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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
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.