Not always a good
progressive. An even worse conservative. A lot like most Americans.
Benjamin Shobert / Author
From the comfort of my office in Seattle, it is easy to forget that a big part of America is hurting. In the aftermath of the 2016 election, progressives were awash in equal parts introspection, self-loathing, and grumbling about a part of the country many here on the West Coast do not understand. But I do. I was born in Plymouth, Indiana, where early on my family lived in a mobile home park across from Centennial Park not too far away from the little hospital where I was born. I grew up and spent most of my childhood in small towns in northern Indiana.
In 2016, when Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination in my home state of Indiana, I was devastated. In 1993 I ran for, and won, my first position as a College Republican in Indiana. Two years later I would run for, and win, the Chairmanship of the state. During that time I advised for, worked in, and supported a number of Republican campaigns as a disciplined conservative. I met my wife on election night in 1994, at an event for Senator Richard Lugar. I graduated from the conservative leadership program at Morton Blackwell, a well thought of training ground considered a requirement that any future conservative leaders had to complete. I held roles at the national level including at least one ill-fated Republican Presidential campaign. I authored my share of conservative articles, arguing for approaches to environmental regulation, foreign policy and healthcare that in hind sight, now seem more compatible with the views of Barack Obama than George Bush, and completely outside the gonzo world of Donald Trump. But in the midst of the Gingrich Republican Revolution it became obvious something was amiss. What exactly was wrong would take years to unfold, culminating in the election of Donald Trump, and the realization that for many Americans – myself included – their political needs were no longer well represented by either party.
Benjamin Shobert leads strategy at Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research’s (AI&R) Healthcare NExT business unit. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was the founder and managing director of Rubicon Strategy Group, a strategy consulting service focused on market access, government affairs, and regulatory analysis work in China and across Southeast Asia. He remains a senior associate at the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Washington, DC, think tank. He is a regular columnist for Forbes and has appeared on CNBC Asia’s Morning Squawk Box, CCTV, CNN, and ABC World News. His writing has been featured on CNBC and in China Business Review, Fortune Magazine (China), Harvard Asia Quarterly, Slate, Yale University’s China Hands Magazine, and many other publications.