The Rise of People Who Actually Say Things

Over the past two weeks, Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have both announced they will run for president in 2020.

These announcements and the media’s reaction to them were as predictable as the well written but vapid speeches and well produced but fluffy videos that accompanied them.

We knew that Harris and Booker would jump into the race together from the moment we watched them trying to out-president each other in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room last fall. And we knew they would give impassioned sermons on progressive values, filled with empty platitudes and tired rhetorical devices. We also knew the media would hang on their every word and cover them in continuous (if manufactured) glory.

Predictable narratives are predictable.

So, it also shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Mika Brzezinski and the other clowns at “Morning Joe” would interrogate potential independent candidate Howard Schultz on the price of a box of Cheerios. It’s possible that they were still upset that Starbucks stopped sponsoring their show in 2013, but it’s more likely that they were trying to produce another “What is Aleppo?” moment.

Even though Schultz handled himself much better than Gary Johnson (“I don’t eat Cheerios, I’m sorry”), that didn’t stop the press from blasting him as an out of touch billionaire who is running out of pure greed or narcissism. The video of a heckler calling him an “egotistical billionaire asshole” seemed to be on a perpetual loop over at MSNBC and CNN.

After all, Montgomery Burns is evil and would never feel the need to apply his particular skills to help fix the country’s problems. Right?

Predictable narratives are predictable.

“He’s an RNC plant,” a friend of mine told me when I asked for his opinion. He proceeded to lay out a detailed theory explaining this claim. I asked him if he had listened to an interview of Schultz. “No, not yet.”

Even the people who listen to and analyze these speeches and interviews for a living seem incapable of hearing what Schultz is saying. And this is nothing new.

Anyone who actually listened to a Trump speech in 2015 knew that he was actually saying things. True, he had to cloak his coherent platform in an entertaining stand-up routine and throw in a few outrageous barbs to guarantee continued media coverage. But the flair was simply there to help ensure people listened.

Schultz may have the charisma of a damp washcloth and clearly cannot compete with Trump as an entertainer or a showman. But he is saying things—real things—that will resonate with voters. And with his resources and apparent intelligence, he might improve his presentation over the next few months and reach people as well. After all, even Trump needed time to get used to the constant onslaught from the media.

The press and the political establishment hate successful people who actually say things because these people are unpredictable, don’t play by the established rules, don’t like being ancillary characters in someone else’s narrative, and typically have the resources to be heard. They also tend to be smart enough to see that the political establishment is inept at everything except widespread corruption.

Donald Trump delivered a huge blow to the political establishment from which it is still reeling. But many in the political class thought Trump was an aberration. If Schultz ran as a Democratic-leaning independent, that could serve as a second serious blow to an already beleaguered system. This may help explain some of the anger and hysteria surrounding Schultz’s potential run.

Few experts see how Schultz could get a majority of liberal voters, let alone beat Trump. But then again, few experts thought that Trump could win the 2016 Republican presidential primary, let alone the general election. If Schultz and Trump were normal politicians, these expert assessments likely would have been accurate. But the experts, notoriously, are bad at prognosticating about people who actually say things.

Even though many on both sides of the aisle seem to believe that Trump would beat Schultz in a walk, this is not a necessary conclusion. And the dynamics of the race likely wouldn’t rely on the tired and predictable factors of money, opposition research, and groundwork. In fact, we are not sure what the race would look like, because few of us are as smart or savvy as either Trump or Schultz.

But even though we don’t know what a race with a couple of independent billionaires would look like, we do know that it would push forward the conversation and produce many more interesting real ideas than the empty pontifications of Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Mitt Romney, John Kasich, or any other generic brand politician.

In a town where most people are owned by someone, having a new group of independent politicians who can actually say things would be a welcome breath of fresh air and would force Trump to step up his game even further. And that would be a good thing for the country.

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Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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