Americans are having a debate over what makes someone a good leader, according to George Friedman in a recent Stratfor article entitled, “The Crisis of the Well-Crafted Candidate”.
The current debate over whether business experience matters much in politics was reinforced in A Christian Science Monitor article by Pieter Grier called, “Does Carly Fiorina’s Business Experience at HP Matter?” The current pool of presidential candidates demonstrates there is change in voter attitudes about what makes a good president.
On the right we see the rise of “The Donald” Trump. He’s outrageous with his statements, but polls show many voters are looking for honesty rather than political craftsmanship. Trump has come out with nonconservative views favoring single-payer health care – meaning big government. He also supports ending tax breaks for hedge fund managers. He’s demonstrating that personality and character “trump” policy positions.
The search for authenticity explains why Hillary Clinton has dropped in the polls while Sen. Bernie Sanders, the openly socialistic candidate, is rising. Clinton once did a poll to determine which vacation spot would make her family more popular with voters. Sanders comes across as more sincere, more bipartisan and less calculating.
Sanders, leading in the polls in Iowa and Vermont, his home state, had the audacity to go into enemy territory by speaking to conservative evangelicals at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He knew his left-leaning views on abortion, women’s rights and gay marriage were not popular, but he thought that the common concerns of wealth inequality and decline of the middle class might unite liberal and conservatives; the future of the nation is at stake. His search for common ground was both bold and refreshing and is appealing to voters in this time of political gridlock.
Authenticity was the word Friedman used in his article to describe the shift in American attitudes. This is because many Americans have come to the realization that policy positions are not something presidents can actually carry out in regard to increasing jobs and improving the economy. Neither can they bring about change because most of the power to do so lies in Congress, not the presidency. Congress controls the purse strings.
Grier, in his article on Fiorina, discusses whether business experience influences voters. While Fiorina and Trump both tout their business acumen, these skills do not matter much in government where the bureaucracy may not obey orders from their president as they do in the business world and congressional leaders may not cooperate and cannot easily be fired.
One of our greatest presidents, Harry Truman, was a flop as a businessman, while Herbert Hoover, a business success story as an engineer, failed to motivate the nation during the Great Depression. Jimmy Carter, a peanut-processing businessman is found low in the esteem of the country as president. George W. Bush, with a master’s of business administration, was not aided in his presidency by his degree.
My own experience in government has shown that being successful in business does not make for success in the political sphere. Government plays by different rules and has differing goals.
Dr. Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon, has risen due to his clear Christian values and honesty, while it is patently obvious that he has not read the Constitution in regard to his statement that a Muslim should not become president, a clear ignorance of, “No religious test shall ever be required as a requirement to any public office….” However, his ignorance of foreign affairs does not seem to be a potential hindrance to him, since a president can hire experts in fields where he/she is weak.
It seems from these examples that Americans are looking for more than carefully-crafted politicians. Many Americans seem to be uncaring about positions as evidenced by Trump and Sanders. What they’re looking for seems to be deeper.
They are looking for authenticity and honesty, and the ability to handle crises that may rock the nation – disasters unplanned for and unexpected. They’re searching for the qualities of leadership.
This seems to be the mood of Americans at this point in the 2016 presidential election cycle.