How the story starts!
No, I’m not anti-trump. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I’m not a trump supporter either. I’m also not apolitical, i’m more askewed politically these days. I just see things from a different perspective than the way I used to. I haven’t moved on the spectrum, i’m just looking at the spectrum from a different plane of existence. I’m not sure if it’s maturity, if it’s reality of the modern political ideology, or if it’s simple attention bandwidth in my life. I can say that it’s much better this way. I actually enjoyed the election news, and would have enjoyed it no matter who won. In a post election episode of my podcast, I discussed my political journey. I thought I would share my story a little bit more in depth to explain how I came to the conclusion of why Donald Trump is the Nintendo Wii. But first, it’s important to understand a little about me, about my journey politically.
Part I: My Political Journey
When I started working I was searching with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. I refer to it as my B.A. in BS because it was so useless. Bottom line was that I had two options when I entered the workforce after college: retail or professional sales. I chose professional sales. After a few years I was on my own, traveling, making deals I started getting sizable commissions. The thing that turned me into a neo-con for nearly two decades was my first major annual bonus. I should have expected how it turned out because I had been getting commissions for a while, but for some reason it still shocked me. I guess because over the years I had learned to manage my deductions as to maximize my take home. I figured the big one would be the same. It was massive, over $20,000, except I didn’t get $20,000. I seem to recall I got somewhere around $10,000, or less than half of what I had earned. I was expecting over 15K, but I got more than twice taken than I calculated. To say I was deflated was the understatement of the year. It was all eaten up in taxes and other deductions.
Think about that for a second. You spend an entire year working mostly on the road. That means you are living in airplanes, hotel rooms, and eating takeout every night. You are sweating every single deal because no one is helping you make them happen. Almost all sales organizations are structured around personal accountability. Your workday starts Sunday evening when you leave to catch the red eye so you can hit the ground running Monday morning. It doesn’t end until Friday when you blearily walk back into your house. In some instances I was gone for two weeks at a time, working over the weekend in some state thousands of miles from home. Every year I did all of this for the big payout. The payout that was going to buy my new car, get me out of debt, and allow me to meet whatever my big financial goal was that year. Except every year there is nothing left. Don’t forget that I got overextended every year in part because of my own stupidity, and in part because of the culture I was in. In professional sales, especially with the 20 something set, your working so hard your peer group is continually encouraging you to deal with it by treating yourself. The boss says “work hard and play hard!” The expectation to “work hard” translates to work 60+ hours per week, no matter if it’s needed or not to achieve the goals. In the little downtime you have, “play hard” translates into: deal with the emotional roller coaster of sales by buying things. You are expected to buy anything you want and use the comically aggressive credit providers because the bonus will pay it off and then some! It’s not just the boss, it’s the whole sales culture. “You deserve it!” I heard again and again over the years by everyone in my teams because they are doing the same thing I was need to justify their own stupidity / decision making.
One more thing about life on the road. No matter if your territory is a single metro area or the entire country, you are in always in the car. If your always in the car, then you get bored of the cookie cutter terrestrial radio playlists very quickly, so you switch to talk radio to exercise your mind. Who owns AM radio? The conservative talk show hosts. So on top of continually being in a situation where the system had me always reaching for the brass ring I had AM radio constantly driving home the messaging of ‘government waste’ and ‘government destroying people’s self motivation with social programs’. During meetings or other times when I was social on the road with other business people, guess what they are experiencing? It ultimately becomes one big echo chamber. I can only assume being in business development and a right wing conservative is similar to working at a unionized auto plant and being a democrat. I wouldn’t think i’d find many friends on the production floor if I was a NAFTA loving, union busting, smaller government endorsing conservative. You value what your community values.
