The Missing Positives of This Election

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2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs — I’m on Twitter at @msuster
4 mins ago

The Missing Positives of This Election

It’s hard to feel any positives these days: We’re in the eye of the storm. We’re at peak anxiety. Maximum rancor.

We’ve already blocked family members on Facebook or unfollowed obnoxious people on Twitter. We’ve scratched our heads at how one of Silicon Valley’s brightest could back a candidate so overtly racist. And we’ve pulled out our hair trying to explain how the FBI Director could have decided to weigh-in / non-weigh-in to an election 11 days before voting with what turned out to be a whole lot of nothing but nonetheless likely put a thumb on the election scales.

We also rightly have deep anxiety about the election results on Tuesday.

Election Probability on Sunday before election as per FiveThirtyEight.com

Put simply: If I told you that there was a 35% chance you may die next week you wouldn’t assume that the 65% was a sure thing yet we seem to see polls that have Hillary ahead and get comfortable (or panicked, I guess, if you’re on the other side).

Don’t get comfortable, VOTE. Even better, VOTE and use this very easy method to call other Hillary supporters in battleground states to remind them the importance of voting. Plus you can also sign up to help Hillary voters in battleground states get free rides to the polls. Or independents in battleground states can trade votes with Hillary supporters in safe states. There is much that can still be done — please do your part.

What is truly unprecedented is that the truly morally repugnant Donald Trump has even said he may not accept the legitimacy of the election if he loses, which could possibly put our country into a low-grade civil war. I feel it’s unlikely but it’s certainly not impossible.

What a second, Mark, the title of your post says some “positives” of this election?

Yes. Indeed. Here are two important ones often missed.

1.Humanity.

For all of the screaming and yelling and vitriol I have also found my tribe. I have felt more connected and more bonded and increased my respect for those who have taken moral stands or have put in hours of work for the campaign. There are too many to mention but I’ve noticed them all on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and people who have emailed or texted me. Hunter Walk, Brad Feld, Chris Sacca and Kara Swisher are just a few. I’m grateful they have all spoken up. Many others have, too.

I am grateful for Mauricio Mota who with his wife is spending the election in Nevada helping drive voters to the polls. Brent Weinstein who is also going to Nevada to help canvass. I had an emotional call with Herb Scannell who flew out to Philadelphia, Cleveland and Miami in three successive weeks to canvass door-to-door. I say emotional because it touched me that a senior media executive would put his life on hold to literally walk and knock on doors. I asked him what motivated him and he told me, “I started it in 2008 as a project with my daughter helping canvass for Obama. I found it moving and inspirational to talk with real voters so I decided to do it again in this important election.”

I haven’t lost respect for friends who can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. I have many Republican friends who have disliked her for years or who have policy differences with me — that’s fine. But supporting Trump shows me that you’re willing to tolerate intolerance and that’s a hard line for me to accept.

2.The Glass Ceiling

One photo has struck me about Obama’s legacy more than most and that’s of this little boy Jacob Philadelphia whose father, a former Marine, was just leaving the White House staff:

“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” he told Mr. Obama, so quietly that the president asked him to speak again.
Jacob did, and Mr. Obama replied, “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?” He lowered his head, level with Jacob, who hesitated.
“Touch it, dude!” Mr. Obama said.
As Jacob patted the presidential crown, Mr. Souza snapped.
“So, what do you think?” Mr. Obama asked.
“Yes, it does feel the same,” Jacob said.

That says it all. Jacob will grow up knowing that anything is possible in America if we preserve our democracy and learn to govern together. He knows that an African American was the President of the United States and there is literally no limit on what Jacob can achieve. Demographics (growing populations of Latinos, most notably, but also the growing tolerance of Millennials) will continue to reinforce that this country is for all of us: Not one race, religion or sexual identity.

We are all heavily influenced by the modeling our parents, siblings, friends and elders do for us growing up. When Hillary becomes president every young woman in America will know there are no limits. Nobody will ever again utter the bullshit words that “she doesn’t have the stamina.”

