Sunday, September 13, 2015

Politics Isn't Influential Anymore.

I've mentioned many times that our political system isn't very influential when it comes shaping the country. If you want more proof of this, look at the list Politico just compiled of the top 50 “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015.” If politics means anything to the country, then these are the people who should be changing the way the public thinks or acts. So are they? Let's see.

To demonstrate my point, consider these 54 names from the “Top 50” (Top 71 actually):
David Bossie, Charles Spies, Alicia Garza, Patrissse Cullors, Opal Tometi, Mark Holden, Ernest Moniz, Jenny Horne, Ron Fermer, Michael Oren, James Obergefell, Sara Horowitz, Robert Putnam, Tim Rieser, Bill Halsam, Loretta Lynch, Mark Bertolini, Mary Kay Henry, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coats, Brian Sandoval, Radley Balko, Charles Murray, Heather Boushey, Ann O’Leary, Marvin Ammori, Susan Crawford, Tim Wu, April & Ramesh Ponnuru, Michael Botticcelli, Mary Anne Hitt, Brice Nilles, Oren Cass Joseph Stiglitz, Barbara Howard, Susan Stone, Mick Cornett, Raj Chetty, Ernie Chambers, Mikey Dickerson, Megan Smith, Timothy Carney, Veronique de Rugy, Jay Faison, Dana Bolger, Alexandra Brodsky, Lanhee Chen, Chris Soghoian, Nancy Sullivan, Clifford Lane, Julie Ledgerwood, William Voegeli, Michelle Lee, Atul Gawande
They write blogs, books read by a few thousand people, or columns in obscure political journals. They are race baiters or gender baiters in a world that no longer listens to people like that. Some are hired guns for dying campaigns. Some work at “think tanks” which write papers read only by other think tank members. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all nobodies. They are unknown to the public as are their ideas. Good luck even recognizing most of them.

Now let’s consider the 17 names you will recognize in the reverse order of actual importance:

Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. The fact that obnoxious Reality TV transsexuals are listed as influential tells you all you need to know about how influential this group really is. Look, gays won, but the sex-based issues are done now. These people are irrelevant. And even if they weren’t, there are only roughly 50,000 transsexuals in the US... less than one NFL stadium. No change that affects that few people is influential.

Nikki Haley. An Indian female governor who may one day run for another office. Where is the influence exactly?

Elon Musk. Musk makes noises about being an environmentalist, but really he's a luxury car battery maker, and his influence depends on him developing environmentally friendly batteries. If he pulls it off, then cars will switch from gas to battery power, which will shift energy production from gasoline to power plants. If he fails, then nothing changes. All told, his political influence is that of the typical wealthy donor.

John Oliver. Oliver wants to be the new John Stewart, only he’s stuck on HBO where far fewer people can see him... not that he influences anyone anyways. The sum total of Oliver's influence is that he gives moronic hipsters who want their existing views confirmed by a smug bastard somewhere to turn.

Hugh Hewitt. Like all Talk Radio hosts, Hewitt uses his talk show to sell his books and advertising; he's not trying to change the world. And even if he was, his audience is tiny (less than 1% of the public) and he's speaking almost entirely to people who already agree with him and who have no influence.

Bernie Sanders. Old man Trotsky is for entertainment purposes only. Sanders is Ron Paul with a red shirt, meaning he's a protest vote who will always threaten, but never influence a single thing.

Elizabeth Warren. Warren is given credit as a King maker, but has yet to successfully crown a single person. Her consumer agency was a flop. She is post-Congress Newt Gingrich in drag: a woman with a small, dedicated following who think she's something she's not... influential.

Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is probably the most respected Democratic Senator, for whatever that's worth. She does manage to keep noncontroversial issues humming along, but has never and will never do anything bigger than funding a bridge or sending angry letters to competitors of her donors. That makes her our biggest influence so far. How sad is that?

