Leadership and Bias In Politics

[Disclaimer: this is an editorial, plain and simple.  I added a hashtag #politics, in case a little equal-opportunity candidate bashing isn’t your thing.  It’s not usually mine either, but I was gripped today by a desire to write on policy matters.  DMJ]

I have the essentially the same answer as in Leadership and Bias At Work, when we’re talking about policy and politics – I see overcoming bias as a leadership issue.

It’s interesting to compare our 2016 presidential candidates with Lyndon Johnson. As documented in remarkable detail by Robert Caro,  Johnson was by turns intimidating and obsequious, and pulled dirty tricks throughout his career that placed him in very select company.  But during his first year in the White House, Johnson was also an exceptional president, among other things steering passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And this was a guy whose Senate record on civil rights voting was perfect – he never once voted for civil rights as a senator.

Johnson sniveled and groveled his way to power, but when he finally had it, he used it with skill and resolve. He had a goal, was the most powerful man in the world, and everything else was secondary. Polls?  Irrelevant – they are not voting this year.  Senate votes?  Buy them if you can, intimidate them if you must – we have a job to do. Would it really be so different if he were President today?

Could Donald Trump rise above the populist biases that have defined him?  Trump is truly someone born on third base who imagines he hit a triple, but also derivative, intellectually flatulent, lacking in meaningful political experience, and disrespected by existing power structures far and wide.  Rising above bias and solving major problems just seem beyond his capabilities.

And Hillary Clinton?  She is intelligent, and unlike Trump has seriously-considered policy positions. I wonder if she potentially could stand alongside, rather than within, the constituencies of her candidacy, and return the country’s politics to a problem-solving basis.  The congressional elections would likely be in her favor, for one thing.  But I don’t hear a driving philosophy from her – more like a reactive and evolving set of policies.  That won’t bind people together. And there are genuine issues in this country – many decent and hard-working people in this country are not secure in their life situations. That’s not right.

Clinton’s chicanery and blundering are not inconsiderable, but by Johnsonian standards mere amateurism.  Personally, I don’t care that she can be socially a little out of it, or that she has fouled up on occasion. So what  – who hasn’t?  But her response to being caught is a legitimate worry.  Perhaps that is what makes many potential voters nervous.

Clinton can act like a recalcitrant schoolgirl who was found out after submitting a slightly-altered Shakespeare sonnet as her own. When asked to explain herself, she shifts the blame to Shakespeare – for writing such a lovely (if not quite perfect) poem in the first place. I’m sorry, but that particular error of judgment would not be Shakespeare’s fault. Let’s take some ownership, shall we?

Clinton should stop playing the victim, and lead. Otherwise I can’t see her placing a significant stamp on the office of the presidency she is very likely to hold.  Which would be a shame, because rather like 1964, there is a lot of work to do.

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