In other articles I’ve talked about my personality. I’ve been described as being “first or fifth”. I’m either 120% involved or don’t care to the point where I barely comprehend the existence of the subject in question. All of these things that I experienced related to politics pushed me into being 120% right wing. I went to see the president speak. I went to a Newt Gingrich book signing. I had limited compassion for others who had challenges functioning in society because the sales mentality, the talk show propaganda, my personal motivation and my inability to emotionally comprehend people who aren’t self starters. I was also relatively young and my youth led to a lack of comprehension of the different needs we all have at different points of our lives. Why can’t that 80 year old woman who lives next door go work as a greeter at the Publix and stop asking me for popcorn or toilet paper when her money runs out at the end of the month? Some highlights (or low points depending on your perspective) of my passion included listening to every single minute of right wing propaganda that I could. I even had a Ronald Reagan themed room in my old house. There was a political dispute that boiled over into personal attacks with an immediate family member that caused us not to talk for years. I was truly all-in on neo conservative thinking.
Part II: Going through the Change of Life
So what changed me? Why not go on like this for the rest of my life? We all know life long politico’s on the right and left. What changed me was a combination several things. First it was the Bush Years, then it was age with the commensurate perspective that only age can bring, and finally working in a government program. Let’s start with the Bush years. Right wing president, Right wing house and senate, first time in 50 years! It’s time to celebrate!! Woo hoo, election night and everyone’s doing the boot scoot boogie!! What happened in the intervening six years? Government got bigger. Slowly, but it did. War was the excuse, it was the focus.. Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.. but a President who has a House / Senate can drive some meaty domestic agenda items, right? Did the domestic items happen? Well there was the partial privatization of social security effort which went nowhere. That’s about it. I don’t recall pushing for a flat tax, the elimination of the earned income credit, the elimination / reduction of different departments. Nothing that was important to me at the time. We owned the government. We had complete control. You know we did because we were celebrating as hard as the left was crying. This existed for over six years! What I learned with the Bush years is that the perception of power is just that, it’s perception only. Can things be changed? Well yes, but is it a drastic change across the board? Nope. I learned the system can’t be changed, at least not quickly. If America wants Social Security to stay just as it is, it will stay like that. If America wants socialized health care, it will happen, either slowly or quickly, but it will happen no matter who is in the white house. One or two big things can happen, but even then there is the rule of unintended consequences, but that’s an article for another day.
Next on the agenda of chronicling Mike’s political opinions in life was age and the perspective of time. The older you get in life the more trends you see repeated again and again. Every single election I hear about how this time it’s the worst it’s ever been. No, really, the absolute worst! This SOB or that $#! Is going to put in supreme court justices that are going to kick out every foreign born national, or take away your right to an abortion! It wasn’t just Bush, it was Bush, Clinton, Obama. There are some annoyances, but that’s about it. Life really doesn’t change much. Depending on your perspective, the nirvana or apocalypse never happens.
The trends exist with people too. That person who’s just lazy, well i’ve now had the opportunity to watch some people grow up and into that ‘lazy person’ and sometimes the reason for their perceived laziness is simply out of their control. They may have had some chemical issues, some family issues, or just plain cognitive issues that don’t allow it. Maybe it’s enculturation. Remember what I said earlier about how we all value what our community values?Staying connected to a community and our personal connections is a powerful motivator even if that connection keeps someone from being independent and enjoying all the opportunities that life has to offer. Bottom line: some people will never have the ability to break out and be personally accountable. I didn’t believe it until I experienced it watching the youth I was close to grow and develop. I also had several multi-year experiences where I tried to help people ‘get out of a bad place’ and realized the impossibility of overcoming how certain people are wired, even if you give them a lifeline. They are who they are and our choice is or put them on the government dole or have to deal with them living in the street or starving their kids. No right wing ideological incentive will ever change that.
Add all of this to the midlife perspective of being a member of the sandwich generation. I have to worry about kids, from figuring out how to pay for daycare to how to influence the 20 something kid who’s mindlessly wandering through life and relationships with no real concept or discipline related to a plan for the future. On top of kids I have to worry about parents that were the first adults that come from a generation where divorce is acceptable. Now I’ve got Mom’s Step-Mom’s, Dad’s, Step-Dads, Uncles, Aunts, etc.. All of whom have their own levels of need and challenges. It’s exactly like the 20 something kid, some of them are making very bad decisions that has the potential to seriously impact my life in a negative way, yet I have no control over the situation. I can’t say “Hey Mom, now that you’ve have one brush with death, we have learned that your end is much closer and I am going to make you get a will and the proper insurance including financial planning”. If I have no control, if I can’t change even the people who are related to me, let alone the ones who have a lifetime of social barriers or physiological barriers that can’t be overcome, then maybe that stupid, inefficient, and high cost government program relating to retirement/ healthcare/ housing / food system, etc.. isn’t so bad. This is especially true if it’s so hard to change the system.
