Political Lessons

Politics is show business for ugly people.

But this year, the politicians are playing the game better than the entertainers.

You’ve got to be able to say no. That’s one thing a musician no longer is capable of. If you’re willing to pay, they’ll show up. They’ll even sing for dictators. There’s no endorsement they won’t sign on to. The whole enterprise is built on cash, and everybody wants some, in fact they want more.

But Elizabeth Warren won’t take corporate donations. Leaving her potentially with less cash, but a stronger bond to the rank and file.

The North Vietnamese won the war because of hearts and minds. South Vietnam and the U.S. didn’t have them. America felt its firepower could conquer anybody, but this proved to be untrue, it couldn’t overcome the guerilla tactics of its opponent.

You play to everybody, not just those with the cash or the supposed power. A cache of individuals can always exceed the power of the so-called “man,” especially today, when the tide is turning. Everybody’s dealing with the results of globalization, and there are far more losers than winners, which is how Trump got elected to begin with. Doesn’t matter if you agree with the Donald’s position, or Warren’s, the future is up for grabs, and those who hew to their own identity and have a backbone ultimately succeed. Warren refuses to go on Fox. She gives up eyeballs for beliefs. And this bonds her core to her even tighter. She’s not willing to do anything to make it, especially when it enriches an entity her adherents abhor.

And you’ve got to be willing to do what is unpopular. Once again, you have to stick to what you believe. Ergo, John Hickenlooper at last week’s Democratic confab in California. He was booed. He said using the word “socialism” would hand the election to Trump. That he was against Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal, at least for now.

Now we can argue all day about whether Hickenlooper is right, but the question is are you willing to say something unpopular?

The truth is, the audience was extremely left-leaning. Was it representative of the electorate at large?

But as a result of being booed, Hickenlooper got unforeseen traction. Suddenly he was all over the media, there was a lengthy article about him in the political paper of record, “The Washington Post,” because he made news. Furthermore, it wasn’t train-wreck news, but news that begged a lot of questions that were worth analyzing. So, Hickenlooper went from back of the pack to the front page without even contemplating it, he just said what was in his heart.

Once again, it doesn’t matter if you agree with him or not, that’s not the point, as with Warren above. The point is in this social media world where everything is manipulated, where the fat cats believe marketing is king, Hickenlooper succeeded in getting his message out and getting facetime/publicity by doing nothing other than hewing to his core beliefs.

Musicians are incapable of saying something unpopular, they’re afraid of alienating their audience, unless it’s to get in some online war with a competitor. Isn’t that how Meek Mill got notice?

Turns out triangulating, trying to second-guess the public, is no longer working in politics. That’s why Hillary lost, that’s why AOC defeated the incumbent. Everything’s up for grabs.

But not in music. We keep selling the same thing we’ve been selling for years. The big story this annum is Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Built on a controversy whether it’s country or not. When the truth is its success proves that that’s a non-issue, you can become mega without radio. And “Old Town Road” was built by TikTok and is ultimately meaningless. That’s what we’re selling in music, froth, publicity, cash…did you see that Lil Nas X bought Billy Ray Cyrus a Maserati? Any millennial, any Gen-Z’er knows you’re supposed to give back, fight poverty, give opportunities, clean the air. Hell, look at Nipsey Hussle. Most people in America had never heard of him, but when he was shot dead the story was about all the good he did in his community, that’s what made him a legend, not his music.

So the lessons are there. Stand your ground, be willing to do the unpopular, go with your identity, don’t follow the crowd. Because conventional wisdom is no longer smart. Now is the time for you to stand out.

But you must stand out with substance. Publicity stunts don’t work. Especially in an era where if you shoot someone in the morning it’s no longer news in the afternoon. Hell, if you shoot a bunch of people it’s off the front page in a matter of days. No, you’re building your identity to last. Who you are is what’s important. Entertainers can be leaders. Even though those on the other side keep telling them to stay in their own lane. And hell, that which is outside becomes mainstream overnight. The Beatles sounded like nothing else that came before them, they wiped out Perry Como and the rest of the vapid singers. Nirvana killed the hair bands.

Trump killed Hillary.

Times change. You need to be willing to change. Hew to the past at your peril.

But your core values, those are what you’re judged on, those determine whether your success is lengthy or short.

Stand your ground.

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