Well, I might have embellished a little bit there.
Hey, before you judge me for it, you try writing something. It’s hard to come up with a good story without changing the details a bit. Just ask Disney. If they stuck to the script we’d have a very depressing movie about a lazy, mean spirited Aladdin or a version of Hercules where he does some very questionable things to fulfill his tasks. Actually, I’d probably watch those movies. Watching Hercules clear out a giant pile of shit with a running river sounds right up my alley.
Anyways, where were we? Right… “fair and square”. It turns out the race for the Democratic nomination was seemingly anything but “fair and square“. A batch of leaked emails from the DNC revealed that the group had essentially rigged the nomination in Clinton’s favor from the very start. It appeared that the high ranking members of the committee saw the upstart Sanders campaign as more of a nuisance than a legitimate option. The release of these emails led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was replaced, amidst raucous protests from Sanders supporters calling for her head, at the national convention during the summer.
Sanders brought different ideas to the table than the elites of the Democratic Party had when they started the campaign process. Rather than looking at Sanders’ ideas and trying to incorporate them into their campaign, they treated him as a nuisance and forced him out of the way. Maybe not overtly, they still had elections, but they were planning on having her as the candidate as early as March 2015.
Now, to me, that seems like really bad planning. You’re really putting yourself behind the eight ball when you try to plan ahead that early, because you don’t allow yourself to capitalize based on any advantages that might come your way. Much like the WWE not realizing what they had in Daniel Bryan, the DNC didn’t even give themselves a chance to figure out what they had in Sanders. Even if you don’t think he can win, by ostracizing him you close a door to organically folding him into the party and naturally bringing his voters into the mix. After cheating him, it’s impossible for any support he gives to be genuine. People see right through that.
But we’ll get back to that. We can’t let their opponents off the hook because, ironically enough, RNC made the same mistake their political adversaries made.
Wait, is that irony? I’m never sure. Either way, I’ll do some research and use it correctly in the future. This time though, just roll with it.
In a true twist of absolute and textbook irony, Trump acted in a manner very similar to the problem the Democrats were having. He was also an outsider to establishment and, as such, brought very different ideas to the table than their preferred candidates. They tried to force him out by following a similar strategy to their counterparts. However, being a generally much more inept party than the Democrats, they were unable to do so. Had they been competent enough to make the same mistake as the DNC, I think we would’ve seen a much different election in November; Hillary would’ve rolled over Cruz or Rubio or Jeb! There’s no way those low energy guys could’ve won a Presidential campaign, they couldn’t even win a mildly contested primary.
But, we are talking about the Republican Party here, and they were powerless to stop Trump’s attacks. At the end of the day Trump managed to go against the Republican party’s agenda to a degree that had many party leaders fighting tooth and nail to stop him. He was the Sanders in this scenario, but there was no strong option to take him down like Hillary on the Democratic side. They didn’t have a strong enough idea to put up against what they were fighting, and their inability to even have a base group idea allowed Trump to press in. In a way, they weren’t even capable of making the mistake that would’ve ruined them. They tried as hard as they could to screw it up for themselves, and they couldn’t do it.
And, the more we look into it, the less surprised we should be. At this point, it’s pretty clear someone in the Trump campaign appears to have known what they were doing. Either that or Trump himself is savvier than people might have us think. But it’s definitely one of the two.
This election (for better or worse) had a large group of voters who were dead set against going against the current political structure. That’s on both sides. They were fed up with the way things were going and they became very attached to the candidates who promised to stand up for them. Trump, though he turned away a large block of typical Republicans, brought out a large block of enthusiastic, newcomer voters. Sanders, from all appearances, was doing something very similar on the other side of the aisle. Now granted, I might have a slightly skewed perspective living in a very liberal city, but I see more Bernie merchandise months after his elimination than I do for both candidates combined. I realize I might be dipping into the anecdote end of the pool here, but it’s clear that his message had a resounding effect on people.
And, going back to what I was talking about earlier before I got sidetracked thinking about the stunning incompetence of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, leaving Sanders out in the cold was a mistake.
Let’s dive right back into anecdotes. After all, I was told by a bunch of people on the internet that we don’t have to use facts anymore so I’m just going to assume everything I say from here on out applies to everyone everywhere. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that they know a non-negligible number of individuals who were steadfast in their support of Bernie Sanders. And, of that group, I know a smaller segment of them who did not switch allegiances within their party and refused to “hold their nose” and vote for Clinton. I’d wager that if you had to sit down a make a list, you could come up with a similar amount. And that’s just of the people you know.
Again, you might consider this to be a relatively small misstep, but this is how massive underdogs like Trump come out ahead. It usually isn’t one big thing, it’s typically a death by a thousand paper cuts type situations. Like most things in life, ten small victories or losses have more an impact that a massive one.
For what it’s worth, group-think was an issue in the Clinton campaign as evidenced by the hilariously ill fated Donald “Ducks” his taxes event and a few of some of the campaigns other ill advised ideas, as Project Veritas appeared to confirm. Also, I can’t believe that more than one person looked a major campaign slogan where the first two words were LOVE TRUMP and gave it the green light. As far as her campaign though, I don’t think a lot of these bad ideas sunk it or anything, but they certainly don’t seem to be worth the effort. Just another paper cut or two.
War also covers something that’s very applicable to Trump right now – it talks about establishing a chain of command in order to best carry out your objectives and avoiding the trap of being like minded while doing so. We will soon see if Trump violated this principle while selecting his cabinet and staff. Though you can’t develop a herd of sheep, you need to build a team that’s not going to fight you on everything. It’s a fine line to walk, and time will tell how well he did to pick a group that can work with him without being sycophants. I prefer some of his picks to others (if Elon Musk supports Rex Tillerson, who am I to argue) but I’m willing to give it some time to see how it plays out.
I’ll say this though, if the cabinet exists solely as a means to green light whatever plans he comes up with, he’s probably going to have a short presidency.