All the while I’m aging life is happening, and part of that life is my professional career. The challenge is that Corporate America didn’t follow through on its promises. I won’t go through the details again, as that’s pretty much the biggest influence in my writing, but I had several jobs. I was let go/laid off/ fired again and again. I thought it was me, but then something funny happened. Over time I met people who were smarter than me (and I’m far from an idiot), I met people who worked harder than me (and i’m not lazy by a long shot), I met people who had better social acumen than I did, and they were stuck in the same negative career spiral that I was. So what was the deal? The deal was that the promises of the educational institutions and cultural expectations as it related to jobs and careers were false. You were only as safe as the quarterly figure or the monthly sales goal. The second business went south, and sometimes even when business was good but they thought they could make it better, you were walked out the door. Nobody was safe, and that means there was much more luck involved in your career success as there was work ethic, training, and decision making. I’m not discounting hard work, i’m saying you can be the hardest worker in the world with the highest sales in the group and still be walked out the door because someone decided to change the direction for whatever reason. This happened to me a couple of times.
Then I started to work for government. I won’t’ go too deep down this rabbit hole, but I will say there is one major takeaway. That takeaway is that government programs are designed to be completely accountable to the people who pay (the tax payer) and therefore are very inefficient for a reason. I always believed the propaganda and thought that government was tremendously expensive and inefficient because it was a safe haven for lazy people. Now that i’ve been personally involved for quite a few years I can honestly say I haven’t met a single lazy person in government. It’s actually quite the opposite as most are very hard workers. What I did learn, something I never expected, was the cultural influence in government programs is designed around zero tolerance for screwing up the use of our money. The culture is all built around aforementioned accountability. In the most simplistic way possible, every single dollar is earmarked for a purpose and there are rules, lots of them, not just lots, but almost uncounted numbers of rules. All these rules exist to insure that the purposes of the different programs are met within the guidelines of the program. Every government employee is trained and enculturated over time to follow those rules, it literally is their job. It’s all to be accountable to the people which is just as important as the end goal of the program. It’s actually quite honorable. “We the people” are telling the government what to do, and the culture of nearly all government workers is to do the best possible job they can do, exactly as “we the people” told them to do it. Since there are so many rules there is a continual stream of new questions that must be answered daily in implementing the programs. Therefore the classic government program and government employee is very thorough to make sure they don’t screw things up which takes a ton of time: hence we have slow government.
Part III: Donald Trump is a Nintendo Wii (and both have the same impact on your life).
What is the Nintendo Wii?
The Nintendo Wii was Nintendo’s 5th major Television based video game console released in America. It was an absolute smash success. What made it such a success wasn’t it’s technical prowess, it was many different elements put together. It was basically right place, right time that resulted in a huge unexpected hit, but ultimately it didn’t change anything about the gaming industry.
The Wii felt different.
It wasn’t a console in the traditional sense. The Wii wasn’t really what people wanted, it’s what they thought they wanted. I say that with historical perspective. I recall many mothers, you know the people who actually buy the Christmas gifts of their teenage boys but usually don’t care about what they are buying as long as it’s a good deal and safe. They would ask me my advice and I’d share what I knew to be true, the boys in the family were dying for the Xbox 360. It was then the then ‘must have’ status symbol for teenage boys and it would get tremendous use. The mom’s didn’t generally understand the nuances of a connected community of gamers that was the linchpin of the 360.