John Kerry. Kerry has no actual influence of his own. He makes sense on the list however, because of his ability to hamstring US policy in favor of whatever thugocracy has pulled his strings in their most recent negotiations. Essentially, his influence is in delaying inevitable action. His biggest "influence" currently is in teeing up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf. He's a delay of game penalty.

Paul Ryan. Ryan writes the budget, which you would think would be a big deal. Only, (1) he lacks the nerve or savvy to do anything interesting, (2) Obama will run rings around the GOP budget if Ryan tries, and (3) the Federal budget is on autopilot except at the edges, so genuinely influential change ain't happening in our lifetimes. Basically, he's the head of the purchasing department for the Federal government, carrying out orders from other departments.

Charles Koch. I would be tempted to dismiss Koch as just another rich donor, except that Koch has been trying to create an influential empire by purchasing major newspapers, air time, and candidates. I would estimate that he can move the political needle a bit, but still within the margin of error. That makes him easily the most influential person on the list so far. How sad is that?

Matt Drudge. Drudge is the first with real, significant influence. Drudge has the power to freak out "conservatives" with misleading headlines because the Talk Radio crowd repeats his headlines as if they were gospel, even when they are obviously wrong. Basically, his power is to keep the fringe right at war with the right by keeping them misinformed and pissed off, i.e. he's doing Debbie Wasserman Schutlz's job for her. That makes him the first person on this list to actually affect the way the public thinks and acts.

Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy's political influence is the strongest on the list, though what exactly his influence is remains unclear. Seen one way, he has freed the GOP from some toxic issues and has otherwise been a reliable ally for big business. Seen another way, he has given the Democrats likely-Pyrrhic victories on a couple social issues and has otherwise been a reliable ally for big business. Either way, that makes him the most significant person on the list for when it comes to reshaping the political landscape.

See my point? If this is the most politically influential, then politics is not influential at all. Finally, we come to people with actual influence, only, none of them are influential through politics.

Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg's political influence is minimal. He wants to be Charles Koch, only his attempts to shape the immigration debate imploded. Where he is highly influential, however, is in his ability to shape the culture through Facebook. So he would belong in the top 10 of an "important Americans" list, but not on a politically influential list. The fact that he's in the Top 5 of Politico's Top 50 political movers and shakers list speaks volumes to the dearth of influence on the list.

Pope Francis. Hugely influential, Pope Francis is reshaping the Catholic Church to bring in new members. Politically speaking, Francis hasn't really commented on our politics, nor do Catholics vote as their Pope tells them. Where he seems to have had the most political influence has been in the genuine conservative response to his proclamations, which essentially equates the current Catholicism with Marxism. That could drive a wedge between Catholics and conservatives, or it could mean nothing.

Janet Yellen. Although her job is political, Yellen's real influence is economic. In theory, her control over monetary policy gives her the power to accelerate or decelerate the US economy. This power, however, is hamstrung by prior fed actions and is currently limited to little more than talking the stock market up or down for a few days.

That's it. These are the people who are supposedly “transforming” America, yet outside of a couple whose influence resides outside politics, only one or two have any real influence over how the public will act politically. Isn't it interesting that for the system that supposedly runs America, there is remarkably little real influence anywhere on this list.



LL said...

Society and societal views has shifted tectonically and the political class and their anticipated gravy train is in jeopardy. I'm sure that once it sinks in, they will react like spoiled children. Even if a mainstream person (such as Kasich) wins the presidency, the influence of non-political people will begin to shake things up. The political elite hasn't delivered anything but a welfare state and many people are fed up with the lies that the parasites and their creature, the MSM delivers.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, What I find interesting is that a few years back, I began to notice that society had essentially moved on from politics. It did its own thing and only looked to the political world when the political world tried to encroach upon it. For good or bad, that seems to be the model we are living under today.

Unknown said...

Andrew......What I find most influential these days is the speed of communication. What we see now is that within days, nay, hours, a political (and/or non-political) figure be lifted up, or most likely knocked down by the ability of the internet and it's little cousins Twitter, Instagram, etc., to swarm millions of people with a comment or theme.