We still do have a long way to go on gender equality and Hillary becoming president — whatever your political leanings or views — will go along way towards telling young women anything can be achieved.

I was thinking about this when I read this excellent post by Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times in which he endorsed Hillary for her strengths. Speaking of Eleanor Roosevelt

“When Roosevelt spoke up for Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, a letter in The Los Angeles Times thundered: ‘When she starts bemoaning the plight of the treacherous snakes we call Japanese (with apologies to all snakes), she has reached the point where she should be forced to retire from public life.’
Strong women sometimes drive people nuts.”

Obviously Eleanor Roosevelt was on the right side of history.

And there’s a truth we should acknowledge. As a society we need to accept that strong women are as capable as strong men and we can’t expect women to play a different or lessor role in society.

I was thinking about my own “strong woman” in my life, my mom. I love both of my parents equally but my mom was definitely the go-getter who took charge, challenged others, started businesses, restarted her career post kids by becoming a pharmaceutical sales leader and did public service. My mom taught me much. I grew up with a strong woman so I never questioned it. My sister was the youngest of four siblings but equal in stature, opinion and force. In fact, as she likes to remind me, she’s testing for her black belt in just 4 months so she better be strong!

When I got married I chose a woman who had bested me academically (Brown then Wharton) and went to work in great jobs at Google, Sky and Virgin Mobile. I never felt threatened by having a smart wife who’s also much more organized and much nicer than I am. I couldn’t have married somebody I didn’t feel was my equal.

When I went to add partners at Upfront I called an LP of mine and told him I was trying to recruit a new partner named Kara Nortman. He said to me, “I hope you’re not just trying to hire her because she’s a woman.”

Yes. He actually said that. In this day and age. I didn’t tell Kara until recently. I told this story at our screening of the must-see movie — Code: Debugging the Gender Gap. I shot back quickly at my LP

“ You’re kidding me, right? Kara went to the top high school in Los Angeles, went to Princeton and then Stanford for her MBA. She’s a competitive athlete. She worked 6 years in venture capital at Battery Ventures, co-headed Corporate Development at IAC, ran a product line there and started her own company. On paper she’s literally the most qualified person we’ve every hired.

What I didn’t say is that one of the attributes I love most about Kara is that she’s a “strong woman.” She has very strong opinions and defends them vigorously but appropriately. Like me she’s no wallflower but she’s also built really deep lifelong relationships that are evidence of somebody who is a team player, works well with others, is respected by peers and values relationships. She’s as smart and capable as anyone else on the team and her gender should never enter a consideration set.

I imagine a world in which no LP ever says to me again, “I hope you’re not hiring her because she’s a woman.” What utter bullshit.

And while I didn’t hire her because she’s a woman I also don’t treat her any differently than the male partners as she’ll very clearly tell you if you ask her. I challenge her ideas and investment themes just as rigorously as anybody else and pull no punches. I love having her as a partner both because she can take it and she isn’t afraid to call bullshit back on me, too.

Conclusion

So, yeah, in our country there might be some fractured relationships that need rebuilding. There might be some damaged relationships that are beyond repair. But there are equally new, stronger bonds with those whom I always liked but now also respect even more so.

In the end, whatever comes of the next four years, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, 160 million women in America know that there are no limits for them and we set another example for the 3.5 billion women on the planet.

On the other hand, we are already late to the party — Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 and currently Germany’s Chancellor is Angela Merkel and England has had two female Prime Ministers: Margaret Thatcher and now Theresa May. Who else currently has elected a female leader? — Liberia, Argentina, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Trinidad, Brazil, Kosovo, Slovenia, Denmark, Jamaica, South Korea, Norway, Poland & Croatia.

So get over it. Hillary represents progress for our country. And to me that’s a huge POSITIVE.

#ImWithHer

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    Mark Suster

    2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs — I’m on Twitter at @msuster

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    Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster


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