This time around the mom’s were actually interested in the purchase. They were thinking of a box that sat under the tv and everyone could use it to play games. They figured they could work out, play Wii sports, and the boys would just use that to play Call of Duty. It was new, it was flashy, it would help them get their thighs under control. (FYI, I’m not being sexist, just reporting actual conversations here). Best of all it was the least expensive of the three options! So what happened? The Mom’s bought the Wii in droves, they played Wii sports whenever company was over, maybe a little bit of Wii Fit or Just dance. The competition took notice and tried to compete. Microsoft Reacted with the Kinect. Sony Reacted with the Sony Move. They both basically took motion controls to the next level and many people jumped on board. But then something interesting happened. The little white box got used less and less to the point where it sat there collecting dust because there was nothing that the devoted video gamers in the family wanted to play on it. In many cases it became the Netflix box for the kids bedroom.
The Wii was Nintendo’s failed attempt to buck the long term trends
Major Trend #1: Gamers like flashy graphics. As graphics got more advanced game development and gaming hardware got more expensive. Video games up until that time was a race for bigger, better, more. Graphics, Graphics, Graphics!! It got so bad that during the Wii Generation the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 launched at sales prices that were several hundred dollars under their cost to manufacture. Microsoft and Sony were basically paying their customers a couple of hundred dollars every single time they sold a box at the beginning of the console cycle. The belief was that they would make it up in the long tail as the price of hardware came down and the royalties from software sales ratcheted up. Nintendo is a fiscally conservative company that is only a gaming company. They don’t like to send money out with every single system and they don’t have the resources to make it up in other non-gaming areas of their business as those other areas don’t exist.
Major Trend #2: Gaming is about being connected. This was and is Nintendo’s’ biggest failure. The Playstation Network, Steam, Xbox Live, the trend was inescapable. The future of gaming was connected and the mom’s didn’t get it. They just saw flash, and bought thinking of the change it would bring to the household. The reality is that beyond the original promise of the pack in game Wii Sports, the console just sat there.
Major Trend #3: The gaming market is expanding and ageing. The Wii was designed a toy aimed at kids and non-traditional gamers. Remember only traditional gamers continue to buy games for the long haul and they want the best. It’s as simple as that. There was no Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto on the Wii. Part of that was the Wii’s limited graphical horsepower and part of that is that the system was mostly played by children. Yes the Wii games are designed to be enjoyed by all ages, but the perception is that it’s children who are mostly going to play it. So it’s children who mostly had games designed for them on the Wii. Disney targets Mickey Mouse for kids and Pixar is for all ages, but they have dozens of other Adult oriented studios. Nintendo just had a kids and family oriented console that If you wanted more mature interactive entertainment, entertainment that has something to say about the world, then you didn’t go to the Wii or another Nintendo property.
The Wii Cannot work as promised no matter how much you wanted it too
The Wii couldn’t work as was promised, the system simply wasn’t able to do it. Nintendo made a toy that was marketed as an interactive interface. The original Wiimotes were not all that precise. Mid-console they actually changed the Wiimote and introduced an add on that enhanced the sensitivity of the input but the vast majority of Wii’s had the inferior tech in them. Since gaming has to be designed for the lowest common denominator, guess what? None of the games were all that good, nor did they do what was promised. It wasn’t that developers didn’t try, they absolutely did, but you can only do so much with the tools you have
The Wii eventually went away
The gaming world is always on the hunt for the next big thing. People, at least those that don’t define the next big thing as better graphics get tired of the game system and go away for a decade or two before video gaming enthralls the mainstream again. The Sales of the Wii were tremendous, but if looked at at a very high level, i.e. the trends vs. the individual product sales over time it’s easy to see where the Wii was a flash. It was an aberration that resonated with people’s imagination. Nintendo simply isn’t willing or able to go where gaming is going, where the core was going. You can see it in the sales of all of their consoles.
The changes the Wii brought didn’t stick around. Microsoft even built their entire next generation console, the Xbox One, around the perceived value proposition of the Kinect movement sensing system, the offshoot of the Wiimotes. It was such a huge disaster Microsoft had to change tactics almost immediately or risk losing the entire generation. Even with this blunder Microsoft still outsold the Wii U, the encore system to the Wii, by nearly 300% and growing. Sony was the only gaming company that doubled down on the main trends in this new generation of gaming and Sony was the clear victor in the first half of this generation.
Who is Donald Trump?