Witness Drudge (slowing down these days) highlighting an issue or comment or story that is picked up by talk-show hosts and heads. Or twitter ruining a career in hours (the marketing female fired for her Africa tweet). Or any politician having to re-tweet an explanation or apology for something he/she or their campaign tweeted just hours ago.

The speed with which any comment, aside or position, by any politico, is picked up and transmitted across the world is astounding. Not only that, but the ability of politicos to counter a mainstream media narrative with the actual video and or transcript is a good thing. It frees up the stranglehold the old media had on what was going on and being said in the world.

Sure, it now brings out the lunatics in full 'Emperor' glory (Socialists and Bernie Sanders) to be part of the greater play, yet it also exposes them for what they really are. And that can only be a good thing.


tryanmax said...

Really? Ernie Chambers!? Omaha's own Al Sharpton? That is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Here's a guy who spent 40 years trying to repeal the death penalty before realizing he needed to work with the other side to get it done. But he still failed to factor in the electorate. As of Friday it's official, petitioners gathered more than enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot and possibly reinstate capital punishment.

Granted, the guy was so entrenched with Omaha's black community that a majority of state senators opted to term-limit themselves just to get him out of the senate for one session. (NE now limits consecutive terms, not total terms.)

AndrewPrice said...

Bob, It's stunning isn't it? I think it's also a very bad thing because it blows things out of proportion and it makes knee-jerk reactions into instant final judgments... summary executions with no chance to fix the issue.

Basically, you say something stupid online that would in the past have resulted in a reprimand or a quick apology and been fixed with the lesson learned, and now it ends up blowing up into an international incident that becomes FACT long before anyone knows the facts. Suddenly, within minutes, your employer is attacked with the rumor version of the event and calls for your head. Ten minutes after that, you get an army of assholes making death threats on Twitter and blogs. An hour later, that army of assholes is putting your family at risk by posting your address or phone (or someone they wrongly think is you). Look at the "lion killer" dentist.

And it's all done on rumor without proof, by anonymous people with no sense of judgment or genuine morality, and no responsibility. It is a world of angry children throwing punches in the dark, and employers don't seem to get that, and there's little way to protect your family or your life once these little tyrants get started.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, These really are the movers and shakers of the political system, though the list does have a leftward bias. That's what I find so fascinating about it. These people are THE PEOPLE, and yet, they are utterly irrelevant to America.

To me, this really does confirm just how divorced America itself is from our political system. The country hums along fine without these people even as they are all engaged in what they think is a life and death struggle for the soul of the nation. Interesting, huh?

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, the article is already rather long or I would have connected it to things like that poll which found that only a tiny minority cares about race issue anymore, how feminism has all but been pushed aside, how fewer and fewer people vote or pay attention to politics, how political book sales have all but collapsed, and how even talk radio's audience is tiny (within the margin of error for America).

BevfromNYC said...

I have never really heard of anyone on the larger list which leads me to ask...are they the "Illuminati" I hear so much about? In all seriousness, I have to agree that the internet and access to all manners of "information" makes it hard to control "narrative" in politics. Yes, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (etc) just prove that we have been protected, or more accurately, politicians have been protected all these generations from their own stupidity.

Andrew - I agree that it is a small minority who really care about the day-today workings of our government and most of those are people getting paid to do that. And for the most part, we normal regular people really aren't stupid. We all manage to get through the day without having anyone tell us what to do or how to do it, or why not to. We, unlike, politicians do not need "handlers" and teams of "assistants" to get ourselves dressed in the morning or to get from Point A to Point B.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I heard of most of the names, but usually just as one obscure fringe site blasts another obscure fringe site. The lower names I know much better, but as you can see, they aren't really influential either.

I think it's funny, as you point out, how the rest of us get by without all the handlers these people need. LOL!

(Gotta run, btw. Will be back later.)

ScottDS said...

