The role of VP on a presidential ticket is usually unimportant; ticket balancing and vote getting are the main selection criteria. Not since Harry Truman replaced Vice President Henry Wallace on the Democratic ticket in 1944 has a VP pick been so consequential. Truman was Vice President for only 82 days before he became President when Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945. If the Democrats win in November, how long will it be before Senator Harris becomes the President? Knowing how close VP Candidate Karris is to being the President of the United States, was she chosen for the right reasons?That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Thant is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
If a major corporation is looking to hire a key Senior Vice President, the obvious heir apparent to the soon-to-retire President, this is not the hire where any success-seeking business would think about ethnicity or gender; the laser like focus would be on who is the best person to lead the company to maximum success for the next several years. Note that I said “best”, not simply “qualified.” If you are hiring droves of entry level workers for a rapidly growing business, then looking for merely qualified workers may be sufficient. You can let these hires sort themselves out over time, promoting those who stand out, keeping the ones who simply do their jobs, and getting rid of the ones who are substandard. When hiring for more senior positions, you are looking for the best candidate, not just someone who can hold down the position, doing a satisfactory job with few successes but no outrageous failures.
Let’s bring this issue closer to home. If you are looking to hire a contractor to do a complete remodel of your kitchen, are immutable traits like race and gender your first priorities? Of course not. You would focus on finding someone with the experience and references that would convince you this contractor would be the best one to rip apart your kitchen, and rebuild it in exactly the way that you want. And somewhat close to on time, and on budget. If this person was also, say, Irish or female, that might be a fun bonus, perhaps even a tie breaker, but not for a second would these types of characteristics be part of the selection criteria. Why would our reasoning be anything different when hiring the President of the United States?
From those who support Harris’ selection, the praise is centered on her being Indo-Black and female. Are we nominating someone for a movie role, seeking an enthic and gender fit with the character? Are we indulging in an affirmative action hiring process while dealing with the most important job on the planet? Do we want some other form of social justice driving the selection of the most powerful person on earth? My take is even more troubling than that. Most voters want–demand–what is best for themselves, and everyone else can go fish. And if they can stick it to the other party at the same time, all the better. Some reverse this, with sticking it to the other guys as the priority, and getting what they want for themselves as second. And they don’t care who gives it to them. They will vote for whomever promises them more of what they want, and that is all the “experience and competence” they need to see before making their choice.
Kamala Harris is not even close to being the best VP candidate in the Democratic Party; likely not even in the top half. And the Democrats themselves agreed with this assessment with their declining support for her in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes. Harris started strong, but when the debates began and people actually saw and heard what she had to say, her support all but disappeared. Biden cannot possibly be the best candidate for President the Dems have, and I remain firm in my position that Donald Trump is not the best man the Republicans have to offer. Mike Pence is likely the best of the bunch, and the furthest from the Oval office.
Why are we not getting better candidates? Where are the Lincolns, FDRs, JFKs and Reagans? The Constitution has not changed. Compensation has remained relatively stable. We have all heard the quote, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” -Lord Acton, British historian. As the US continues to grow more and more powerful economically and militarily, our permanent class of politicians want to have a longer and firmer grip on the tools that allow them to wield that power. We no longer have the citizen politicians who once served us so well. We have lifelong professional politicians who are there to serve themselves and their party. We The People are just a tool for them to get what they want. Yes, Virginia, there is a swamp, and it is on both sides of the aisle.
Followers of Revolution 2.0™ have heard this before: If we want better candidates and better office holders, we need to be better voters. Not just more voters, as in get out the vote campaigns, but well researched voters. And, more importantly, voters who genuinely want what is best for America, not merely who is best for them and what supports their bumper sticker political philosophy.
What kind of candidates would we get if we ran the following job listing? “CEO to run a company of 330,000,000 people, with a security force of 1,300,000. Your Board of Directors is split between two groups; one with 435 members, the other with 100. Both groups are divided between those who will like the CEO, and those who will detest the CEO. The HR department has 9 members who often overrule everyone else. Every four years the people get to vote on the CEO, and in between they vote on the Board. There is also a bureaucratic department of 2,000,000 employees, none of whom can be fired. Compensation is $400K annually, with good benefits, a pension plan, meal plan, housing and transportation. Must be good with people; half of the 330M people in the company will be out for your hide at any given moment. During the 18 month interview process, you will be subject to intense scrutiny, exhausting travel, and you and your family will be vilified. Apply to USA, an equal opportunity employer.
The US Presidency is arguably the toughest, and certainly the most consequential, job in the world. We need, “Men To Match My Mountains” a book by Irving Stone about the men who matched the challenge of opening the American West. On occasion, we have seen men who matched the then current challenges and were able to step up to the dreadful tasks demanded of the times. George Washington risked everything he owned, including his life, as a traitor to the British Crown to be part of creating the breakthrough founding documents. He then led the ragtag army that defeated the most powerful military the world had ever seen. Similarly, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, to list a few, rose to the occasion when crises loomed and they steered us through to the other side. Here’s a compliment to George Washington from an entirely unlikely quarter. Washington was held in such esteem by his countrymen, for his character and rectitude, that they would willingly have made him their king. It was upon this occasion when King George asked what Washington would do, the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James replied to the king, “He will return to his farm”. King George, George III, replied of his former enemy, “Then he shall be the greatest man in the world.” Washington returned to his farm.
Where are the men and women to match our mountains today? In the past, great men volunteered, at enormous cost to themselves, to respond to challenges like the need to fight Britain to obtain our freedom, to defeat global evil in two World Wars, to defeat our own evil in our Civil War, and to defeat our enemies in the Cold War. The list of massive challenges continues; where are the men and women of quality, commitment and competence, that we need to step up to and meet these challenges today?
Candidates are no longer rising to the challenge of being the President of the United States driven by patriotism and a desire to serve the people in the USA, and by extension the people in the world. Our processes, and we, you and I, are attracting people driven by their egos and their desire to benefit personally, to be served instead of to serve. For example, which of our recent Presidents would have served the country by voluntarily walking away from power the way that Washington did?
Yes, the fault is ours. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…” -Shakespeare’s character, Cassius. We have shown with our voices and our votes that division, insults, misleading information, and cliches and slogans masquerading as research and policy are what we will accept, and often embrace. Worse, far worse, we do not see these faults in our activities, in ourselves; all fault belongs to those who disagree with us. We are not divisive and cliche-driven; they are. All sides believe that about all the other sides.
And all-too-many of the politicians on both sides of the aisle play to that weakness in us. Until we, We The People, demand that all of our leaders act like functioning adults, by seeking agreed-upon common goals, sticking to the complete set of facts that pertain to those goals (courts call facts like these evidence) and use non agenda-based thinking to reach those common goals, nothing will change. We The People must change. “There go my people, I must follow them for I am their leader.” -Gandhi. Let’s give our leaders something worthwhile to follow.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, Google, or Stitcher.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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