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The Disruption of Fortune 500 Companies Has Moved to Politics - Part 1 of 2

We are all familiar with the stories of kids in their parents’ basement or garage disrupting Fortune 500 Companies. 

A partial list of businesses and industries that have been disrupted would include Kodak (iPhone), Blockbuster (Netflix), TV, newspapers, magazines (Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), book publishing (Kindle), taxi (Uber, Lyft), etc. 

Richard ViguerieWhy should we expect or think that the technology, innovation, desire for change that has descended and enveloped America’s businesses would bypass politics? 

Well it won’t—and it hasn’t. 

A revolution has begun that will radically change American politics within the next five years. 

Certainly I and probably no one else can even come close to predicting how this revolution will play out in the next few years. 

I’m also not aware of anyone who came close even one year ago to expecting/predicting political events to play out as they have, and that includes Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. 

The modern conservative movement was born in the first half of the 1950’s with the publishing by Henry Regnery of God and Man at Yale by Bill Buckley, Jr. (1951) and The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk (1953), the election of Barry Goldwater to the US Senate (1952), and the launch of Buckley’s National Review (1955). 

In 1961, when I became executive secretary of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), conservatives were very limited in their ability to communicate with each other, much less the American people. 

In those days the left had a monopoly on America’s microphones – the three radio and TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS), newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times) AP, UPI, Hollywood, and news magazines (TIME, Newsweek.)  

Recently as I began to think about the disruption that has descended on American politics, I realized that I participated in the very first steps of this revolution. 

In January 1965, I founded the world’s first political direct mail agency with 12,500 $50 Goldwater for President donors. By December of that year, my list of conservative donors had grown to 100,000, and within a few years the list had grown to more than a million—today it is 14 million. 

Direct mail allowed conservative leaders, politicians, and publishers to communicate with millions of conservatives and seek their support for political campaigns, organizations, magazines, books, etc. 

I can make a strong case that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have been nominated for president in 1980 without direct mail. In 1976 and 1980, his opponents in the Republican primaries (Ford, Dole, Bush, Baker, Connolly) were financing their campaigns with $500 and $1,000 contributions. Reagan had 250,000 $10, $25, and $50 donors. This allowed Reagan to bypass the Republican Party leadership. 

And today the new and alternative media includes not only direct mail, but talk radio, cable TV, and the Internet. 

A recent allusion to Gil Scott-Heron’s Black Liberation anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Democratic strategist Joe Trippi made me realize that this campaign marks a new stage in the evolution of the new and alternative media with unfiltered texting and social media and instant messaging apps replacing TV news that is filtered by the gatekeepers of the elite establishment media. 

Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist who never ran a political campaign as a Democrat, seeks to be that Party’s nominee for president, and can ignore its national, state, and local leaders because he has more than 1,000,000 grassroots donors and millions of independent citizens who can be activated in an instant through social media and text messaging. 

And on the Republican side of the ballot, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz did much the same thing, effectively bypassing the established Republican Party to create a grassroots movement that communicates almost exclusively outside traditional news media channels. 

This doesn’t mean that Reagan, Trump and Sanders ignored the traditional media. Trump and Reagan skillfully used traditional television and radio, but what made their campaigns groundbreaking was that they did not rely on the traditional media to carry their campaigns’ message. 

And, most importantly, by using the new and alternative media as a key means of communication with core supporters, neither Trump nor Reagan ceded the ability to set the terms of the campaign to the self-appointed gatekeepers of the establishment media. 

That was a key element, perhaps the key element that distinguished their campaigns from the also-rans in the primary. 

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