A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how the 2016 GOP primary is like an NCAA tournament. The principle basically goes like this: There’s not room enough for two “populist libertarians” or two “establishment” candidates — or whatever. So early on, your real enemy is (ironically ) the guy who is the most like you — because you will be competing with him for the same scarce resources.
This principle isn’t exclusive to politics. Consider this recent rant from Bill Simmons:
“In our aforementioned podcast last week, Wesley Morris mentioned his ‘market corrections’ theory and how, sometimes, there can be only one ‘type’ of successful lane for one actor (only with multiple actors vying for it). An example he liked: Mark Harmon never making it as a leading movie actor because Kevin Costner took all of those marquee roles that could have gone to Harmon from 1988 through 1995. Costner was Harmon’s market-correction guy, the guy blocking Harmon from having a Costner-like career.
Same for Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton — they battled for seven years for ‘funny/likable comic actor who dabbles in serious roles and will eventually become an A-lister’ supremacy, with Keaton gaining an early A-list upper hand in 1989 thanks to the Batman movies. What happened to Hanks? Total tailspin! That was his Joe Versus the Volcano/Bonfire of the Vanities stretch — three years of forgettable movies. When Hanks rallied back in 1992 with A League of Their Own, then Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia(Oscar) and Forrest Gump (Oscar), what happened to Keaton? TAILSPIN! As Wesley says, there could be only one.”
Just as the market can support only so many funny/likable comic actors, it can support only so many populist libertarian candidates. Now, you might be thinking that presidential elections are zero sum games, so this is a false analogy. But is it? When Kevin Costner “beat” Mark Harmon, Harmon wasn’t dispatched to Moscow. He kept working (you could argue Harmon is more successful than Costner today). Likewise, politicians who don’t win the presidential primary usually just go back to being Congressmen or governors — biding their time for a future run.
Victories aren’t necessarily permanent, but in the immediate battle to own a niche, there will be winners and losers. (And unlike Hollywood, the guys fighting to own a niche will publicly attack one another.) This doesn’t mean the market won’t later correct itself later (remember Michael Keaton was once way ahead of Tom Hanks), but it does seem to confirm the notion that a sorting out will occur.
Whether the town is Washington or Hollywood, one old saw still rings true: “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.”