Election 2020 Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs: Overview
2020 has come with it's share of extreme views, statements and actions. If it wasn't too soon, it'd be the perfect Hollywood movie. We're taking a neutral look at the aftermath and de-escalating the claims to bring reason to the table for business leaders
Author: Frank Wazeter, Nov. 20, 2020
2020 will certainly be a year to tell the grandkids and great grandkids about. It has that ‘seminal’ year vibe about it. In case you aren’t familiar with the word ‘seminal’, it’s defined as:
Containing important new ideas and having a great influence on later work.
Containing or contributing the seeds of later development.
For the super hero fans among you, you could call it the ‘origin story’ year for the next decade. A global pandemic causes global quarantine to avoid a modern day plague, set against escalating racial tension that explodes into nationwide protests, 33 million (21% of the workforce) having filed for unemployment, and all this during a Presidential election year.
Sounds like the beginning of the next blockbuster hollywood film.
The difference is, we’ve all been living that reality and it’s the reality that ushers in the new decade. I’d even argue that the storyline driven headlines that make the summary of this year sound like it belongs in the movies is part of the problem. It’s just too easy to take the story and run with it.
Take any one of these events independent of one another, and you’ve got the making of a hectic year. Combine them together, sprinkle in a few swarms of locusts (which is happening in record numbers) and you’ve got people wondering if the end times are upon us.
As a result, we’re putting together this survive and thrive guide for business with the backdrop of politics, pandemics and protests.
It’s not all as bad as it seems and navigating the future is always somewhat of an artform.
Navigating the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential Election.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who believed that election night would end and we’d have a pleasant and civil ending to this thing. Democrats have been saying all year that the electoral college system is broken, some even going so far as to say it was designed to support slavery and disenfranchise the majority in favor of a minority.
Republicans have been saying that election fraud was a high possibility because the Democrats have a history of it and with the record number of mail in ballots, it’d be easy to rig the election.
Ironically, both statements have their proper place in history, they’re just both massively misinterpreted by a media more interested in views and clicks than in being even keeled. Stoking fires is just good business for the 24/7 news cycle. Being calm, cool and collected is not.
Let’s break the claims down.
#1 Democrats saying the Electoral College is meant to disenfranchise the majority.
While this is technically correct, it’s a misleading kind of correct. The Electoral College system was designed exactly to prevent the majority from just ‘winning’ the election every single time. See, if the Presidential election was determined solely by majority, then cities like New York City would have a disproportionately higher impact on the election (and thus more power) than places like rural Pennsylvania, or even small-towns like Scranton (which prior to this election I’d only heard consistent mention of in “The Office”).
The writers of the constitution specifically wanted to avoid a system where the majority would rule, because this would always guarantee power to the major cities. The founding fathers specifically wanted to avoid the “tyranny of the majority,” as phrased by John Adams.
A tyranny of the majority is the biggest weak spot to ‘majority rule,’ which results in an electorate that will ultimately exclusively pursue only it’s own objectives, coming at the expense of minority factions. John Stuart Mill in his 1859 book “On Liberty,” compared this as the same thing as oppression of minorities under a tyrant or despotic rule.
Here are the two major breakdowns of majority-only rule:
The government ends up extremely centralized. As power consolidates around the majority, the federal government has more and more power. That means that the federal government makes decisions that should be local. New York City making decisions for a rural town (or vice versa) simply don’t make sense, they’re radically different. Imagine for example, if a committee in charge of water supply in water abundant Seattle tried to make decisions based on what worked there in extremely dry Phoenix, Arizona. It wouldn’t work because the environments are extremely different.
Abandonment of rationality. Crowds are subject to panic. Panic leads to bad decisions. In some ways, a lot of ways - the State has to be able to make decisions that are immune to this public panic, even when they aren’t popular. The classic example here, offered by Herbert Spencer in “The Right to Ignore the State,” goes something like this: assume that something catastrophic happens resulting in an unforeseen mass hysteria and panic. Legislature, taking action solely according to public action puts into law an action that requires all children born in the next 10 years to be drowned. No one would argue that this is a rational law that would ever be enacted in normal times. But bizarre times result in bizarre measures that are beyond logic and reasoning.
Let’s look at a much more real example of the concept of ‘abandonment of rationality.’ COVID-19 has claimed over 250,000 lives this year and caused a higher unemployment rate than the Great Depression and Great Recession combined.
There is literal widespread panic over the issue, much of that panic has come from people who lean Democrat, while many who lean Republican tend to believe that it’s either overblown, not real or simply not a major concern.
Regardless of belief, with 250,000 dead it’s something the government cannot ignore. With those kinds of real impact, it’s easy to say that there is a loud majority call for action. Which has in fact, already happened, the stimulus package passed by congress earlier in 2020 was the fastest congress has ever passed a bill of it’s kind before.
