The happiest of birthdays

On the road

I’m currently in New York, two weeks into a three-week leg of a book tour, seeing many family and friends along the way. The experience so far has been great, though exhausting. Each night I hit a wall the second I step off-stage, feeling like my body will collapse into illness or a comatose state if I don’t reach a bed as fast as possible. Thus far, I’ve made it.

My favorite event so far was in Philadelphia. It was an audience of people who work in social entrepreneurship and for nonprofits. Because of a scheduling mix-up I arrived at the event hours before it was supposed to start, but spent that time meeting many inspiring people. The crowd was mostly people of color and college students who were devoting their lives to serving others. I was impressed.

After giving a keynote about the book and its new idea, called Bentoism, I participated in a panel with three women who lead social programs around Philadelphia. At one point the moderator asked me about the next steps for my idea. Where did I want it to go?

I responded by saying that my goal was to bring an expanded notion of self-interest and a new way of defining value into the world. I was going to be a servant to the idea and do whatever it needed me to do.

After my answer one of the other panelists, a woman named Tiffany, asked for the mic. “I appreciate that,” Tiffany said while looking at me in front of the crowd. “But I look at you and see a leader. Someone that people want to follow. And so I don’t want to hear you talking about being in service. I want to hear you tell us what we need to do to make these ideas real.”

People in the audience applauded. It was all I could do not to cry. Tiffany was challenging me out of love. I could feel it. She sensed who I was and was asking me to step up more. To not be afraid of my power.

I managed to keep it together as I thanked her. “I hear the truth of what you’re saying and the love in it,” I replied. It meant a lot. After we stepped off-stage we hugged.

After the panel I was approached by a man who said he’d been out of work and struggling. He was a veteran. He’d recently taken an aptitude test that told him he had a capacity for leadership, but also that he was selfish. The night after he took the test he couldn’t sleep, he said, because he was so unsettled by what he’d learned. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. His eyes were wet.

But listen, I told him, you’ve taken the hardest step. You took the aptitude test. You bothered to ask yourself hard questions. You chose to think bigger. Love yourself for it. A meaningful path will come to you if you don’t give up. I wrote down my contact info in his copy of the book and told him to reach out. I hope he does.

In the weeks before the book came out, most of my energy was focused on my ego. Wanting the book to be successful. Wanting to be recognized for my ideas. Wanting every seat to be filled at each talk. Checking my phone too often for meaningless but quantifiable signs of that success I craved.

All of these desires are still with me. But then there are moments like Philadelphia when I’m confronted with something bigger. When my heart leaps out of my chest with love and empathy. When I feel deep self-coherence. In those moments I know that even though I don’t know yet where this is going, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

The 2020 election

We haven’t talked about the 2020 Presidential election in a while. Now that we’re exactly a year out from next year’s election, here are a few thoughts on the six candidates that will have a meaningful impact on the race.

Donald Trump
In an early Ideaspace email, I wrote:

In 2019, the House will launch impeachment proceedings against the President. This will be a messy and lengthy process. Like the OJ case, the circus to end all circuses. Trump’s defense will depend on confusion, distraction, and destruction. Whatever the cost to the country. Ugly won’t even begin to describe it. This could even be when a war gets started.

By 2020, the Democrat-controlled House will vote to impeach Trump. But the Republican-led Senate — where it’s impossible to get a two-thirds vote on anything — will not remove him from office. Even if Trump is impeached for treasonous acts, he’s likely to stay President. And, like Bill Clinton, potentially a more popular one than before.

Which leads to the unthinkable: that in 2020, the President of the United States will be impeached and run for reelection in the same year. And in that scenario, I’m certain that Trump will win.

I still believe this is the most likely outcome. Though there were some signs that the GOP was turning on him after Syria and the Ukraine call, the wagons appear to have re-circled.

But I also think there are more signs of weakness than we’ve seen in the past. The fact that civil servants are standing up to him as whistleblowers is a big change. It’s also increasingly likely that at least one Republican Senator makes a big show of putting country over party and argues for Trump’s removal during the eventual trial in the Senate (more on that in a second). Still, I think Trump remains the favorite for reelection in 2020.

Elizabeth Warren
Warren and Bernie Sanders are my two preferred candidates. I think they have the right policies for this moment and, more importantly, the right character (remember when we used to talk about that?). If Warren were elected she would be the left’s Margaret Thatcher — a leader more concerned with her own ideas of right and wrong than what other people thought of them. To be a transformational leader this is what you have to be. But my gut also says that Warren versus Trump would be extremely close, and that Trump would ultimately win, especially if a third-party spoiler like Michael Bloomberg were to enter the race (and I think he might if she’s the nominee).

