Being above the 60-year-old age threshold, I hear over and over that I am physically weak. Others are told they are vulnerable because of compromised respiratory, heart, or other health problems. We are told to stay home even though home for some, is an incubator of illness — both physical and mental.
And, if you are financially weak, rent and car payments are often at war with putting food on the table. Supposed good times often camouflage the perils of debt.
Hard times are revealing. And, when they assault us in an election year, the messages are particularly harsh. Elections pose the question: Who can best govern? November 3 will deliver the answer, although between now and then, hundreds of polls will seek to understand preferences and motivations.
On November 8, 2016, about 63 million voted for Donald J. Trump. The Trump vote has been ceaselessly analyzed, but at its most fundamental level, many of his supporters were “mad as hell.” A country where half the voters were mad enough to elect Trump suffers from weak leadership. Yet, there is no shelter in place routine that promises renewal. Elected officials should reflect on why so many people voted for somebody who had never been elected to anything.
Indeed, shelter in place in politics tends to translate into identification politics and problematic polarity.
On November 3, 2020, it seems we will have a choice between Trump and Joe Biden. If we asked a representative team of well-regarded conservatives and liberals to assemble a universe of persons with hard-earned leadership credentials across a broad spectrum of for-profit and non-profit entities, would either make the list? Neither would be on my list.
It is easier to take the measure of Donald J. Trump. His approaches and demeanor are current and well known. I can find some favor with several of his policies, but his demeanor is toxic. Toxic to his Party and Country.
Joe Biden is largely a derivative candidate. He derives his credibility from his eight years as Barack Obama’s Vice President. He needs to assert himself, not spend much of his time trying to obtain support from coalition politicians.
Both candidates are also identification politicians (somewhat new for Biden), deriving their electoral strength from special interest groups. The dominant tool of such groups is to shape their advocacy around their member’s emotional center of gravity and then raise money ceaselessly by demonizing all but the true believers.
I am left with an untimely question: Where is today’s Dwight Eisenhower (military leader of the Allied Forces in World War II)? Indeed is it even possible that the conservative monopoly we call the Republican Party would even search for an Eisenhower? Or, would the other monopoly find any person who earned his or her leadership credentials from military service acceptable?
Okay, I know, this is the 21st Century. We are better educated, and our political Parties selection process is certainly more democratic. Yet, I am sure many of us wonder why the “means” of today’s political process often produce weak “ends.”
One of the heartening developments of the last several months is the extraordinary redeployment of private sector resources (dollars and people) aimed at discovering and deploying pharmaceutical therapies and a vaccine. I won’t hazard a guess at how quickly we will put Covid-19 in the rearview mirror, but I am certain the energy and strength of the private sector response aided by governments, internationally, will evolve into one of the great stories of the 21st Century.
Politics, well, it’s messier than the virus. Leaders of goodwill, reasonable judgment and temperate behavior find politics hard to take.
Reimagining, in the moment, is an important word in both the arts and strategic planning. Can we reimagine a political world in which a political party would seek to recruit a person whose leadership is widely admired, an Eisenhower, and succeed in doing so? And, if we can’t, what should we do about it?
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.