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This Week in Schadenfreude: Games People Play

We've talked about the Republican candidates' debate a fair bit today, so let's keep that subject going. Donald Trump is keeping people guessing about his debate participation, while Ron DeSantis is keeping people laughing about his. Also making headlines yesterday was Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND). He appeared on Fox, and the hosts held his feet to the fire, observing that he gamed the system in order to make the debate stage:

You did a deal. You were successful in business. Yes. You lived the American dream. You came to politics to make a change, but you also kind of did a deal to get the unique donors to back you up. And it was like, go ahead and give me a dollar and I'll give you $19 back, essentially—screen guys, You mean you spent $760,000? What would you say to those who say you bought your way for a place on the stage?

Burgum responded to this by making two points. The first is that he's an entrepreneur, this is how entrepreneurs solve problems, and so this is a preview of how he would solve problems as president. There's something compelling about this, though we'll note it's still just a nicer way of saying "I used money to avoid putting in the hard work that others had to put in." Also, have we not learned yet that the U.S. government is not U.S.A., Inc., and that you can't run the executive branch like it's just another big business?

Burgum's second point was that the scheme not only got him on stage, it also allowed him to connect with 40,000 enthusiastic supporters of his campaign. That is where we have to call shenanigans. Some readers will recall a story that we've recounted a couple of times, about the first time (V) and (Z) ever communicated. Back in 2008 (?), (V) wrote an item about online pollsters, and how they were desperate for respondents from certain demographics. (Z) decided to conduct an experiment, and to see if he could successfully pass himself off to YouGov as an 80-year-old Black woman living in Colorado. It worked, (Z) reached out to (V) to report that result, and the rest is history.

We repeat this story because we now have something of a sequel. On hearing of Burgum's scheme, (Z) decided to see if the $20 gift cards would really come to fruition, particularly for someone donating $1 from the pinko commie state of California. And while it took a couple of weeks to come through, the $20 gift card was indeed delivered. Here's the "success" screen:

It says: 'CLAIM YOUR $20 BIDEN
ECONOMIC RELIEF CARD BELOW! We hope that you can use this $20 Biden Economic Relief Card to help relieve some of the
burdens created by the Biden economy.'

Below that is a bunch of stuff, and then eventually a picture of a credit card with a unique and usable number for purposes of claiming the $20. The only reason that we don't include a picture of the whole thing is that it ends up being about three screens long, which is too much for an image.

In any event, while we understand that Burgum is just playing the game as it was designed by the RNC, there's still a fair bit here that rubs us the wrong way. Again, a rich guy buying his way onto the stage, as opposed to earning his place, is a little skeezy. On top of that, the fundamental argument here—that the Biden economy is bad, and that only Burgum can fix it—is pretty dishonest. We have an upcoming item on the Biden economy (preview: The economy's actually pretty good), and to the extent that there are problems, we think it's dubious that Burgum can do anything about them. Not only because the entrepreneur-president model doesn't work, but because there are many macroeconomic forces that are beyond the control of mortal man, even if that mortal man is President of the United States.

So, there is some schadenfreude in Burgum appearing on the ostensibly Republican-friendly confines of Fox, and being called to account for his approach. However, we want to amp up the schadenfreude a bit. Again, the application for the $20 was just a thought experiment. We don't want to profit from it, or to be beholden to any political candidate, even in small measure. So, we are trying to figure out how to expend the $20, perhaps in a manner that implicitly pokes Burgum in the eye a bit. If you have a suggestion, send it along. We'll pick out the dozen or so we like best, and then put it to a vote. (Z)

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