C is for Correction

Voters’ ability to recall an elected official in California is the result of Progressive Era democratic reforms intended to reduce corruption, enacted alongside the introduction of the ballot initiative and women’s suffrage in 1911. Following a petition drive collecting signatures amounting to at least 12 percent of voters in the previous election for the political office in question, a special election is held.

Did the Progressives who wrote the rules for recalls in California over a century ago face the same lack of partisanship as we do today? I am at least dubious that our ability to influence campaigns (particularly smaller ones) through micro-targeted media spending had anything comparable then.

The need for reform was never clearer last year, when, under current recall law, 7% of the state’s eligible voters could have ousted the current democratically-elected governor (elected 3 years prior by 7.7 million people and 62% of the general election’s voters). Even less than 7% can overturn local election results.

Even worse at the local level: the city executive appoints their replacements; not even a fraction of voters decide. In fact, just a few years ago, SF voters decided that maybe it was an unfair advantage for a non-elected mayoral appointee to leverage her new platform and name recognition in a general election. Ironically (given who appointed her), that attempted soft-circumvention of the normal process is precisely what got us Chesa Boudin.

Now, a group of moneyed folks* in SF have tasted the economically efficient elixir of pushing their agenda through single-issue standalone elections that involve far fewer voters than general elections. And if representation matters less to you than your personal priorities (or the theories of Milton Friedman), well….it’s certainly laudable they’re being cash-efficient and focusing like that!

In fact, it’s unclear why these folks won’t eventually just disengage from the general elections altogether, and instead, just selectively jump in later when things don’t happen to go their way in the general. Their buck goes further in these smaller, follow up recalls, where they can get signatures from just a small sub-section of voters. It also lets them economize on their search and social media buys.

Plus, I have to think that the competitive business mindset just sort of delights in the strategy of staging a self-funded election hack that is still legal 100 years later in a totally different environment. That’s probably why they might object strongly to modern reforms intended to put this increasingly exploited vehicle in check. I mean, they were called “Progressives” back in the day right? That might be a cool social media campaign, even…

* Caveat: it’s theoretically possible that these folks aren’t doing very well working in professional roles at places like Stripe, Google, Lyft and Twitter; we do know that they certainly know how to do ad buys!

August 12, 2022 Update:

Sign o’ the Times

Last night I learned we won Big Game (confession: I learned this through Michael McFaul). While I did lead marketing at a football startup, I think my colleagues would admit they’d hired me more for my communications skills than my knowledge of the game.

But of course, I had to reach out to my friend about it. The one who played football for Cal. Sure he’s remained deeply involved with Cal Football and even led significant fundraising efforts for Cal Athletics … but I had to be certain that he was aware of this development.

And it was important that he knew about this play. And this one!

Once the banter subsided(ish), he concluded with this. Which really is just a sign of the times, is it not?

I believe Stanford cheated. Rigged!! Nobody gets two kicks blocked. Half the points were fraudulent. I want a recount of the points. Cal won if you only count the legal points! We should still have the axe!

Was it?

“How do you abandon deeply held beliefs about character, personal responsibility, foreign policy, and the national debt in a matter of months?

You don’t.

~Stuart Stevens, It Was All A Lie

In his book It Was All A Lie, long-time GOP political campaigner Stuart Stevens poses the question: how can the conservative right abandon “deeply held beliefs about character, personal responsibility, foreign policy, and the national debt in a matter of months” to follow Donald Trump?

And his conclusion is that it didn’t abandon these beliefs because they were never real in the first place; they were merely messaging tools for opportunistic gain, shielding a bald quest for power. In short, It Was All A Lie.

Outside politics, “Silicon Valley” was born and bred in the US West with a Manifest Destiny-like optimism. The moonshots, expansive mission statements and promises of exponential impact border on the religious, jarring for their places at the top of Maslow’s infamous pyramid.

John Doerr’s OKR method revered by SV companies

Amidst all the techno-utopianism, then, it seemed that this whole thing from Coinbase was a bit, well, off industry-brand?

That expansive-sounding tweet doesn’t really convey the actual post’s message. While putting forth some lofty goals (including enabling “belonging for everyone”), the linked post was actually written in order to define what Coinbase won’t do.

The post asks us to consider Coinbase’s mission “to create an open financial system for the world. An open financial system is one that is not controlled by any one country or company (just like the internet did for distributing information).” (source).

Well that is certainly lofty, too! In fact, their website goes on to say, “We think this is the highest leverage way to bring about more economic freedom, innovation, efficiency, and equality of opportunity in the world.”

And doing this massively significant, important work requires them to avoid certain things.

So Brian’s saying that, in order to bring about economic freedom, innovation, efficiency, and equality of opportunity in the world, it’s best to avoid broader societal issues and political causes.

Let’s set aside the myriad of issues with this and just say we think that Laszlo got it right. The world is different. It’s 2020 (and not 1970), people.

And shouldn’t that present those Silicon Valley Big Dreamer types with an exciting opportunity?

Absolutely. Unless, of course, it was all a lie.

p.s. here’s how Brian’s approach is working out.