Bernie Sanders
Along with Warren, my pick for the best future-President of the bunch. Bernie has been “4 real” for a long time. He wouldn’t bend under the normalizing pressure of the White House. In 2016 I was unsure of whether to vote for Bernie or Hillary in the New York Democratic primary, in part because I couldn’t imagine a world in which Bernie Sanders was President. In a post-Trump world I no longer have that concern. If Bernie were to face off against Trump, I think he would win. Trump supporters would be tempted by Bernie, whose authentic opposition to the status quo would defang a big part of Trump’s shtick. His age and health are a liability, as is the threat of a Bloomberg third-party run. But overall I think Bernie is the best bet for removing Trump from office.

Joe Biden
Doesn’t matter. Never mattered. Would be a terrible President. But we shouldn’t discount the fact that Trump’s fear of Biden helped spark the Ukraine calls that could lead to Trump’s downfall. Not all heroes wear capes or get elected.

Pete Buttigieg
I wrote positively about Mayor Pete in earlier emails, but he’s not the one we’ve been waiting for. He’d be a bad President. He hasn’t done it long enough to stand by an unpopular decision. He’d be indecisive and liable to fold under pressure. An excellent VP or cabinet pick, but not the one to carry the weight of the job.

Mitt Romney
After Trump is impeached later this year or early next, a trial will take place in the Senate. There Mitt Romney will be one of the 100 jurors deciding Trump’s fate. How will Romney respond? I think he’ll choose to put country over party and attempt to lead Trump’s ousting. This kind of move runs in the family: Romney’s father, George Romney, the former Governor of Michigan, was one of the first Republicans to oppose the Vietnam War. It’s in Romney’s blood.

But it’s also worth noting that George Romney paid a big price for his stance, and that Mitt would too. Most Republicans dislike him. He’s the classic RiNO (Republican In Name Only) to conservatives, and many evangelical Christians are taught that Romney’s Mormon faith is a cult (growing up I was shown a video at church that made this claim).

Despite this, Romney is a dark horse in the Presidential race.

If Romney were to successfully lead a vote to remove Trump from office — something that at least 35 Republican Senators would reportedly vote to do if the vote were anonymous — this would put him in pole position for his party’s 2020 nomination. True, if Trump were removed VP Mike Pence would become President, but Pence was dumb enough to get involved in the Ukrainian mess. Pence failed his one job, which was to be the clean frontman on the liquor license. Pence will not be a viable candidate.

In this admittedly unlikely scenario, Republicans would need a nominee. Against an “extreme” candidate like Warren or Bernie, Romney might seem palatable and have a real shot. Bloomberg, for instance, would be less likely to do a third party run if a fellow hyper-rich technocrat was in the race to represent his interests. The idea of Romney being elected President in 2020 is not impossible to me.

Paying out the possible scenarios, I’d guess:

  • Bernie soundly beats Trump in a head-to-head election

  • Bernie wins a plurality of the vote if Bloomberg also runs

  • Trump barely beats Warren in a mirror of 2016’s result (Warren winning the popular vote by an even greater margin than Hillary, but losing the Electoral College total)

  • Trump beats Warren if Bloomberg also runs

  • Bernie beats Romney in a landslide election

  • Romney beats Warren in a close election

I say all of this as someone who’s given Warren more money than any other candidate in the race, and who believes that she’d be the best President. I’d love nothing more than to see her get it. But still, I feel uneasy. Hopefully this is just my own nerves rather than anything real.

These are wild times. In a recent piece about the climate crisis, the writer Charles Pierce called the 2020 election “the first election at the end of the world.” It certainly feels like it.

Recommendations — A website I made with my friend and frequent collaborator Laurel Schwulst the explains the theory at the heart of my book. Really happy with how this turned out.

Time Loops by Eric Wargo — A scientific case for how the future influences the past, including premonitions, retrocausation, and the ability to see into the future. Sounds hokey but is very serious. Recommended by my friend John Higgs, it’s extremely wild and fun.

We Are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer — A beautiful, poetic meditation on climate change. Recommended by my friend Amanda Palmer, who said it felt like my book’s twin, only about the climate. She’s right.

Until next time, my friends. Peace and love everyone,


The Ideaspace is an email sent sometimes by Yancey Strickler. If you signed up in error or no longer wish to receive it, you can unsubscribe below. To share with a friend, forward this email. This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World, is out now and you can get it here. XOXO!