The Airbus A380 is the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft. Seating 525 passengers, each one is a feat of engineering, but Airbus won’t be able to recoup its €25 billion investment, major customers have canceled orders, and production will end in 2021. What happened?
The super-jumbo jet was meant to compete with the Boeing 747, which debuted in 1970 and is still considered the Queen of the Skies. Delta retired their final 747 in 2017. The A380 program started in 1994 but the first plane didn’t take off until 2005.
In the intervening decade, air travel changed. Airlines wanted the cost savings of lighter air frames and fewer engines. Rather than major international hubs, they have more routes and destinations. The A380 wasn’t up for the task.
We see the same thing with candidates all the time. They build their career for a different era and by the time they are finally “ready” there’s not a market for what they’re selling. Consider, for example, the politicians who worked for decades at lower levels, biding their time and waiting for their turn to run for higher office in 2010. If that was the year you decided to go to market, they had a hard path to travel because voters wanted someone without experience, who was new to politics, and didn’t wait their turn.
Joe Biden is learning this the hard way in the 2020 Democrat presidential primary. He’s spent decades in Washington making compromises and getting bills passed by working across the aisle. Those are traits and accomplishments that used to be admired, but now that he’s the most prominent Democrat running for president, he’s being confronted with a base – his market in the primaries – that wants someone who is a fighter, is pure, and hasn’t run afoul of evolving views on positions over the decades.
Joe Biden is like the A380. He was built for a different era and he’s struggling to find customers.
The problem with being a politician (or any brand for that matter) that’s focused on incremental advancement is always optimizing to a lagging indicator. In broad strokes, there’s not much difference between the profiles of John Kerry, John McCain, and Joe Biden.
So why is this only catching up to Joe Biden now? Because the disaffected customers have more control in the process thanks to new technology. They can fight back and organize around a candidate who would have typically been ignored by legacy media. They can send money to an upstart without the well-heeled network of a career politician.
In the modern era, the only way to be successful is to be yourself.