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Unqualified????
By Kate Burch

Many on the Left are outraged by the election of a hugely successful businessman as our new President.

Some decry his lack of experience in government, implying that unfamiliarity with the arcana of Washington renders him ineffective as the chief executive of our country.  Others—those who believe that it is fundamentally unfair that some succeed and others fail, and that a government’s job is to equalize outcomes—despise Trump because of his legitimately earned wealth. 

Let’s take a look at these issues. 

Regarding the value of experience in politics: how much do the professional politicians who live in the Washington bubble really know about the everyday lives of the people who have elected them to be their representatives?  Some of us will remember the urban legend about George H.W. Bush staring in amazement at a supermarket scanner during his campaign for President.  That myth was used by the Left to illustrate how out-of-touch he was with ordinary Americans.  Meanwhile, the Left resists term limits and loves to have their people re-elected time after time, staying firmly planted in the government enclave.  These long-termers build up their fiefdoms and often succumb to the seductions of special interests and become corrupt and corrupting. 

Our founders never intended that governing should be a career.  The ideal was the “citizen legislator” who would agree to run for public office because he had peculiar expertise to fulfill a particular need for the state or the nation; or as a way to fulfill one’s civic duty.  People in public office had occupations and professions that were like those of the people they represented, and they were usually eager to return to their jobs and their real-world lives after performing government service.  Most of the Founding Fathers were entrepreneurs—people who started and operated their own businesses.  The list includes a number of lawyers and physicians, notably John Adams and Benjamin Rush.  There were also farmers, a shipper, a brewer, writers, and a songwriter.  Several were self-made men, starting out in trades like printing, shoemaking, carpentry, and accounting and through self-education and seizing opportunities, built their own fortunes.  Some, like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, were true Renaissance men, with intellects that were wide and deep, whose greatness left indelible marks on our national character. 

And why would anyone think that a business executive lacks the skills to govern?  Successful business executives and administrators that I have known have had skill sets that are undeniably qualifying.  Success in large organizations demands cognitive keenness and understanding; mental flexibility; willingness to act boldly when necessary; and acceptance of responsibility for the consequences.  Success also requires the ability to work with people honestly, with willingness to listen and be supportive, while also fearlessly exercising legitimate authority.  People who can do these things foster trust, collaboration, and a positive working environment, and help people to develop to their full potential. 

The other cavil--that wealth earned in business is somehow illegitimate--is personally odious to me but, let’s just draw one comparison to illustrate the point.  Donald Trump did start out with some family resources, true, but he has demonstrated extraordinary skill, courage, and boldness in building his real estate empire and associated aspects of his “brand,” meanwhile creating many thousands of jobs and improving the lives of countless people.  He has accomplished this using his own resources.  Senator Harry Reid, a lifer in Washington, started out with hardly two nickels to rub together.  Now, as he finally leaves “his” seat, he has an estimated net worth of $10 million, much acquired through shady dealings with shadier characters, and exploiting the taxpayers of Nevada and the United States in the meantime. 

I have a dream that one day we may have citizen legislators again—people who live and work in their districts and meet in Washington only several times in each year for a long weekend, perhaps a week, and otherwise keep informed about the conditions of people within their constituencies.  Time spent with those they represent, rather than with professional lobbyists would help keep politicians honest as well as better-informed, and potentially limit the mischief that Congress could do. 
 

 
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