But, the majority of the response isn’t in the hands of the federal government, it’s in the hands of the local government. Your state’s governor and legislature has the highest level of impact on you and what the response locally is going to be - be that shutdown, quarantine, early economic open, etc. It’s this way for a good reason: the response appropriate to New York City, where there are 26,403 people per square mile is very different than the appropriate response to a place like Salt Lake City, where there are only 1,746 people per square mile or the state of Iowa where there are 54.5 people per square mile for the whole state.
So you have a vastly diverse country, many with different approaches to the virus based on locality and sentiments there. But, there is a majority opinion overall that more federal government intervention is necessary. There’s also the very real panic of: “What if I die from COVID?”
Responding to this situation, with vaccines on the horizon claiming 95% effectiveness, it could be reality where taking the vaccination is required of all citizens. This could then very easily find support among a majority vote. In an effort to contain the widespread effects of the virus, many would see it as an extremely logical course of action.
There are two problems with this: 1) Such a legal action takes away a fundamentally personal right for someone to choose what happens with their body, for right or wrong, which is fundamentally an anti-American type of legislation. We value freedom of choice over and above anything else. 2) Vaccines historically have taken 10 years or more to develop for new diseases and viruses. One that’s been developed in less than a year, even going through major clinical trials, has a lot of question marks associated with it. The difference between this vaccine and others is that this vaccine has a significant majority of the scientific community putting their entire weight behind it, which is vastly different from the normal development cycle of vaccines where only a small majority are working on the case.
However, there’s still uncertainty. Medicine is an imperfect science. We all want medicine to be perfect, but the reality is, the world is simply too diverse and people’s health is too diverse for one solution to work in every single situation. It’s an unfair ask and an unfair burden.
So what if, in our theoretical model, our law requiring vaccination of everyone leads to some unforeseen universal health condition? Or what if, rather than going with the extreme (and unrealistic) view of an unforeseen health condition across every single person, there simply was a bad reaction in a certain minority of candidates? Then, rather than a disease causing harm to someone, a government mandated law, backed by majority vote, caused harm.
This now directly becomes a majority government mandated disenfranchisement of a minority population causing real medical harm, where potentially, there could have been none, simply because the right to choose was taken away.
See how things can get tricky so fast when panic based decisions are made? Even when they are backed by logic that ‘seems’ sound at the time and in the comfort of ‘the majority opinion.’
Early on in the election, there had been a call by some 15 states who joined in with a cause called the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,” where their electors would simply “vote in the direction of the popular vote of the country.” These 15 states would have equaled roughly 196 votes or 36.4% of the total electoral vote.
This was quickly reversed by the Supreme Court, and the SCOTUS came back with a ruling on July 6th, 2020 that required each state’s electorate to back their state’s popular vote winner if that was already their longstanding legislation about handling elections.
Reality is, strictly speaking majority rule has never been an American tradition. Separation of powers in government, separation between federal and state governments and the electoral college are all systems designed to balance local and minority interests with national and majority interests.
The fact that a President was elected (twice now in the past 20 years) without winning the popular national vote is evidence of the system itself working, not that the system itself is broken. It just so happens that the past two times (2000 and 2016), Democrats were on the losing end.
So yes, it’s factually true that the electoral college disenfranchises the majority in cases where the electoral result is different from the overall popular vote majority, but that’s working “as intended” as a balance of power against the majority. Arguably, without these powers and features in government, you’d never see progress and the expansion of rights to minorities because it would always be in the majority's best interest to keep minority powers controlled.
Bear in mind that the ‘majority’ doesn’t always mean a literal majority. A majority can be contained to a simple ‘voting majority,’ which almost never reflects the actual population. In this way, majority tyranny can operate with a simple voting majority by disenfranchising or eliminating the vote of the minority.
If majority rule is the culture, then it’s in the voting majority’s best interest to forever limit access to as few people to vote as possible because the more votes, the harder to control the outcome.
#2 Republicans saying there has been widespread election fraud and that Democrats have a longstanding history of this.
Again, this is technically correct (Democrats having a history of election fraud), but misleading.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States had issues with ‘Political Machines.’ Political Machines were organizations that controlled major cities in the United States, typically by forcibly enrolling new immigrants or holding precious jobs as hostage against people who would vote for them or not vote for them (in an era with zero benefits for unemployment, just literal starvation if you didn’t have the money to buy food).
The way these worked was there’d be a strong, centralized ‘boss’ who sat at the top of the hierarchical structure (almost like a miniature government, really), who would then create alliances and councils that determined who would be elected, who would hold positions and who could push buttons to get things done.
These existed most famously in big cities like New York City (William M. Tweed being the infamous NYC boss), Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.
President Theodore Roosevelt, who had to deal with the New York City Political Machine, once described it like this “The organization of a party in our city is really much like that of an army. There is one great central boss, assisted by some trusted and able lieutenants; these communicate with the different district bosses, whom they alternately bully and assist. The district boss in turn has a number of half-subordinates, half-allies, under him; these latter choose the captains of the election districts, etc., and come into contact with the common heelers.”
