Tag Archives: 2016 Election

Trump Tries to Triumph in the Tumult of a Vuja De World

from “If You’re Not Making History, You Are History” by Bob MacDonald

 

Soon, Trump will formally inherit the titles of the office of the president such as “leader of the free world,” “the most powerful man in the world,” and “commander in chief.” But there is one title he will bring to the office with him. It is a title no occupant of the White House has been entitled to for over a century; and that is the moniker of “disrupter in chief.” Not since Teddy Roosevelt was elevated to the office of president by the assassination of William McKinley in 1901 has an individual assumed the presidency more determined to disrupt the status quo as is Trump.

It is apparent that no longer will there be a feeling of “Déjà vu” as Trump settles into the routine of being president. Instead, Trump will bring to reality the concept of “Vuja de” coined by the late comedian and insightful urban philosopher George Carlin.

We are all familiar with the term Déjà vu which literally means “already seen” or the general vernacular of “been there, done that.” On the other hand, as Carlin explained it, Vuja de is the uneasy feeling people have when the status quo is being disrupted and they are in a place they have never been before; not knowing how the rules will change. That uncertainly is the uneasy feeling now being experienced by the political establishment, the mainstream media and a majority of American voters as the era of Trump begins.

Trump is not the first disrupter. Just the first disrupter to lead government

Disrupters in business – those who change the way the game is played – are, when successful, legendary and revered as visionaries. Some of these historical business disrupters would include Henry Ford, Bill Gates at Microsoft, Steve Jobs at Apple, Phil Knight at Nike, Fred Smith of FedEx and Richard Branson of Virgin Group. All of these individuals thrived in the world of Vuja de by being comfortable doing what others had not already seen to do.   

While naturally resistant and comfortable with the status quo, the business world has been susceptible to a Vuja de approach because of the power vested in the leader. But government has never been exposed to a true Vuja de type leader, because by its very structure – the constitution – our government is based on the concept of defused power that is intended to assure the consistent continuity of the status quo. Power is passed from one president to another, while the Republican and Democratic Parties rotate supremacy within the confines of government, the slow flow of the status quo remains. The players may change, but the way the game is played does not change; the rules remain constant. At least they have up to this point.

The intriguing aspect of a Trump presidency is that he will be the first person to bring a Vuja de business leadership style to the highest level of the government. It is an axiom that successful business leaders seek to do what has not been done to create the future, while the establishment that populates the government seek the repetition of what has been done to preserve the past. For many (in both business and government) the feeling of Vuja de is intimidating, while for others it is exhilarating. It will be beyond interesting to see how this conflict between Déjà vu and Vuja de will play out in government over the next four years.

It could well be that this conflict of diametrically opposed approaches to governing will create even more polarization and dysfunction in government. On the other hand, it may open our eyes to the idea that government, just as in business, can function more effectively if it is not shackled to the practice of doing the same thing, the same way it has always been done, because that’s the way it has always been.

A peek at a Vuja de world

We are already privy to a glimpse at how this clash of attitudes may play out in a Trump presidency. Trump has been roundly criticized in the media for being publicly skeptical of the “intelligence community” reporting that the Russian government sanctioned – indeed sponsored – cyber hacking efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election. It is true that there are other factors at work here, but Vuja de leaders naturally challenge the conclusions of those in the status quo; especially when their conclusions are offered with no dissent. Even if the conclusions of the intelligence community are accurate, that does not mean the process of reaching them can’t be challenged. Trump has not denied the conclusions of the intelligence community, but he has challenged them to prove their point. I have no doubt that the intelligence leaders who presented their case to Trump last week had done much more work and were better prepared to present their case, than if they had not been challenged by Trump.

And history proves the point. In early 1961, John Kennedy, a new president in the continuum of the status quo, accepted, without challenge, the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence community that Castro was a weak leader and the people would rise up against him if America supported an invasion of Cuba. If Kennedy had been more of a Vuja de leader who was willing to challenge the establishment, the Bay of Pigs fiasco may never have happened.     

There may be valid reasons to oppose or even fear a Trump presidency, but unfortunately many of those in the establishment of government and the media are dreading a Trump presidency simply because his style of leadership is so foreign to their traditional thinking. Trump’s style will force them to step out of their comfort zone and this engenders a queasy feeling of uncertainty and loss of power that comes with the surmised safety of the status quo.

The Vuja de style of leadership may fail miserably when applied to managing a government, but on the other hand, it just may be a new way to effectively manage government and make it work. One thing we know for sure is that Trump will not be a Déjà vu president.

Rigged Elections Do Have Consequences

 

Isn’t it beautiful irony that during the campaign Trump claimed the election was being rigged against him, while all along it was being rigged for him?

The Russians (bless their little Ruskie hearts) are being accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computer system in an effort to influence the results of the recent presidential election. Virtually everyone across the political spectrum (except for Trump, who may have benefited from this activity) have expressed outrage over Russia’s blatant attempt to interfere with the delicate balance of American democracy.

