How Do We Fix It As We Leap Over a Cliff?

I’m in London – capital of “we have no idea what’s going to happen next.” 

This much is certain: Never in recent decades have Britain’s intelligentsia and political elite been in such a fog – baffled by Brexit and troubled by Trump.   I can’t remember a time when so many op-Ed writers end their articles with the limp observation that “only time will tell.”

It’s almost as if you can hear an audible shuffling of papers and clearing of throats, as the great and the good struggle to explain how great events might unfold in 2017. Most of them – us really – were so wrong about remaining in the European Union or the inevitability of Hillary. We have no idea exactly what is coming next.

It’s well past time for a little humility.

Speaking in Liverpool this week, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, admitted that many ordinary people had been screwed by the rise of globalism.  “The combination of open markets and technology means that … a globalized world amplifies the rewards of the superstar and the lucky,” said Carney. “Now may be the time of the famous or fortunate but what of the frustrated and the frightened?”

What indeed?  The usually bold and confident Governor didn’t seem to have much of an answer. 

How much damage will the Brexit vote do to the U.K. economy? It seems that the economic forecasts change almost weekly. 

After dire predictions during the summer of a great slowdown, promoted by uncertainty over the implications of the Brexit referendum, Britain should finish the year as the fastest growing economy of the G7 economies – according to a survey by Scotiabank. The Bank of England recently upgraded its outlook for the near future.

What will Donald Trump do to the environment and America’s standing in the world?  The omens are not good, but it’s hard to know if America will be the laughing stock when so many other countries are facing a similar challenge.

The voters smashed the china and there is very little agreement – here or back home in the U.S – on how it’s going to be put back together again. As “The Thunderer” (aka The Times of London) said in a recent editorial, it is not business as usual.  

To be continued.

Hey, Hillary! Tell More Stories.

By most measures Hillary Clinton had a pretty good night in her first debate with Donald Trump.  But something was missing.

Her disciplined performance may have convinced wavering voters to be somewhat more comfortable with the idea of her as President.  Clinton’s cool, calm demeanor contrasted with Donald Trump’s repeated interruptions and bluster.  She was also successful in getting under his skin.

However, Clinton did little to overcome her two biggest negatives: likeability and trust.  Neither did Trump.  Both are still disliked by surprisingly large numbers of voters. 

In the two debates to come, the breakout candidate could be the one who tells the best stories.

Clinton’s strongest moment on Monday night came right at the end of the 90 minute debate, after many may have turned it off.  She raised the case of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who Trump had called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”

She made it personal. Her remark struck home because it was about a woman who many viewers could relate to.  

Same thing when Clinton talked about her late father and his work as a drapery maker. 

“Donald was very fortunate in his life and that’s all to his benefit. He started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father,” she said.  “I have a different experience.”

In podcasts, the most successful moments are often the most intimate. When podcast guests share something unrehearsed, unexpected or emotional from their lives, they lift the curtain on they are and establish trust with the listener. 

All too often Clinton talks about “it” – policies and programs – while her opponent talks about “me” – himself.

Donald Trump could also be a much better storyteller. And given his extraordinary success in building his brand, it’s surprising he doesn’t know this.

Instead of talking about the “rigged system” in the abstract, Trump could share stories of the working class Americans he speaks for, who’ve seen their living standards decline in recent decades.

In the weeks to come, a personal touch potentially would have a far greater impact than his angry attacks on illegal immigrants and free trade. It would also counter the impression that Trump lacks empathy and is obsessed with his own success. 

Ronald Reagan understood this trick all too well – much to the frustration of his liberal opponents.  In debates and speeches, he always had a good tale to tell.  Skeptical voters who’d been warned that Reagan was a shallow extremist would ask themselves: “How this man be mean or out of touch when he was such a good storyteller?”

It was of Ronald Reagan’s great secrets. But then he was an old radio guy. He knew the stuff that today’s podcasters learn along the way.

How Do We Fix It? What Elites and Pundits Don’t Know About The Rest of Us.


The results are in from the latest batch of primaries.  Once again, the year’s most surprising trends persist: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are doing far better than pundits, pollsters and elites had expected.

Despite a furious and well-funded campaign against him by the Republican establishment, Trump trounced his rivals in Mississippi and Michigan.  Sanders scored a major upset win in Michigan.

Both are the blame-the-other-guy-candidates.  

For Trump, it’s poor Mexican migrants who are storming across the border and taking our jobs. Or crazy Muslims who are claimed to be a danger to us all.

