Scuttlebutt: Democracies . . .
In November of 2015 Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina were both doing well in the polls while running for the Republican nomination for President. Their campaigns were largely founded on the idea that a business person would be best qualified to run the country. I wrote a column at that time explaining why I thought that was a completely bassackwards idea. I proposed 5 reasons why I thought so. I think it is a good time to review those claims.
The first is about motivation. Politicians generally have done well in life and are giving back to the community. People who enter business do so to be personally successful and that virtually always includes making money. A democracy is run for the mutual benefit of all. Businesses are run for the
benefit of the owners. Can anyone argue that Trump is not trying to enrich himself through his presidency? Can you spell emoluments?
Next is the question of purpose. Business is all about competition. Democracy is about compromise. Trump has trashed multinational agreements in favor of deals where he can compete on a one-to-one basis. His domestic policy approach is to only cater to his base and to paint those who disagree with him as “enemies”. Cooperation is not in his playbook.
Also, in business if employees are not performing as the boss wants, they can be fired and who is the king of “you're fired”? Yet how is that working out? He doesn't hire people based on their competence (hello Ben Carson), but on their loyalty. He has repeatedly said in various ways that his ideas are the only ones that matter and his opinion must be shared by those who work for him. That puts quite a load on this lone 'stable genius”. Our system is based on the idea that no one is all-knowing and that a variety of opinion is needed to reach acceptable conclusions. Obviously, there is only one opinion that matters to Trump.
Then there is the idea that the key to success in business is efficiency. However, the goal of government should be fairness and compassion, which may, at times, conflict with being efficient. Receiving public input on a project may not be the most efficient way to expedite development, but the perspective of those impacted by a project should, in fairness, receive some consideration. Objections to any idea of Trump's are considered by him a distraction, not a healthy exercise in democracy.
Compassion is also on the list. Do I even need to mention compassion in a discussion of Trump's mindset? His repeated insults of people, particularly women, show his degree of compassion.
Finally there is the matter of power. In business all original power rests with the owner. Our democracy it is supposed to be just the opposite. Power is supposed to be shared . Trump's use of the phrase “I'm President and you're not” pretty much sums it up. He gets what he wants and to hell with the majority of voters who voted against him.
I didn't bring up my previous article to show how prescient I am. Numerous other commentators have made the same point. I mention it because we now have empirical evidence to show that you cannot run a country, excuse me, a democratic country (Trump has other ideas) like a private business. This doesn't mean that leaders of industry or the military are incapable of running a government. It is just a different job and a good leader would recognize that. Leadership is the most important quality in a politician, not business experience.
Peter Economy is an author of 75 books on leadership and management. He lists 9 qualities of a good leader. They include decisiveness. Trump seems to change his mind with each new tweet. Look how he handled the Saudi murder issue.
Another quality is accountability. Trump claims the midterms are a referendum on him, unless Republican lose and then it is their fault.
Then there is empathy. Do I even need to discuss this one?
Optimism is also listed as a quality of leadership. According to Trump everything is a mess and falling apart. The idea is to generate anxiety. The only optimistic message has to tell is that he, alone, can bring us out of the horrible situation that we are in.
Peter Economy also mentions focus as an important trait. We are repeatedly told that aides must use only a few minutes to explain things to Trump before he loses interest. Reports cannot be longer than one page or he gets turned off.
The quality most lacking in Trump that Economy proposes is honesty. The thousands of lies that have been documented reveal Trump's complete lack of concern for honesty and truth. In the most telling part of the famous “grab 'em” tape he told Billy Bush that you can tell people anything you want and they will believe it. And 30% of them do. And another 10% don't care.
Finally, there is the quality of inspiration, which motivates everyone to give his or her best all the time. What Trump has given us is a parade of individuals leaving the administration at unprecedented levels. Their only inspiration is to get away from Trump before their reputations are forever tarnished.
And about Carly Fiorina: Michael Useem, professor at Wharton School of Business commented on her firing at Hewlett Packard opining, "Fiorino scored high on leadership style, but she failed to execute strategy". While 30,000 workers were being laid off , HP employees complained of Fiorina's expensive self-promotion and top-down managerial style (sound familiar?) as exemplified by her purchase of a $30 million Gulfstream jet for her exclusive use. Nevertheless, the board gave her a golden parachute worth $21 million. Gotta protect your own.
People ask me around this time of year how I am voting on various issues. I try to stay away from that, but I can't help wondering why anyone would vote for Proposition 6, the repeal of the gas tax. After our 40-state drive around the country 2 years ago, I realized that California has some of the worst roads in the nation. Many articles have backed me up on that one. Republicans put this one the ballot in hopes of increasing turnout among the Howard Jarvis types who generally vote Republican, but only someone who enjoys driving around potholes and wearing out tires prematurely from a misaligned front end would think paying to fix the roads is a bad idea.