So here we are, the most divisive election in history. With the two most polarizing candidates ever, right? Uh, no. Not even close. It was actually ‘same ole, same old’ from a historical perspective, but that’s not the point. The point of this election, one made by every web site, in every news cast, and in every part of the world for the last two years is that this was a different experience than everyone was used to. There is one fact that I believe that both the Right and Left will agree with: Donald Trump was not expected to win the presidency by the Right, the Left or the media establishment. Daily polls put him behind nearly universally throughout the campaign. I will reiterate that my opinion of President-Elect Trump is that he is a political aberration. He’s the guy who got promoted to become the Chief Marketing Officer at the company because they needed someone quickly and he happened to be in the right place at the right time. Never mind that there are thousands of resumes in the company HR Database of people who could do the job that much better. In Trump’s case their was a frustration with the status quo, and we had a Status Quo candidate in Hillary Clinton. Hello President Trump!
Just like the Wii, to the layman Donald Trump Feels Different
We had a political candidate who was involved in whitehouse politics, was a Senator, had lots of scandals, and was also Secretary of State. Forget that she was first lady for a moment and that she is a ‘she’. Her resume reads like every other political contender for as long as I’ve been following the elections. Trump has not been involved in politics in any real full time capacity until this presidential run. He was a real-estate mogul with a reality TV show. He said what was on his mind. We live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and are dealing with a generation of young adults and kids who blurt everything on their minds for the world to see at the moment they think it. This is a generation who will be very forgiving of statements like grabbing someone in a non-traditional place. Not just forgiving, if your not the mainstream media or a left wing zealot then he felt more real by a mile. This is especially true when compared to the measured and distilled language used by Clinton and her team. Trump also said things on a national level “Build a fence, deport them” that you don’t really hear often. His own party was openly hostile towards him. Trump was absolutely not the status quo.
The Trump Presidency will be America’s failed attempt to buck the long term trends
One of the biggest supporters of the Trump Presidency were blue collar democrats. The Reagan democrats. The working class white males who felt short changed for so long. They want high wages and they want to stop bleeding jobs to other nations. The long term trend is globalization. In a globalized environment there is a certain equilibrium that happens. Seventy years ago the United States basically took part in blowing up the rest of the world, and I mean that quite literally. What followed was a historical time of plenty in the US because we were the only people who could produce anything. Yes, that is an oversimplification but it’s mostly true. Over the last few decades the rest of the developed world rebuilt themselves and caught back up. They were more structured and socialized and we were more flexible and aggressive so we remained ahead of the game and a major world power. Then something happened, the developing world started catching up to everyone else and they are more flexible and aggressive than even we are. Go look at the demographics of any tech company to see what I mean, and that’s just the higher level workers. They, the developing world, has what we want and we have to pay to get it. Again, It’s that simple.
It doesn’t matter how many trade deals we make, money is currency, it’s called that because it flows and with it flows jobs. If we block off a stream here an opening will appear there. The USA simply can not stop globalization no matter how many times we pull away from NAFTA. Things will ultimately get worse if we do and a new version of NAFTA and related treaties will take it’s place. I could put together charts and graphs but high paid, low skilled working class jobs are never going to come back to America. The world is simply a different place today and it’s not going back to the way things were.
The same can be seen on a social level. Social Conservatives want to save their traditional cultural values. They want the government to reinforce these values by legislative edict. Let’s look at traditional marriage, we live in the era of the ‘Baby Daddy’, ‘Partner’ and swipe right to hook up. It used to be Date, Marry, Kids and if a teen got pregnant you pulled her out of school to hide the shame. Today the school throws a baby shower and has ‘momma friendly classes’. What about gay marriage? I dare you to go into any position in the public or private sector and make a stand against gay marriage. You would be chased out with a crowd carrying pitchforks. Mind you, I’m not making a any stance on the benefits or negatives of these changes other than these changes are part of the culture. They are happening with every group and there is no going back from cultural change.
