So, what exactly is the deal with the upcoming US election? If you're a European, for example, it seems absurd the US presidential campaigns have ended up with the two candidates who seem to be the least desired. And that's not even delving into the distinct possibility one of them doesn't even really want to be President - he might just be trying to negotiate a bigger TV deal.
Also at stake, to some degree, is the future of online poker for real money in the US. Whatever the case there are few more capable minds able to help sort through the madness than Vanessa Selbst, whose legal and poker pedigrees are second-to-none. We caught up with her on a break at EPT Barcelona for her thoughts.
PokerListings: Straightforwardly, who would be the better president for poker: Clinton or Trump?
Vanessa Selbst: I don’t think it really matters. Poker has to be regulated on a state level and the person in office doesn’t have much to do with that. In general, the Democrats seem to be more in favour of regulation while the Republicans are more about deregulation and staying away - at least in theory.
In practice it depends on the candidate on a state level so you have to look at the state elections. If I had to make a choice I’d say Hillary Clinton, mainly because if Trump gets elected there’s a decent chance that the world just explodes.
PL: Players like Barry Greenstein have told us that even politicians who are against online poker - they all play.
VS: I think that’s correct. People say whatever they have to to get re-elected but then they do something else. In a broken system people like Sheldon Adelson have influence. He speaks out against online poker and he has a lot of money. The electoral campaigns need a lot of money so Adelson’s money dictates the policy towards online poker. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it is.
Obviously, Sheldon Adelson’s interests are purely his own finances and he thinks that online poker might take real money away from his business. The scary thing is that politicians get in line with him and nobody even hides that fact anymore. We have moved away from any form of public welfare or public benefit towards what can only be called capitalism on crack, and I don’t know where this ends.
On the other hand, it was very heartening to see Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Apparently many people realize that ‘socialism’ isn’t such a dirty word after all. The Europeans seem to handle this a little bit better.
PL: The Swedes call themselves socialists. Nobody thinks there’s something wrong with the Swedes.
VS: Right. I think that socialist ideas in a capitalist society are almost unavoidable. Today, the middle class is eroding, middle-class jobs disappear, and there’s more and more unskilled labor on one side and highly skilled people on the other side.
We can’t maintain a society like that forever. In the long run wealth has to be redistributed and the government is the body to do that. I’m saying that even though the government might be corrupt, simply because there’s no alternative.
PL: Europeans are amazed at how the US campaigns ended up with the two candidates who seem to be the least popular.
VS: It is surprising, and it’s kind of an anomaly. Regarding Hillary and Bernie, Hillary has way more experience, way more resources and a lot of connections in politics. And like I said there’s a lot of money behind her campaign, coming partly from groups who want her because she is better for Wall Street. Bernie was speaking out against Wall Street and its money being in politics, which is what we need, but it doesn’t do him any good with the lobby groups.
Also, Bernie just wasn’t the best candidate. It felt like he was just a shouting, old Grandpa with a heavy Brooklyn accent and you were afraid he could die any second. The great thing about his campaign was that it showed how much people care about a new way, about change. I was a Bernie supporter, too, but ultimately the name recognition factor, the money, and arguably the potentially rigged Democratic National Convention decided.
The only reason why Hillary doesn’t get much more scrutiny is the candidate on the other side – Donald Trump. It’s hard to say whether he’s the actual devil or if he’s just playing this game not to ever become president but to boost his business. There’s an interesting article stating that Trump never wanted to be president, just a better position for negotiations with TV stations.
Trump is the ultimate result of the Tea Party – I should rather say movement – and Fox News. People have forgotten that Fox News is a promotion machine and not a real news channel. That movement has spent an incredible amount of time and energy on bashing every expert or pundit that they can now get away with disregarding facts. There’s a news clip where Newt Gingrich ignores the facts that are right in front of him.
There’s also an interesting article from a Conservative pundit with a radio show who realized that he was part of this process to discredit the New York Times and CNN and so on, and that now there is no way back anymore. This thing has gotten out of hand and so has Trump’s rhetoric. He’s getting away with it because he says so many stupid things nobody can keep up. It’s scary.
We let our educational system fail 20 years ago, we’ve been outsourcing jobs and we’ve created a fear of immigration that’s unreasonable for a state that’s built on principles like inclusion and immigration. However, income inequality is real, poverty is real. What isn’t real is that immigrants “take our jobs." They take the jobs nobody else wants to do.
The reason why people are getting poorer is because powerful people are breaking up unions so the workers lose their bargaining power and all the profits of companies go to the CEOs. I don’t understand how people can’t see that’s what’s happening.