Game Show Politics by Al Sikes


How would you like to be a contestant in a game show? Well, all you have to do is participate in the Presidential nomination contest to choose the Democrat, presumably to run against Donald Trump, himself boosted by a game show.

As of now you are on the clock. There are twenty-four choices and several clues. Debates start soon and voting begins a few weeks into the new year.

Polls suggest Joe Biden will prevail. Many commentators point to Bernie Sander’s advantage – passionate supporters. Still others can’t believe that the end-game will be down to two late 70s white males going head-to-head.

I tend to agree with the “it’s time for a new generation” crowd, although as of this minute I do not vote in Democratic primaries. I did, however, mail a check to Seth Moulton, a U.S. Congressman, after watching an interview. And, there are several other thoughtful leaders in the wide field. Amy Klobuchar, for example, has an impressive record as a legislative leader.

Lanes have become the chosen metaphor as analysts seek to order their analysis. The Left lane is led by Bernie Sanders, who is said to be the inspiration for candidates who are not allergic to being called socialists. The Center lane is led by Joe Biden. I believe there should be a leadership lane; most decisions Presidents face do not fit neatly into ideological predispositions. I would put Moulton in the leadership lane.

For example, what happens when one of our foreign adversaries becomes aggressive, militarily? What should we do when our elections are attacked or our electrical grid? And maybe the election winner can deal with health care by eliminating the private version, but I suspect the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis will alone, change the path to a revised health care law. U.S. debt narrows policy options across the board.

In an interview, Moulton characterized Trump as a weak Commander and Chief. I agree. Moulton has standing to criticize. He earned the Bronze Star and the Commendation Medal and has been “uncomfortable calling attention to his own awards out of respect to many others who did heroic things and received no awards at all.”

He also recommended a program that ties national service and financial support for college or vocational education. A 21st Century GI bill, if you will. Good idea.

My assessment of Trump as Commander and Chief is somewhat different from Moulton; Moulton stressed his lack of service. My concern: his vanity. Global leadership must, in most cases, leave room for the adversary to save face at home. Chairman Xi, to resolve trade disputes with Trump, has to lose face. Trump scolds China and then pronounces that he will win the trade dispute and, of course, that it will be the greatest win ever.

The truth is that President Trump is weak. He is a lame duck; voting begins ten months from now. His Party lost the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections. And the poll numbers, according to Fox News, has him trailing in a matchup with Joe Biden by 12 points. And beyond that, he can only proceed by Executive Order on any policy initiative because the Congress is certainly not going to give him a win.

Now let me return briefly to the game board and leadership. Most of the candidates have been in Washington for years. Their leadership training was there. As my Washington service stretched on to seven years I became convinced that the magnetic field is created by interests that target weakness—hyper-partisanship, fawning lobbyists, and the non-stop lure of ambition. Spending time in Washington is helpful, but spending too much time is debilitating—its influence subordinates knowledge, instinct and integrity.

Seth Moulton has only been in the race for four weeks and needs to receive donations from 65,000 persons to be included in the debates; that is why I sent him a donation.
America needs a leader who can cross all of the lines that civil disharmony has created. And one of the most important and currently impregnable lines is in the Congress. Moulton was recognized to be “the most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New England.”

I have highlighted Seth Moulton, because of debate qualifications. But, I can’t pass up a quote from Walter Mondale about Amy Klobuchar. He quipped that “She has done better in that miserable Senate than most people there.” She also deserves to be in the leadership lane.

The game’s clock is not yet in countdown mode, but early evidence of success is essential. So to my Democrat friends who will argue I have no standing and to my Republican ones who will regard me as treasonous, I simply say, this is our country not a game show.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 


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