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Nov 15, 201612:41 PMOpen Mic

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A successful businessperson’s presidency

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If you are a businessperson, have you ever thought you could do a better job running the country than the incumbent president? For those of you getting up in years you may have one last chance to act on that challenging inner voice or impulse. Donald Trump thought so a few years ago. But do you think you could win the presidential election?

History says yes, and Trump just proved it. Prior to Trump’s astonishing victory, three of the 10 most recently elected presidents were business executives — George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter. But they first received on-the-job training as governors or in Congress before running for president. Dwight Eisenhower succeeded without having prior elected political experience, but he did so from the springboard of being a war hero and governing the military through a tragic world war.

Donald Trump entered the Republican Party primary as a successful businessperson and won. He appealed to disenfranchised people tired of being neglected by traditional candidates, appealed to their suffering, offered a law and order agenda, and promised to fix all of our problems. Then he seemed to implode between winning the nomination and Election Day.

Well, a successful businessperson can indeed take a leap of faith and dive head first into the White House. The vote has been tabulated and businessman Donald Trump won by a substantial margin in the Electoral College, 306 to 232 votes, although Hilary Clinton won the popular vote.

What lessons can businesspeople seeking the presidency learn from Trump’s experience?

First, voters want businesspeople to run for national office and actively engage in the political process. They often have a pragmatic outsider perspective that can break suffocating political gridlock and insensitivity to the economic impacts of political policies on working-class people.

Second, we are all morally flawed, so please admit rather than deny it. Donald Trump’s moral flaws were spotlighted 24/7 by the media, who took Trump literally, but not seriously. Many people who took Trump seriously but not literally forgave Trump’s moral flaws for a “greater good,” be it his outsider approach, economic policies, and/or choosing future Supreme Court nominees. Plus, they thought Hillary’s moral flaws — ties to Wall Street, career politician, and Clinton Foundation revenue sources — were worse.

Third, your past and present business activities are your legacy. Mistakes you made during your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s are part of your legacy. Donald Trump branded his unique business history and many people found it compelling.

Fourth, you cannot separate business ethics from social or political ethics. They are all integrated. Our ethics follow and define us. Wherever you go, there you are. Yet, Americans are a forgiving people, and about half the population who do not call themselves Democrats or progressives forgave Donald Trump’s moral flaws, particularly conservative and evangelical Christians.


Old to new | New to old
Nov 15, 2016 02:05 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Seventh people need to read and understand platforms and policy statements - most voters didn't and are in for a surprise!

Nov 15, 2016 04:27 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I'm disappointed, Denis, that while you make some extremely valid points here, you failed to address the elements of racism, misogyny, and division that helped this business professional "succeed" in this election. To imply that this individual was merely a "successful businessperson," intent on appealing to disenfranchised voters provides a pass for what certainly are significant ethical issues that should not be dismissed as mere character flaws. Was he successful in his bid for the White House? Absolutely, but without addressing the elephant in the room, one downplays the ethical (yet valid) critique that this "businessman" succeeded through an appeal to some of the basest aspects of human nature. I'm not sure that's the type of business, social, or political leadership example that should either be dismissed or forgiven.

Nov 15, 2016 07:10 pm
 Posted by  Denis C.

Thanks for the comment. I note several times that Donald Trump exhibited many moral flaws, 24/7, via the media. In terms of successful, I meant in term of winning the presidency. He set a goal and accomplished it.

I am not recommending forgetting, just the harder concept of forgiveness, which is very difficult, yet at some point essential. Robert Enright's work at UW-Madison is helpful on this matter -- 4 stages: (1) recognize I've been violated, (2) the violation is painful yet do I want that pain to continue by not forgiving the wrongdoer? (3) as part of my grieving process I reframe the wrongdoer as a person of inherent worth deserving of forgiveness, and (4) emotional healing occurs and I find meaning in the previous suffering. Very, very complicated and difficult, and contextual.

Denis Collins

Nov 16, 2016 01:03 pm
 Posted by  Denis C.

I've been asked if it is too soon to forgive. Good question. Think in terms of an unethical bully who beats you up on a bus. Do you forgive immediately? No. The unethical bully needs to first be held accountable.

Thus, President-Elect Trump, and his followers, must be held accountable for their actions. Nelson Mandella and Bishop Tutu did Truth and Reconciliation with individuals who were willing to be held accountable, though some may have been legally forced to participate. So timing is essential.

For the religiously inclined, Jesus flipped the money tables over first, prior to forgiving his enemies.

Nov 18, 2016 12:59 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

It is not so much Donald Trump who I refuse to forgive--but all of those persons who decided they had it in them to vote for him; to vote for misogyny, racism and nativism; as well as his mean spirit. I get forgiveness is complicated. I also get Robert Enright's work and fully respect it. I also don't believe every act deserves forgiveness. There are other ways to sublimate the pain that involves the creative process and its healing characteristics.

Says me anyway.

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