Opinion

Progressive Olympics will decide Democratic nomination

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When all is said and done, there will probably be more than 15 people running for the Democratic nomination for president.

One thing is clear already. In order to win the nomination, Democrats are going to need to speak to the increasingly strident, socialistic, progressive activist segment, and energize them. All the attention, all the energy and all the money is with them.

How do you appeal to them? You can start by talking like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did at the South by Southwest Conference this week. Her speech highlighted her belief that capitalism is irredeemable, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was racist, Ronald Reagan was racist, and that political moderates are “meh.”

That is where the heart and passions of the base are, and it is why her speech got more attention and attracted more people than the presidential candidates who were there.

So to those candidates, an enduring lesson: to get the volunteers, the energy, the money and eventually the votes, you need to sound like that.

This is already causing the primary to devolve into a ridiculous game of liberal one-upmanship, with candidates competing with each other over who will propose the most preposterous, fringe left-wing idea possible.

Last Friday saw one of the more ludicrous examples of this to date, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren penning a “thought piece” arguing that it is time for the government to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“In the 1990s, Microsoft —  the tech giant of its time —  was trying to parlay its dominance in computer operating systems into dominance in the new area of web browsing,” she wrote.

“The government’s antitrust case against Microsoft helped clear a path for Internet companies like Google and Facebook to emerge,” she added.

This is a preposterous position to take, and is hilariously ignorant about the evolution of the tech sector.

In fact, Microsoft offers a great lesson for how and why monopolies fail, even without government intervention.

In the year 2000, Microsoft had a roughly 97 percent market share of operating systems in all computing devices.

That incredible market share is what Microsoft used to try to push its browser, Internet Explorer, which was preloaded on all Windows machines that were shipped. The government viewed this as unfair, monopolistic behavior, and — for this reason and several others — sought to break up Microsoft.

There was one problem. Internet Explorer was awful.

Its lack of competition bred a lack of internal innovation, opening a window for smart competitors to build something better. And build it they did. First Firefox, and then later Chrome offered faster, more stable, easier to use and better browsers.

Today, Internet Explorer is basically dead.

Oh, and by the way, by 2012 Microsoft’s market share was down to 20 percent as we saw the rise of Apple and mobile computing, which cut Microsoft’s knees out from under them.

More importantly than the various failures of Microsoft, though, is Warren’s claim that the settlement with the company “cleared a path” for companies like Amazon and Facebook.

This is an entirely provable fallacy. Amazon developed and eventually triumphed because there was an untapped market that they identified, and they invested aggressively in it.

Social media, on the other hand, grew and thrived because of the basic human desire to connect socially to other people. Facebook, as critical of it as I am today, actually emerged as a competitor to the existing monopoly of MySpace.

Like all stories like this, it became the de facto choice of most people because it was better. That had nothing to do with Microsoft.

The rest of Warren’s column is just as economically illiterate, and worthy of scorn. But the underlying coherence of the message is irrelevant. All that matters is that the Progressive Olympics are in full swing, and this will probably be one of the most reasonable things we hear in that primary over the next year.

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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