And rightly so, because if voters lose confidence in the validity of election results, the divisiveness existing in our current political environment will be exacerbated; maybe to the point of undermining the authenticity of our democracy. This potential problem extends beyond our own shores, because if our election results are brought into question, no longer will America be able to present itself as the model of democracy for other countries to emulate.

If (and there is little doubt) that Russian hackers did make an effort to impact the presidential election, it is a clear violation of our national sovereignty that is so egregious it could be considered an act of war, worthy of retribution. But there is a problem: Russia has, of course, denied any hand in such nefarious activity. For the American government to call out Russia by offering clear evidence that the cyber-attack was initiated and sponsored by the Russian government (maybe all the way up to Putin), the American intelligence services would have to reveal how they know what they know about the Russian activity. Doing so would expose America’s own capabilities to hack into Russian systems; obviously something the intelligence community does not want others to know.

Responding with nothing more than a hissy fit …

In response to Russia’s blatant cyber-attack on our democracy, about all the American government can do publicly is fret and stew over the incident. Investigations can be undertaken and Congressional hearings can shine an indignant spotlight on Russian activities and assume a holier-than-thou stance. The American government can take the high-ground and show the world how despicable the Russian government is by attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, but it can do little else publicly.

There is one problem when it comes to America taking this approach. Our government does not come to the party with “clean hands.” It is like the old cliché of “reaping what you sow.” The painful truth is that America has a long history of attempting to meddle, influence and even rigging elections in other sovereign countries. Examples of this type of American meddling in the elections of numerous democratic countries could – and has – filled numerous books.

“Nation building” and “regime change” have been the basic stratagems of American foreign policy for two centuries. The objective has been to try to assure that the governments of independent countries are sympathetic to the political and economic interests of America. Tactics employed have ranged from funding those who support American interests, all the way to fomenting and financing coups against democratically elected leaders who disagree with American policies. Some efforts to “influence” the “election” of governments favorable to American policy went so far as to include military action and occupation.  

One of the clearest examples of American meddling in the internal affairs of another country involves Iran. In 1953 Mohammed Mossadegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. His “mistake” was to oppose the economic interests of America in the Middle East. The CIA funded and fomented a violent coup that replaced Mossadegh with a guy who became to be known as The Shaw of Iran. We all know how that turned out.

In 1954 the CIA instigated and financed the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. His “sin” was to challenge the politically connected United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation. The CIA subsequently backed a series of dictators who maltreated the people of Guatemala for almost 50 years.

One of the most infamous episodes of American attempts to meddle in and influence democratic elections in sovereign countries occurred in 1973. Salvador Allende, an avowed Socialist, had been democratically elected president of Chile in 1970. His policies of industrial nationalization soon had him on the wrong side of American interests. President Nixon personally orchestrated the overthrow of the Allende government and the installation of the ruthless dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. (Allende was said to have “committed suicide” when the CIA backed “rebels” stormed the Chilean Presidential Palace.)   

One of the most brazen examples of America meddling in the democratic elections of another country involved Italy. The Italian elections of 1948 pitted the weak centrist Christian Democrats against a rising tide of influential leftist parties (some clearly Communist) and labor unions. The CIA entered the fray in support of the Christian Democrats with “bags of money” to finance the election campaign. There were even reports that the CIA organized a secret propaganda campaign that included forging documents intended to sully the reputations of opposition leaders.

The pot calling the kettle black…   

The point of this very limited tour of what have been numerous attempts by the American government to disrupt the democratic elections of other sovereign countries is to point out that if Russia did indeed hack into our election, we are only getting a taste of our own medicine. Modern electronic technology may be more subtle than the ham-fisted actions America has employed in an effort to install a foreign government more sympathetic to our interests, but Putin’s objective in meddling in the election is just the same.

There is no doubt that Putin favored Trump over Clinton. By launching a cyber-attack on the DNC and releasing embarrassing communications, Putin was simply taking a page from an American history of interfering in the elections of other countries, in an effort to see a government more favorable to his interests, While there is (and never can be) any credible evidence that Russian cyber-attacks actually influenced the outcome of the election, at the very least they were able to raise a specter concern as the validity of the presidential election. And by doing so, weaken American democracy in the eyes of the world. The end question is: What are we going to do about?

When it Comes to Trump — Can Everyone Just Chill Out a Bit?

from “If You’re Not Making History, You Are History” by Bob MacDonald

In the 1950s there was a popular television sit-com starring William Bendix called “The Life of Riley.” In the show Bendix played well-intended but blundering Chester A. Riley who worked as a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. When life became too confusing or something didn’t go the way he planned, Riley would exclaim in frustration, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”  

It seems that for a lot of people in the country, the recent presidential election victory of Donald Trump has become a “revoltin’ development.” The shock of his election has been intensified because the very idea of Trump winning was dismissed out of hand by almost everyone. Trump was roundly chastised for his crude, vulgar and even racist comments about virtually everyone, but especially against women, minorities, Gays, immigrants, Muslims and the political establishment. But the ferocity of the pushback against Trump since the election evokes images of third-world countries more than it does of the most enduring representative democracy in the history of the world.

