Red Companies and Blue Companies
and how a political campaign is hiding in a telemedicine startup, plus some updates on the coup and the Senate
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Take care (and stay home if you can),
It’s Always Been Red Companies and Blue Companies
(Almost) Post-election (scroll down for coup + GA Senate updates) I’m turning to working on the big picture of how our world works, and in good news/bad news, here’s the thing: everything is politics. Everything.
I published some thinking on that in the context of CEO and corporate activism. Some excerpts:
On October 22, 2020, millions of people got a long email from Expensify CEO David Barrett with the subject line, “Protect democracy, vote for Biden.”
The message begins with some bold statements:
I know you don’t want to hear this from me. And I guarantee I don’t want to say it. But we are facing an unprecedented attack on the foundations of democracy itself. If you are a US citizen, anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy.
That’s right, I’m saying a vote for Trump, a vote for a third-party candidate, or simply not voting at all — they’re all the same, and they all mean:
“I care more about my favorite issue than democracy. I believe Trump winning is more important than democracy. I am comfortable standing aside and allowing democracy to be methodically dismantled, in plain sight.”
and then poses and answers nine anticipated objections, including, “But you’re a company, shouldn’t you remain neutral?”
Reaction was mixed. Expensify employees were inundated with abuse from people and bots, Barrett was hailed as a brave hero and derided as a stupid ideologue.
Beyond the hot takes on Twitter and in the business press, I don’t know what the impact of that email was. How many people who got it changed their vote? How many voted who weren’t going to otherwise? Was the email effective advocacy, brand building, communications, culture building, or something elese? (My best guess is that it wasn’t effective in terms of changing votes, based on many elections worth of research has shown is necessary to make someone a voter or to persuade them to change how they vote.)
Still, this kind of corporate leadership and political engagement will and should happen more often. Here’s why…
Hims’ Campaign for a Future of Healthcare: How a political campaign is hiding in a startup
Anything related to healthcare is a thicket of politics. It’s regulated at essentially every level of government, it accounts for something approaching 20% of the U.S. economy with relevance for essentially every market sector, from education to real estate, and it is literally about life and death. There is nothing about healthcare that isn’t political.
The fundamentally political questions at the core of everything healthcare:
Is all healthcare or any healthcare a human right or is healthcare a consumer product — you get what you can pay for? (This is the big one, the political healthcare question that drives all the rest.)
Is there a societal-level interest in the safety or efficacy of healthcare — at the levels of who can provide it, what they can provide, and how they are accountable for it — or is it an individual-level interest? Is buying healthcare more like driving on a highway or pulling up onto your driveway — a common interest and responsibility, or a private one?
What is the ultimate societal value of healthcare? The most healthy lives for the most people? A well functioning marketplace that drives profit and the economy? Is healthcare more like the air traffic control system, with a clear public benefit, or is it more like streaming media services, with mostly clear private benefits?
Enter Hims, a startup that’s obscuring a campaign for a particular future of healthcare. Yes, Hims (and Hims competitors) are inherently, inescapably, political.
Some follow-up: The Senate and the Coup
When we were last in touch I said that, yes, the President and most of the GOP were attempting a coup, but that the coup was extremely unlikely to succeed. That was almost a month ago, and here we are: the President and all but 27 GOP members of Congress are still living in an anti-American, anti-democratic fever dream, amounting to a very lamely attempted coup that is failing every day. Including today. Even after Trump retweeted an image of Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett with laser eyes (for real), she joined every single one of her colleagues on the court to reject a suit to overturn the Pennsylvania election results. They took all of five minutes to issue the ruling. So no coup. President-elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th.
How successful Biden is will be determined by the outcome of the Senate elections in Georgia. I’m putting my dollars and my time here:
Georgia Democratic Party: it’s not sexy but it matters a lot to have an effective Party doing the work, not just for this election cycle but for the next one, too. (Good news/bad news: no matter what there’s another Senate race in GA in 2022.) The GA Dems spent down to just about their last dollar in November. Give and volunteer.
VoteAmerica: The VoteAmerica team is turning its attention and its voter registration, turnout, and protection tools to Georgia, as a resource to high potential Georgia voters and organizations doing the work on the ground there. VoteAmerica is also ramping up its Voter Helpline and needs volunteers. [Full disclosure that I do paid work with VoteAmerica now.]
SpreadTheVote: In founder Kat Calvin’s own words, “we started Spread The Vote in Georgia because there is a massive need for IDs across the state. For over three years we have worked hard obtaining IDs all over Georgia and getting voters to the polls. Now that there will be a massively important runoff in January, we’re marshaling our end of year resources, calling our Georgia volunteers, and doing everything we can to make sure that we spend every day of the next two months working to get as many GA voters to the polls as possible. Again.”