Preface: I’ve always respected well-practiced leadership principles—they were drilled into me during my time as a mid-level manager at Microsoft and I have built very strong opinions. With this background, I must say I find our President’s leadership unacceptable on many levels. However, this set of notes is not meant to promote a conservative or a liberal position. These notes have one goal – to find a glass-is-half-full position and to test those positions over time.
If you are wondering about my bias: I’ve always been fiscally conservative (i.e. lower taxes, reduced government spending, minimal government debt, free trade, and deregulation of the economy etc..) yet socially liberal (i.e. support universal healthcare, SMART poverty programs, investment in education, gay marriage, abortion, cannabis legalization etc..)—…and I believe good managers of resources can make both work!
Backdrop: On our family’s vacation in Europe this past summer we had dinner with the owner of a bed and breakfast where we stayed for a few days. Over the course of a great meal, the owner edged the discussion to the current US political landscape and he made the following statement that stuck with me–“the USA is getting a long-needed enema” … “The USA’s [government] system is strong enough to handle such an invasion and this Presidents’ flaws will highlight your country’s strengths.” I didn’t quite agree (I had a much more negative view at the time), but I’m starting to understand where he was coming from. I started to find the light recently when a good friend (HR executive and minority) said to me, “the racists were always there but it was hard to know who they were prior to this President, and now they are out in the open.” Another friend (ex-CIA) said “I look at him [the President] much like a plumber fixing a broken overflowing toilet—I don’t care if he smells, shows his crack, or even tells racist jokes… I just want the toilet fixed and the crap cleaned up [in our government].” I’m used to hearing people that have little underlying facts regurgitate what they have heard the night before on Fox News or MSNBC and I generally ignore them, but the friends I referenced above are highly educated people that have spent a great deal of time analyzing the US government and our political system.
So, after thinking about this quandary for a while I thought I’d write down some of the glass-is-half-full items that hopefully will come out of this President’s assault on the Executive Office to see if they stand the test of time.
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller
I’ll group these items in 5 broad categories:
1. More people will vote and get involved in politics
It seems that the President’s misogynist tendencies are driving more women to get involved—more are voting, and more are running and winning political office. It started the day after the President was inaugurated when millions of women worldwide took to the streets in a massive show of resistance. But since that day the President has been accused more than once of silencing women with whom he had had extramarital affairs during his administration. His liaison director in the White House Communications Office accused the President of calling her a “dog”. The President has publicly defended advisors and friends when they have been accused of domestic violence and sexual harassment at work. He continues to insult television presenters, artists, and models. He mocked Dr. Ford’s testimony at the Kavanaugh hearings and insulted a reporter during a press conference at the White House after giving her the floor to state her question and stating, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do.”. At rally’s he’s called out the negative consequences of the #metoo movement saying, “It is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of,”. The hope is that the President’s misogyny provides fuel for the #metoo movement, and its positive impact on women’s rights, and will drive more women to get involved in politics. Things look hopeful because a record number of women have run and won primaries for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and governorships this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, and a record number of women have also won nominations for state legislatures. (more)
It seems that the President’s well-documented racist comments are driving more minorities to vote, especially after his remarks about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville–As of August 2018, PBS found nearly 100 examples bridging on racial discrimination. According to the African American Research Collaborative, who surveyed African-Americans immediately before the 2018 mid-term elections, “9 out of 10 African-Americans surveyed on the eve of the election said they were voting or had already voted early for a Democrat in the congressional races, up from 77 percent who said so in July”. The hope is that more minorities vote and run for office and it seems to be working since an unprecedented number of Latinos ran for office in the 2018 primaries.
And then, we can only hope that the President’s hundreds (if not thousands) of bold lies and authoritarian tendencies (admiration for dictators) will wake up those that are considered ‘supporters’ to the fact that he is highly likely mentally unstable—and it looks like this is slowly happening. The fear about these unstable characteristics are also hopefully driving more people overall to the polls–We saw this during the 2018 midterm elections which aren’t usually known for high levels of turnout. On average, roughly 40% of eligible voters cast a ballot in a midterm. At least, that was the case from 1982 until this year, when an estimated 49% of the nation’s voting-eligible population (about 116 million people) cast a ballot, according to a preliminary analysis by the U.S. Elections Project.