Of those 54 names, the only one I'm remotely familiar with is Ta-Nehisi Coates. As for the rest, frankly I think some of those names sound made up. ;-)

As for Jenner and Cox... the whole trans rights movement comes across as a few activists saying, "Well, we got gay marriage. What's next on the list?" I'm not saying they deserve less than anyone else, but let's slow down things a little bit!

And I think you're being a little hard on Elon Musk. He's a dreamer and we need more of those nowadays. (Of course, dreams don't always yield results, but at least he's trying!)

Kit said...

"let's slow down things a little bit!"

Scott, Welcome to the Conservative Movement!

Standing athwart history yelling "Stop!" or, at the very least, "hold on, let's think about a bit before we start rushing things" in the grand tradition of Burke, Kirk, and Buckley.

Kit said...

A few of my thoughts:

Cox & Jenner: As I said before, Jenner's decision to have a sex-change put many American parents in the uncomfortable position of having to answer difficult questions about who the Khardashians are and why they are famous.

No one knows, really.

Nikki Haley: Scott Walker, Rubio, and Rick Perry are both more influential than here right now. In a few years, this may change but right now? No.

Elon Musk: Owns SpaceX, which is cool.

John Oliver: Like Stewart, he can be really funny but the "smug foreigner lecturing Americans" can get really tiring. Though I liked his bit on FIFA.

Bernie Sanders: "Sanders is Ron Paul with a red shirt, meaning he's a protest vote who will always threaten, but never influence a single thing." Pretty much.

Warren: Agree.

Paul Ryan: I like him a lot, I think he is very good at writing budgets and he seems like a genuinely decent human being (rarity in Washington) however I have some issues with him. In a better run (and organized) GOP he could produce wonders but, alas.

Pope Francis: I'm still making up my mind on him.

Janet Yellen: Greenspan she is not.

ScottDS said...

Kit -

I'm well aware of WFB's quote... I've even used it a few times myself in non-political situations. :-)

My concern, as always, is the potential alienation of otherwise sympathetic folks in the middle.

Rustbelt said...

Kit, I agree Oliver can be funny. When he subbed for Stewart last year, he mentioned Obama talking to a crowd in Germany where only a few hundred people showed up. He quipped that, "Obama has lost 95% of his audience...making him the NBC of world leaders."
But, as Andrew says, now he's showing his true hipster stripes and looking like just another Comedy Central wannabe-fake newsman type.

Andrew, I have to be honest. I'd never even heard of Yellen until I read this post and googled her this afternoon.

Personally, I don't think Pope Francis will factor too much in American elections. Like Saint JP2, he speaks more in general terms on important issues. He's not like inner street preachers who tell people who they should specifically vote for. And most Catholics I know vote issue to issue. Besides, most of the confirmed "papist haters," (I still check Breitbart every now and then to see what the nuts are saying), seem to be on the fringe, which the GOP is wisely moving away from these days.

On Elon Musk, we need not completely agree with his politics to agree that he's a bit of a visionary (see Jobs, Steve). And as a fan of all things space travel, we need his vision and SpaceX more than ever since Obama gutted NASA. (It looks like Stephen Hawking's prediction that space exploration will only prosper if moved from the hands of government into the private sector is coming true.)

Sanders, Warren, Feinstein...God, the History Channel's latest Ancient Aliens feature seems less sleep-inducing.

Zuckerberg? Ha! Maybe I'll take him seriously when he looks old enough to grow a beard.

I like Haley. In fact, I think she may be one of the GOP's rising stars. Too bad the MSM will only notice her as a woman who is governor (and a traitor for being a Republican), rather than an elected citizen who seems to be doing a good job at running her state.

ScottDS said...

Besides, most of the confirmed "papist haters," (I still check Breitbart every now and then to see what the nuts are saying),

If I had a nickel for every time I've said that (more about The Blaze than Breitbart), I could finance a film adaptation of one of Andrew's novels!

Rustbelt said...

Scott, in lieu of that not being an option, we must head to kickstarter!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott and Rustbelt, Ok, Musk is a little more than what I've written, but again, it's not in politics. That's the point here. The political system is simple not influential anymore.

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