The following is adapted from our weekly newsletter. To get early access to bonus content, sign-up for it here.
Dear Political Animals,
What a time it is to be alive. As always, I am going to try to say something different from the accepted media narrative without making anyone’s head explode in rage. Ostensibly, Star Spangled Gamblers is a site that is devoted to covering politics for people who bet on elections, legislation, and court cases. That means we’re more interested in making predictions about what will happen in the future than moral judgements about what has happened in the past. Usually this takes the form of some boring questions about which candidate will have a polling advantage on RealClearPolitics or if Trump will say a series of words at the State of the Union. But from far away, it also means anticipating when big historical forces will intervene the way that the Gods did in boring books like The Odyssey. And believe me, these forces always show up.
I like to call these things Keendawg’s rules. I’ve been a little sloppy about numbering them, but I think we’re up to #3. And Keendawg’s Third Rule is that political fads follow the same course as backyard football games: they go on until someone gets hurt.
In recent history, the list would look something like this:
FAD: In disciplined FDR-style Ivy League governance we trust.
EARLY RESULT: America wins World War II in a blow out! National unity! Now let’s build some suburbs!
MIDDLE STAGE: Segregation is bad. Let’s fix it and go to the moon.
WHEN PEOPLE GOT HURT: Moral and intellectual over-confidence leads to the Vietnam War. Woof.
FAD: Reaganomics and De-Regulated Capitalism.
EARLY RESULT: 20+ years of manly bull market growth.
MIDDLE STAGE: Democratic President Bill Clinton tells the nation, “The Era of Big Government is over.”
WHEN PEOPLE GOT HURT: 2008 economic collapse of epic proportions due to sloppy government oversight and cultural acceptance of greed.
FAD: Post-2008 recovery driven by global industries.
EARLY RESULT: We invented Google! I love my cheap iPhone!
MIDDLE STAGE: The Gig Economy. You are your own boss!
WHEN PEOPLE GOT HURT: Globalism, automation, and a media industry consolidated around the smug tastes of economic winners in 2-3 cities leads to… a divided nation that elects a president who pledges to undo everything above.
That leave us in the present. And in this era, I would say the name of the ball game is this:
AN ERA OF PERFORMANCE POLITICS. NO ONE CARES ABOUT SUBSTANCE, EVERYONE IS IN IT FOR EMOTION.
FAD: Performance politics that plays well on social media, where emotion and anger are viral and substance is an afterthought (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump, Ilhan Omar, Kamala Harris, and AOC).
EARLY RESULT: A re-alignment of parties, where Republicans commanded whites, the working and the middle class; and Democrats took hold of the rich, the poor, and minorities.
MIDDLE STAGE: A massive economic boom.
WHEN PEOPLE GOT HURT: Two once-a-century crises at once — the coronavirus and the George Floyd protests — for which there is no leadership in place to communicate the empathy, strategy, and unity needed to address them.
That’s right. I said it. I don’t think that there is leadership in place in America to deal with the problems we’ve got. We’ve been casting our leaders like actors in a daytime soap — and now we need people with actual competence, not just faces who represent our mood.
I am not rushing to judge. As someone who makes a good bit of money wagering on politics, I am rushing to bet. And my bet is that Americans will turn sour on performance politics. I think they’re seeing people get hurt and they’re tired of their lives being disrupted by preventable crises.
In the short term, that means I’m feeling good about bets I’ve made on Donald Trump losing re-election. But I also think that there is backlash in store for Democrats, who have made a joke out of themselves by peddling Russian conspiracy theories and labeling the coronavirus an extinction level event… unless you’re protesting something they care about.
There’s a reckoning coming there too, but I haven’t figured out how to bet on it yet. Once I do, you’ll be the first to know.