Most people reacted to the election of Trump with a sense of astonishment, but for millions of others it triggered anxiety, desperation and even fear. In the aftermath of the election, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in over a dozen cities to passionately and sometimes violently protest Trump’s election. The media has generally soft-pedaled these protests as simply a right of free expression in a democracy, but you do have to wonder if these demonstrations would have been viewed in the same light, if Trump had lost the election and his supporters had taken to the streets. (It is fair to ask where these passionate protesters were during the election and why they did not support Clinton with such fervor. If they had, certainly the results would have been different.)

Feelings over the top …

The reality is that both Trump supporters and his detractors have overacted to his election. It is as if the country is suffering from a manic-depressive illness, with Trump supporters exhibiting irrational euphoria and Clinton voters writhing in a deep psychotic depression. There is overreaction – especially fanned by the media – to everything Tromp does, or does not do.

It would be best for everyone – especially for the country – if we would all just step back and chill out.

The first thing to remember is that Trump was elected president, not dictator. The subtle beauty of our constitution is that it was purposefully structured to put a governor on the powers of a president. The drafters of the constitution were deeply fearful of a president becoming a despot, so they installed a series of “checks and balances” intended to limit the power of the president. Under the structure of our government, any president has limited power to deliver on the overheated expectations of his supporters or to fully implement policies his detractors fear.  

It’s not as bad as it seems …

To gain some perspective on the political divisions in the country today, we only need to look back at the Viet Nam era. Many are not old enough to remember, but during the Viet Nam War, the nation was politically divided in a way not seen since the Civil War. The disruption, protests, bombings and mob violence of the time make the protests against Trump seem more like a society cotillion ball. During the Viet Nam era there was a feeling that the country was coming apart at the seams and would not survive. But you know what? The country did survive and we were better for it. Trump’s election impact on the country is not nearly as cataclysmic as was the Viet Nam War, and no matter what he does, the country will survive; and maybe be better for it.

One benefit from Trump’s election is that it may shake the complacency of those who have passively accepted the benefits of expanding social rights as an entitlement, rather than a reward for hard work. Fear of Trump (however misplaced it may turn out to be) may be a motivating factor for those progressives, liberals and Democrats who applauded the work of others, but have not been willing to take up the cause with action; much like the conservatives were motivated to form groups such as the Tea Party when Obama was elected.

Trump may not be who you think he is …

The other misnomer may be about Trump himself. Both those who are for and against Trump took his comments in the campaign too literally. The reality is that Trump is more Democrat than he is Republican. In fact, the main criticism of Trump during the Republican primaries was that “he is not a real Republican.” Viewed in the perspective of actions he has taken in the past and what he has proposed, Trump could be considered a political centaur – half Republican and half-Democrat. Ultimately, this may empower Trump to break the gridlock in Washington that has frustrated the people – of both Parties – in this country. Have you noticed that unlike traditional Republican dogma, Trump has proposed increased government spending, rather than reducing it?

The irony is that in the end Trump may stir the ire of Republicans more than Democrats. He campaigned on and proposed extensive infrastructure investment, punishing companies that move jobs overseas, called for a complete overhaul of the tax code; closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, allowing a reduction in taxes for everyone. Trump has favored child tax credits and mandatory paid maternity leave. These are all programs that have been pushed by Obama and the Democrats, but thwarted by Republicans.

As a successful businessman, Trump has shown that he is much more a pragmatist than an ideologue. He is trained by experience and nature to focus on the objective and get it done, no matter what he has to do or who he has to work with. This is the exact opposite mindset exhibited by Republican leaders and of those who have recently inhabited the White House.  

What this all comes down to is that – whether or not he takes advantage of it – Trump has the opportunity to become a change-agent president, the likes of which we have not seen since Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt. The former changed the financial contract between the government and the people, to make financial opportunity more equitable for all. FDR changed the social contract between government and the people to create more protection and security for all. Being a pragmatist not wedded to any political ideology, Trump may become a catalyst that could change the way the government deals with problems. Given the current heated rhetoric and stalemate in governing, it is difficult to be optimistic, but Trump’s scarcity of experience in government and his independence from a fixed ideology could bring back what made America great and that is a pragmatic bipartisan approach to governing.

Trump may become the colossal failure that many expect or he could surprise us by his approach and effectiveness. It certainly would not be the first time that Trump has surprised us. Either way, whether we agree with him or not, he has earned the right to be given a chance to prove us right or wrong. One thing is certain: Our form of government will prevent Trump from being as ineffective as he could be or as effective as he wants to be. And we will survive.