2. The quality of our US Congress will go up
This is a simple point—The President had a huge effect on the 2018 midterm elections. Our US Congress is well documented as being broken by many intellectuals that would know (more) (more) (more). The hope is that the turnover (the two-year congressional term ending in 2018 had the third-highest rate of turnover since 1974) and the 114 women that won will take on these challenges. Congress is also getting younger which is well needed—after all, did you watch the Mark Zuckerberg hearings? Every person under 50 was embarrassed for our Senate’s lack of understanding of the Internet.
3. We will have less bias in our media
Millions of citizens get their information, and form their opinions, by watching cable television or reading internet media sites. The US media systematically skews reporting in a way that crosses standards of professional journalism due to strong profit-making incentives by drawing conservative OR liberal audiences for infotainment versus news and monetizes those audiences with advertisers (see the bias here). Rupert Murdoch, the owner and executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox (the parent of Fox News), self-identifies as a “libertarian” and exerts a strong influence over the media he owns (more on the Fox News effect here). Comcast owns NBC and the Xfinity cable system as well the MSNBC cable channel has a known liberal bias. These arguments intensified when it is revealed that both parties receive donations from these same organizations.
On February 17, 2017, our President tweeted “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
The hope is that by our President calling attention to media bias (even though how he is doing it is twisted and self-serving) our citizens will recognize the undue influence of the outlets and begin to understand that they are being manipulated by one-sided propaganda.
4. We will have a better understanding of the weaknesses in our systems
Yes, partisan elected officials should not be in charge of the election administration process… yes, money has had a very corruptive influence on our Capitalism (see Citizens United)… yes, granting 2 senators from a rural state such as Wyoming (population 580,000 ) the same representation as California (home to 39 million) makes no sense—this list goes on and on… However, this is not the issue! The risk to democracy occurs when: “A nationalist leader gets elected by playing on public fears and anxieties, then uses the election as a hijacking tool by asserting a democratic mandate to centralize power by controlling or undermining pluralist institutions that stand in the way – a free media, an independent judiciary, a diverse civil society, civil liberties, and minority rights. What’s left is the shell of democracy.” “He’s [our current President] labeled journalists “enemies of the people” and assaulted the mainstream media as purveyors of fake news. He’s challenged the independence of the judiciary and smeared the integrity of judges. He’s attacked civil society by claiming massive voter fraud, challenging the voting rights of millions of Americans, and discounting minority voters by supporting the gerrymandering of their election districts. And he’s abused the power of the presidency by putting pressure on the FBI Director to drop an investigation of a former Trump White House official, then firing the Director for investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the Presidential election.” – HumanityInAction.ogr
If you don’t believe in the President, then believe in the system! Our Constitution divided the Government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial for something called checks and balances to make sure no one branch would be able to control too much power and to guard against tyranny. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty is this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” — James Madison, The Federalist Papers
The hope is that we learn where our system is vulnerable and legislate fixes to strengthen our democracy.
5. We will have a better understanding of the weaknesses in our society (Technology & Globalism)
Technology: Google, Facebook, and Twitter threaten our democracy by being abused and if left unchecked will continue to be used for political corruption. These social media & search giants are beginning to understand their roles, but they are public companies that are driven by profitability and will always have their shareholders as their top priority. The hope is that we now understand these issues and take a thoughtful approach to new legislation.
Globalism has had both a positive and a negative impact. Positive for corporations (and in turn employees) and negative for those displaced by the change. Countries like China and India benefit where the US, UK, and EU may not—hence populism is taking hold across all those geographies. China transformed peasant farmers into low-cost manufacturing workers, thereby reducing poverty but those jobs were at the cost of jobs in America’s Rust Belt. India and western Europe’s $15/hour accounting, customer service, and technical skills replaced white-collar American workers earning $50+/hour. These issues had a lot to do with the election of this President and can no longer be ignored–The hope is that we never again neglect these issues.
“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” – Winston Churchill
Whether you are left or right leaning, respect our President or do not… Have hope, understand the bias and its motivations, respect others, know your facts and get involved!