The Fixer | Bradley Tusk

Summary of: The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics
By: Bradley Tusk


Immerse yourself in the world of political strategy and the start-up ecosystem with our summary of ‘The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics’ by Bradley Tusk. Discover how Tusk, a seasoned political strategist, has helped save numerous start-ups, like Uber and Lemonade, from potential destruction by creatively and persistently navigating through the complex political landscape. Learn the art of molding media narratives and driving public sentiment to get what you want from politicians and protect your budding business from death by politics.

The Power of Media in Politics

Learn how good publicity can make or break political careers through Tusk’s experience as a media strategist for New York politicians.

Politics is a game of two things – constant attention and constant validation. And in the world of politics, there’s no better way to achieve both than through good publicity. This is a lesson Bradley Tusk learned while working in politics, starting as a media strategist for a New York City council member and later working as communications director for a Democratic senator for New York.

Tusk’s job was to make sure that his bosses got constant media coverage. He knew that outside of election periods, politicians need to remain relevant to stay in the public eye. Tusk’s talent for making uninteresting topics seem exciting was especially useful when he staged a funeral for “murdered” trees or invited the media to the ceremonial cutting of a toilet roll opening a new public bathroom. The coverage his antics created ensured politicians like Henry Stern remained in the public eye, keeping them relevant and ultimately helping them secure budgets and policies.

Later, Tusk worked for Chuck Schumer, a Democratic senator in New York, where he learned the importance of keeping voters informed on what politicians do all day. Despite Schumer being a junior senator back then with minor responsibilities, Tusk and his team invented news stories, like writing a tough letter of protest to Ford Motor Company and releasing a proposal for the modernization of the old-fashioned, unreliable voting machines used in elections. This creativity ensured that Schumer was seen as an expert in the media, which later added to his relevance when the 2000 US presidential election ended in controversy.

In summary, Tusk gained valuable lessons about the power of media in the world of politics. By understanding how to mold the media narrative, politicians could remain relevant and achieve their goals through constant media exposure.

“Tusk’s Take on Winning Political Campaigns”

In the book, the author discusses how political campaign manager Bradley Tusk managed to turn around Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral bid using innovative tactics. Tusk aimed at taking down leading Democratic contender, Anthony Weiner, by making him feel the risk of running was too great. Tusk’s strategy involved using negative tactics on Weiner’s weak points, including a scandal around donations from models and Bloomberg volunteers canvassing Weiner’s family’s neighborhood. This highly targeted approach intimidated Weiner, leading to him deciding not to run and securing Bloomberg’s win in a third term. Tusk’s effective campaign techniques were instrumental in his political strategy consultancy’s establishment and transformed how political campaigns have run since.

Uber’s Strategic Move

Uber’s strategic move to shift public narrative and win over politicians through popular opinion is highlighted in this book summary. Despite strong opposition from unions, taxi industries, regulators, and politicians, Uber was able to turn the tables with the help of Tusk. By crafting a press release and encouraging drivers and customers to voice out their opinions, Uber was able to generate 40,000 tweets and 50,000 emails to city politicians in a matter of days. The ability to generate negative media proved to be more powerful than the influence of the taxi-industry donors, leading to the abandonment of the legislation banning Uber and the unanimous approval of new legislation authorizing them. Uber’s journey showcases the power of strategic communication in shaping public opinion and influencing political decisions.

Uber’s Fight Against New York’s Mayor

Uber’s growth in New York was threatened by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed legislation, limiting the ride-hailing service to a 1% annual growth rate. Uber strategist Bradley Tusk devised a three-pronged approach to gain support against the bill. First, he showcased how Uber was essential to people of color and low-income riders by running advertisements featuring the two demographics. Secondly, he exposed the corruption surrounding the legislation, pointing out how taxi drivers were de Blasio’s second largest donors and how the legislation was written by the taxi industry. Lastly, Tusk mobilized Uber’s users, adding a “de Blasio” button on the app to inform users about the problem and encouraging them to email and tweet their council members. After a couple of weeks of pressure, the city council members dropped the support, leading to the abandonment of the bill and Uber’s future in New York being secured.

Benefits for Independent Contractors

Handy, a platform that connects customers with independent contractors like handymen and cleaners, aims to provide benefits like pensions and healthcare to its workers. However, the startup faces opposition from unions and Democratic politicians who want to maintain the vague labor laws that give them influence. Unions are against independent contractors since they can’t organize them or charge them membership dues. Handy’s proposal to set up a benefits fund that other sharing economy platforms can contribute to has been met with resistance from unions like SEIU 32BJ. The union regards cleaning as their jurisdiction and wouldn’t give in. Their president also has political reasons not to modify New York’s labor laws that could make life easier for non-unionized independent contractors. Even the state governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, was hesitant to support Handy’s proposal without the union’s approval. Though Handy didn’t win its fight in New York, it continues to battle at state and federal levels to secure new laws.

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