A Trump Presidency will not be able to change things as was promised no matter how much the supporters want it to change
Why can’t you drain the swamp? It’s because the Swamp is where we all live. A physical swamp is murky, dirty, has lots of bugs, smells bad, and dangerous wild animals, etc. It’s not a pleasant place. It is also is a natural filter and an important part of the ecosystem. If we didn’t have swamps the environment would suffer. It is the same thing with lobbyists and special interests. The thing that nobody wants to admit is that we are ALL part of the system. We are all a special interest of some sort or other. Government employees, different industries, labor, trade relations, etc. Everyone is a member of a special interest in one way, shape, or form. The lobbyists are our voice. Yes, some are more organized and influential than others, but ultimately the system needs the lobbyists. They do a ton of work in helping structure the nation’s business. There are some outcomes of lobbying, for example the telecom lobby, that are disgustingly egregious and I believe should be criminal, but that’s when the system let’s lobbyist get out of control. Even then their is another side, i.e. if your a shareholder in the broadband monopoly you benefit. I may even have some Time Warner stock in my 401K’s and state pension plan investments. I honestly don’t know.
Healthcare is another major deal. Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! We’ve heard it again and again. Except now if you repeal it we are going to have a bunch of people lose healthcare. Let’s not forget that the existence of Obamacare rests at the foot of a flawed system. Something had to happen. If Obamacare was four steps forward, Trump can only take one or two steps back. I’ve said for a long time that no matter what your political opinion, socialized healthcare is growing and nothing will ever stop it. It’s the poster child for a trend that can’t be stopped no matter who is in office.
These examples fall into the two camps: It’s either the stuff we don’t like is around because it’s a necessary evil, or you simply can’t reverse something once it is started. I haven’t even begun to touch on the challenges of the bureaucracy or the fickle nature of shared power with a congress that has to answer to the people every two years. That could quadruple the size of this already longer than usual article. Now that the campaign is over his team is moderating their stance. I think this has less to do with desire and more to do with the reality of the situation. President Trump has to be able to accomplish things, and there are some things that can only be accomplished in severe moderation. So much for the world ending, eh?
Just like the Wii, Donald Trump must eventually make way for the Next Generation
Here is the biggest point. There is lots of punditry and hand wringing on both sides of the isle if one were to be honest. No matter what side gets more of what they desire, and no matter if President Trump gets reelected in 2020, the bottom line is that his tenure is finite. He can’t live forever and there is less than zero chance a constitutional amendment will happen allowing for unlimited terms for presidents. Maybe he could make an impact, a serious one, if he was president for 20 or 30 years and stayed the course the entire time, but that’s not how the system works.
So how is Donald Trump and the Trump presidency like the Nintendo Wii? Well my new found 40,000 foot view let’s me see the following similarities:
- Both the Nintendo Wii and Donald Trump were very much a response to the status quo with a completely different approach that feels very novel compared to what has come before.
- Both the Nintendo Wii and Donald Trump caught the attention of non-traditional audiences which allowed them to be an aberration against long term trends.
- Both the Nintendo Wii and Donald Trump are limited in what they are able to do, and will not be able to pull off everything they have promised because they systematically simply are unable to do it.
- Both the Nintendo Wii and Donald Trump are time limited and the macro-trends will again assert themselves as they eventually follow their lifecycle and the next generation takes control.
If you are a big Trump supporter, then I’m glad you’re happy but guard yourself against believing the world is going to change in all the ways you want it. I was there during the Bush years and this stinks of that revolution all over again. My advice: be happy with what you get but remember that there are some big things that no one can change and don’t let yourself get disappointed or upset when they don’t happen or don’t happen to the extent you think they should.
If you were a big Clinton supporter, and you believe that the world is taking a huge step backwards into the dark ages, don’t worry, and remember one of my favorite phrases of all time: “This too shall pass”. The pendulum will swing back. Another left winger will get into the white house, another democratic congress will eventually get elected and the system will grow as it always has. Also keep in mind that the Presidency and the congress DO answer to the people, and reelection is always on their minds.
So sit back, relax, and try not to get to worked up no matter what happens. Life will go on. If you find yourself in need of a stress reliever, then turn the TV from CNN to video input number two. Then you can hook up that old Nintendo Wii for some netflix or a round of Wii Bowling. Even if the entertainment doesn’t relax you, you can always throw your Wiimote at the TV. One way or another you’ll feel better.
Thank you for reading!
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