Machines formed out of a relatively benign goal - get newly arriving, poor immigrants, mostly from Ireland, Italy, Poland, access to good paying jobs, an income and rights against the established political culture. This demographic was typically uneducated, in the low income class and needed the ‘opportunities.’
In many cases, people were incentivized directly for their vote. People who worked the machine got compensation directly by forcing large numbers of voter turnout on election day. The strategy was to get the minimum possible majority to reasonably win, to keep the compensation shared among the least amount of people and keep the results somewhat legitimized and then party members would share in the spoils.
The movie “Gangs of New York” offers a look at New York during the height of the era of political machines and even depicts how voting was often handled in hotly contested elections. Bear in mind that this is a Hollywood production for entertainment purposes only.
The middle class, not the rich, was typically the machine’s biggest opponents because they were shocked at the malfeasance going on and didn’t need the offered financial aid to live their lives. It was seen as widespread corruption in city politics across the nation that was a shameful mark on American democracy.
Machines were so widespread that they even persisted on a national level. James A. Farley, during the Great Depression, ran the Democratic Party’s patronage system through the Post Office and the Works Progress Administration (which was nationalizing job benefits for the machine). Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal allowed machines to simultaneously recruit for the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps, which effectively transformed government programs meant to help the unemployed gain work through civil projects sponsored by the government into a method of recruiting for Farley’s political machine. “Vote for us, or you lose your job and your benefits.”
Farley became so powerful, that he’d even oversee Presidential appointments to key positions. Fortunately, the United States overcame the stranglehold of the machine after Farley left the administration of Roosevelt in 1940, just before World War II. The agencies that the machine had its hands in were dismantled and the machines lost their patronage, and the poor immigrant demographic who had been the primary beneficiary of the machines had by then become full fledged Americans, no longer needing mob-style protection.
In the 1940’s, with the exception of Chicago, all of the machines in the major cities collapsed and one of the few remaining after World War II (a local machine in Tennessee) was forcibly removed.
Chicago’s machine, the last of the well known and infamous machines, is widely considered to have died with Richard J. Daley, the infamous mayor of Chicago who ran the Cook County machine.
Pretty much all of these machines and the associated voting corruption were associated with the Democratic party. So, yes, to say that the ‘Democratic’ Party has a history of this kind of activity is factual in the context of the history of political parties. But it’s also true that the Democratic party, of the two parties, is probably the party that has changed the most and the most consistently, over time.
But it’s also true that these machines would have evolved regardless of party affiliation. During that era, strong-arming politics was common practice and it spread even through labor unions.
Sometimes today we have an overly naive way of thinking about things and how they “were” in the past. America’s history is unique in the history of the world in that we’re all more or less the bastard step-children of the citizenry of old world nations. Being the bastard step-children of the world means we've come up with quite a few 'creative' solutions in our history that the aristocrats of the Old World would've looked down on intensely.
The beauty of that is it’s never perfect and it’s never going to be. We’ve made plenty of mistakes and those mistakes aren’t the sole property of a single class of people, race or political party. But you know what? The mistakes are what makes us who we are today. Any entrepreneur knows that the idea of ‘perfection’ is a myth. I’d argue that today, even with our vitriol and the implied divisiveness over issues, we’ve actually progressed a lot further than we’ve ever been. Political manipulation is as old as governments have existed and is not something unique to the history of the United States.
As humans, we have a tendency to have ‘recency bias.’ Meaning that things happening now are the ‘best they’ll ever be,’ or ‘the worst thing ever,’ or ‘has never happened before.’
Reality is, these situations aren’t unique. They’re not unique in the history of the United States, they’re not unique in the history of the world, they’re not even unique in the past 100 years.
People will always be panicky in the face of hardship. I remember when the Great Recession first started, I believed it was the worst thing to ever happen, watching the news, I was convinced that we were on the edge of collapse.
I also got scared that the Mayans were right and the world would be over with on December 21, 2012.
Most people were terrified that Y2K (when the year went from 1999 to 2000) would wipe out the world and literally set off nuclear holocaust as systems couldn’t tell the difference in the year and things rolled over.
Comets were also a sign of impending doom for a society once upon a time.
The bottom line here, is you’ve got a responsibility to be calm, cool and collected as a business leader and it’s much easier to do that when you take a break from the fantastic news claims and take a look at history, reality and human nature. In the end, we triumph. In the end, we tend to continuously improve things.
As we covered here, most of these things are based in facts of some kind. It’s the way they’re told and conveyed that are told and conveyed in ways that are inherently fear-driven and intent on ‘building up’ conspiracy theories.
Democracy isn’t at stake. It never was, regardless of the Presidential election winner. That’s just been the most recent political claims made by both sides the past 4 years based on whose won what.