For Bernie, wicked Wall Street and evil billionaires are to blame for our troubles.  And it’s time to teach them a lesson, even if business is crippled as a result. 

Both are dishing out what their worried, weary, and above all distracted, followers want to hear.  

And the rest of us, who are either stunned or appalled by the election results so far, can learn something very interesting about how most people form opinions and make up their minds on the big decisions in life. 

Emotions and feelings play a much bigger role than most of us realize. 

In his recent book, “Copy, Copy, Copy,” Mark Earls, a British writer and well-known consultant on marketing, communications and human behavior talks about the  “I’ll have what she’s having” phenomenon from the 1989 movie, “When Harry Met Sally“.  That’s what the woman who’s sitting nearby says after Meg Ryan’s very public and fake orgasm. 

The widely held view that we make decisions on our own and in a rational way is a complete myth.  Instead, we vote and buy stuff by copying others – our friends, family and our neighbors.

Donald Trump is “much smarter than we give him credit for,” says Mark on our podcast. “He gets that people need to feel stuff rather than think about it.” 

Much of Bernie Sanders’ appeal is about personal integrity and authenticity. He clearly says what he believes and that may seem very refreshing, even though his left-wing policies made in a loner in the U.S. Senate. But that doesn’t matter one bit to his adoring tribe. Sanders won a stunning 80% of the millennial vote in Michigan.

With Donald and Bernie it’s not about detailed policies.  Or what might happen after Election Day. Their appeal is based on group identity and emotions. 

The sooner “rationalists” and “experts” realize that, the better.

Top: Front page of “The Economist” magazine.

The Scary Thing About Britain’s Election: No one Has a Clue What Will Happen.


Flags flutter over British government buildings in Whitehall two days before the election 

London – Britain’s election this Thursday is coming down to the wire, and nobody has a clue what the final result will be. 
The excitement of electioneering brought me back to London this week.  British campaigns are noisy, breathless affairs with a boisterous, biased press that plays a leading role.  Headlines in nearly a dozen daily newspapers proclaim their support for one party while demonizing the rest.
To me the game politics here is a spectator sport.  I guess it’s in my blood.  My Mom stood for Parliament in the 1970’s, and my grandfather was a Labor MP right after World War 2.
A headline this week in The Independent newspaper.

The latest polls suggest an election cliffhanger with no single party gaining the majority it needs to govern.  The result could produce a constitutional crisis.  

For many decades, Britain just like America, had a two-party system. Conservatives versus Labor.  But in 2010 the perennial third party, the centrist Liberal Democrats, captured a surprisingly large 23% of the national vote and formed a coalition with the Conservatives.  The overall result of that vote was a fairly successful and surprisingly stable government.

But today things are far less certain.  While “Lib Dem” support plummeted (punishment for no longer being an anti-establishment underdog),  three other parties have emerged as power players, all with very different goals.

For the Greens the big issue is the environment.  To the right of the Conservatives, UKIP opposes Europe, free trade, immigration and modernity in general.

But the biggest destabilizing force is the Scottish National Party.  Despite losing a referendum last year on independence, the SNP is widely expected to come roaring back this week, grabbing all but a handful of Labor’s seats in Scotland.

It’s quite possible that a party which wants to break up The United Kingdom will hold the balance of power in the next Parliament. 
The day after the election negotiations are likely to begin in Whitehall (the seat of government power) involving as many as six political parties, all with different demands.  Financial markets and investors are freaking out at the distinct possibility of a weak administration, which could lurch from one potential no-confidence vote to the next.
In a country that places such a premium on stability and tradition, many are quietly alarmed about what could happen.
But at least until the votes are counted the election spectacle is fun to watch.  British democracy is anything but dull.
Britain’s Parliament 
Here under the shadow of Big Ben, Parliament is where the art of debate and the sport of political battle is the stuff of theater.
Every Wednesday, when The House of Commons is in session, the Prime Minister subjects himself to the howls of the opposition and the the “here heres” of supporters during Prime Minister’s Question Time.  Imagine a weekly State of the Union address frequently interrupted not by polite applause, but by shouting and chanting from Members of Congress!
Whether Britain’s next Prime Minister will be Conservative incumbent David Cameron, Labor leader Ed Miliband or someone else is anyone’s guess. But I’ll make one safe bet: the coming weeks will bring plenty of verbal jousting and lots of fireworks.