Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Did The GOP Pick The Wrong CEO?

This question rattled through my brain yesterday and the more I think about it, the more I have to wonder if there's something to it. Don't get me wrong: I've long been rolling my eyes about the Conservative dream of 'running the government like a business.' I don't get it. Business is not government and government is not business. One of the biggest problems in the country today is that the boundary lines between government and business and business and government have become way too blurred for either effective regulation of business by the government or a marketplace free of burdensome regulations for business.*

In short, the notion seems laughable to me. But, for the sake of our thought exercise, let's play with the idea a little bit and accept the notion: "The government would work so much better if it ran like a business."

If that's the case, then why on Earth did the GOP rally behind Donald Trump?

In terms of business folks who have sought (or won) the GOP nomination there are three examples to look at: Mittens, Carly Fiorina and the current President, Donald Trump. Each one of them represents- to me, anyway, a slightly different approach to business and brings a different skill set to the table. Let's start with Mittens:

Mittens, who, if whispers are to be believed might be destined for a Senate run in Utah** if Orrin Hatch retires next year, seems to be all about rescue operations and management consulting. As a venture capitalist, he snatches up companies, fixes their shit, makes them profitable again and sets them free. He zoomed in save the 2002 Winter Olympics, was wildly successful and parachuted back out again. He's a fixer. That's how he rolls.

Carly Fiorina, in contrast seems to fit the more traditional mold of business person. She started at the bottom and worked her way all the way up to the very top. She wasn't afraid to shake things up and make bold decisions (granted, her track record at HP and the Board Room fights she had to go through suggest that you could make the argument that her 'bold' decisions could also easily be categorized as 'questionable' ones.) She's more of a traditional CEO. I'm assuming (though I don't know) she'd be about hiring the best people and delegating jobs to those people to take the company (in this hypothetical case, the United States) where she wanted it to go.

President Trump, on the other hand, comes from the third school and that's brand. He's all about brand. That's not to say he doesn't know how to run a business, because obviously, he does- he wouldn't be where he is on brand alone, but the problem with the 'brand name' model of business is where we're seeing now. Everything has to be emanate from the source of the brand. (Donald Trump) Everything has to be loyal to the brand. (Donald Trump) Everything you do should be about promoting the brand, because the better the brand the more money you make.

This option is perfect for running for President. We've already seen that. Those damn red trucker hats are going to be everywhere forever. Make America Great Again will be on the internet forever. But is this going to be equally as effective at governing?

I have to admit, however reluctantly that my answer is: maybe. The President knows how to play the media like a fiddle- a single Tweet can dominate the internet for days at a time. (See: 'Covfefe') Meanwhile, things like privatizing air traffic control get reported on, but perhaps don't get the scrutiny they deserve, because it's not as sexy as that one thing he said last night about Russia. Or Qatar. Or Comey. What's he doing while we're being bombarded with the constant drumbeat of RUSSIA IMPEACHMENT COMEY INVESTIGATION over and over again? (He announced 11 new Judicial picks today. Is CNN talking about it? Of course not.)

So this model might be effective. But it's got some drawbacks as well- not least of which is that everything exists to serve the brand and the brand, as a result, can come across as some what egocentric. The President has shown an ability, (it seems when he's carefully prepared and scripted) to sound polished, Presidential and entirely competent. He even pushes towards being 'credible.' which is impressive, at least from where I'm sitting.

I think our politics would be a lot more traditional and things would be running a lot more smoothly than they are now had GOP voters gone with either Fiorina or Mittens and had the country decided to buy what they were selling.

The next three years will be key in testing this particular Conservative bromide. Personally, I'm hoping the current President puts to bed the idea once and for all that a business person is what we need to run the country.

*This can also be said for media and business and media and government as well. It's all one big sticky wicket and media is ratings driven these days and usually garbage as a result and because the business that run the media get goodies from the government, there are some topics (net neutrality, DAPL) that cable news won't touch with a ten foot pole. The whole sticky wicket is a large and growing problem.

**It's Utah, so I'm assuming if Hatch retires and Mitt runs, he'll probably win. I honestly wouldn't be displeased to see Romney land in the Senate. He's got the gravitas and the real world experience to be a nice counterweight to more hardcore ideologues like Ted Cruz and in combination with Mike Lee would give Utah a truly dynamic duo of Senators.

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