TL;DR: State Of The Race, Net Nitro, And Impossible Until Done
Here’s what you need to know…
Now that Joe Biden appears likely to be the Democratic nominee for president, the prevailing narrative is that Democratic voters rejected the more extreme, “democratic” socialism of Bernie Sanders and his political revolution in favor of a more moderate, centrist Democratic party represented by Biden. However, a closer examination reveals that assessment may not be true, and while Sanders may not ultimately win the nomination, his mark has been made indelibly on the policies and positions espoused by the Democratic party.
At Delve, we specialize in identifying challenges and opportunities for companies and organizations facing political and reputational risks. The policy and regulatory discussions dependent upon what happens in November could not be starker, so here is what you need to know about Sanders’ impact on the Democratic party, the key vulnerabilities of Biden as the nominee, and how it should change the way your organization prepares for this campaign season and beyond:
- He May Not Be The Nominee, But Bernie Sanders Has Won The Ideological Debate For His Party’s Present And (At Least Near Term) Future: The U.S. Senate’s only socialist has shown himself to be the most impactful changemaker in the Democratic party – even though he is not actually a member of the party. That reality is clear from the party’s 2020 presidential primary, which has been less of a contest between moderates and progressives than between the establishment and the crusaders. Every candidate – supposedly spread across the ideological spectrum – has advocated or accepted policies long part of Sanders’ platform, such as Elizabeth Warren’s free college and Medicare for All plans, Tom Steyer’s $22 federal minimum wage (the others have settled for $15), and Pete Buttigieg’s and Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of a financial transactions tax that would discourage investment in U.S. public companies and impact Americans’ investment and retirement accounts. Even Biden has not resisted the leftward lurch of Sanders’ party, going so far as to join Sanders as the only two candidates to call for jailing fossil fuel company executives over their firms’ contributions to climate change. Policies once unique to Sanders’ brand of “democratic” socialism have gone mainstream throughout the party, no matter whose names are up and down the ballot.
- Biden’s Nomination Sets The Table For Trump To Run The 2016 Playbook All Over Again: In 2016, Trump was able to successfully leverage Hillary Clinton’s private email server and her and Bill Clinton’s entanglement of their private interests and foundation with her public service as Secretary of State to convince many Americans it was time to disrupt the way business is done in Washington. With Biden as the nominee, expect a repeat performance from Trump. Whether undermining Biden’s “Middle Class Joe” claim given the millions he’s made in and after serving in office; to the lucrative government contracts and access enjoyed by his brother and son-in-law; to his son Hunter’s shady business deals, conflicts of interest, and messy personal life, Trump is unlikely to hold back on the Biden brood in the way a different kind of candidate might try to shy away from attacking their opponent’s family.
- If It Is 2016 All Over Again, Will Sanders’ Supporters Again Hurt Democrats’ Chances? In some ways, the 2020 Democratic primary campaign had the potential for a similar realignment in the Democratic voting base that Republicans saw with Donald Trump in 2016. And as with 2016, this realignment had the potential to throw out all of our assumed and conventional wisdom on who is likely going to vote and for whom they are likely to vote – if Bernie Sanders were to become the nominee. Now that such a scenario is unlikely, does Sanders’ base get excited and turn out to vote for Joe Biden or do they stay home and not vote – or maybe even vote for Donald Trump? In 2016, as many as 12% of Sanders’ supporters voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton. In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, “Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton was smaller than the number of Sanders voters who” voted for Trump. Sanders’ voters’ dissatisfaction with the establishment victory in the primary may once again provide an opportunity for Trump and Republicans in the general election.
As we warned in Spring of 2016, any prognosticator or pundit who claims to know what will happen in November is being less than truthful. For companies and organizations seeking to mitigate the political risks stemming from the 2020 campaign, the best way to prepare for whatever happens next is to gain a deeper understanding of the operating landscape that provides analysis of key trends and insights that separate the signal from the deluge of campaign season noise. Conventional wisdom must be scrutinized, because as the post-2016 environment has shown, the challenges and opportunities of today’s public arena are anything but conventional.
News You Can Use
We can thank Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai for a little trip down memory lane to one of the most high-profile and bitter public policy fights in recent memory. The hysteria surrounding net neutrality was perfectly captured when Pai shared a tweet from Senate Democrats’ two years prior that promised slower internet if net neutrality was repealed. But as Pai notes, the reality is that the “average U.S. fixed broadband speeds are UP over 76% according to [internet metrics company] Ookla.”
Contrary to the partisan doomsday predictions of the “end of the internet,” the internet is alive and thriving, surviving an exaggerated death that would even perhaps make Mark Twain blush. The lesson for interests engaging in public policy fights two years out from net neutrality is this: public affairs campaigns that aren’t built on a foundation of facts are futile, no matter how loud, noisy, and persistent they may be.
IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL DONE
As speculated in an edition of TL;DR last summer, it was only a matter of time before meat companies entered the burgeoning plant-based “meat” alternatives space. One of the world’s largest private companies, Cargill, announced that it’ll be launching its alternatives in April. Meat companies such as Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods already sell plant-based products.
For those monitoring developments related to food, agriculture, and the regulation of meat alternatives, the launch of new products from large, legacy companies marks a key change in the public policy landscape. These established and influential companies can be expected to leverage their lobbying muscle, and rather than simply frustrate the designs of pioneering competitors such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, they also may find themselves working together to enable a positive regulatory framework and further the success of their plant-based products.
GREENS’ WAY OR THE HIGHWAY
Did you think you were doing a good thing for the environment by conserving energy and water during a recent hotel stay? Well, the Sierra Club doesn’t think so. In an article criticizing Marriott hotels’ “Make A Green Choice” program that allows guests to receive loyalty points and perks by choosing to forgo housekeeping and reuse their sheets and towels, the group attacks the program and says the company isn’t doing enough to combat climate change.
The program has resulted in Marriott reducing its energy and water usage by 13.2% and 8% respectively, and greenhouse gas emissions by 16%, but the Sierra Club ignores these facts because they’re incompatible with the activist group’s desire to bully the company into submitting to its demands. Such an episode exposes the true nature of environmental activist groups, who spurn meaningful and reasonable change in the name of extreme and unreasonable demands, ultimately at the expense of the cause they supposedly seek.
NEXT GEN TEXT-FAKES
With the recent arrival of AI computer programs that can generate coherent passages of text, the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP) is setting the stage for a transformation in communications, business, and more. These strides in language modeling mean chatbots and voice assistants that can do advanced tasks, as well as an infinite number of applications for businesses such as analyzing vast amounts of documents.
However, the promise of NLP is paired with the perils of similar programs in the hands of nefarious actors be they bots, trolls, scammers, state actors, and the like. Therefore, analyzing the veracity of information flows will be more important than ever as a component of mitigating the subsequent political and reputational risks.