Police state America

I saw several mentions of this video on twitter this weekend, but thanks to Drum, I finally took a look.  OMG it’s horrible.  Here’s Drum’s brief summary:

I hate to ruin your weekend, but this has to be seen to be believed. A driver in Glendale, Arizona was pulled over for a turn signal violation, and the passenger ended up being tased 11 times—including once in his testicles—solely because he politely asked some questions about what was going on. The officer who did this was suspended for 30 hours.

This was just stomach-churning to watch.  There’s a great, lengthy story on it here that analyzes the video with experts on law enforcement use of force.  Suffice it to say, it is beyond appalling that this officer is still on the streets.  Hopefully now that this has come to light, more appropriate action (i.e., prosecution of the officer) will be taken.  But, damn, there’s just so much endemic corruption in law enforcement that those in power saw this body camera footage the police officer faced only a 30 hour suspension.  In some weird way, it’s also nice to see that bad cops can be horrible to white people, too.

Why aren’t former politicians successful business executives?

Did you ever think to ask that?  And, if your answer is along the lines of “umm, probably because they are completely different skill sets” then maybe we need to be re-thinking why our society so easily fetishizes successful businesspeople as potential candidates and the fact that this is regularly a claim to political office.  Now, of course, some successful businesspeople do go onto political success, but, hey, some people are really good at math and writing.  Being really good at math doesn’t mean you should write a book.

Loved this column from Nick Hanauer:

But in addition to my business interests, I have been deeply engaged in political and civic projects since I was a kid. And having worked closely for my whole adult life with elected leaders on dozens of civic and political campaigns and projects, I can say with equal authority and confidence that political leadership is profoundly different from business leadership. In fact, they’re often antithetical. [emphases mine]

That is why I believe that Howard would likely make a terrible president, no matter what his policy agenda was. Indeed, the resumé on which he is running—that of an immensely, successful, experienced, and charismatic business leader—is more often a recipe for political failure than success.

The main job of any leader is to get other people to execute your agenda, and to execute it well. But the circumstances surrounding business and political leadership are entirely different. In business, everybody in your organization works for you. You define the goals, the culture, and the terms of service. You can hire, fire, promote, and demote at will. A successful executive certainly nurtures the input and innovation of others, but the entire corporate organizational structure ultimately bends to the will of the CEO.

Operating in such a structured environment, Howard has clearly proven to be a successful and effective executive. But Starbucks is not a democracy. And this may be why Howard treats the backlash to the idea of his presidency as fundamentally wrong—or “un-American,” as he repeatedly labels Democrats who disagree with him.

In American politics, everybody—including you—works for the American people. Even more challenging, the representatives and senators a president relies on to enact his agenda work for different people, sometimes with widely divergent interests, ideologies, and beliefs. The president cannot hire and fire at will. The judicial and legislative branches are independent, many powers are distributed to the states, and the professional bureaucracy serves as a natural buffer against wild swings in presidential mood.

Leading the American republic requires very different skills than leading an American corporation does. And perhaps even more importantly, it requires a very different temperament.

If you run a business for a long time, particularly a large and successful one, the combination of wealth, power, and clarity of purpose leaves you very accustomed to people doing what you want. If you are charismatic, it is very easy to conclude that people eagerly do what you want because that is what they want to do—rather than because you sign their paychecks. And if you’re not charismatic, it’s easy to conclude that you are.

After decades leading Starbucks, and after accumulating billions of dollars of wealth, Howard is no doubt accustomed to extraordinary levels of obeisance. Leadership feels easy when all of the people around you hang on your every word and whim.

But political leadership is nothing like that. Yes, you do have tremendous status and power. But in a democracy, virtually no one, save your personal staff, has to do what you want. The legislators and regulators you must work with, the press, civil society, even your political appointees—none of these people can easily be fired. Worse, for good or for ill, all presidents will find many people, even in their own parties, actively working to subvert both their agendas and their administrations.

Leading a democracy thus requires a different temperament and skill set than leading a corporation, where everyone is compelled to follow orders, and subversion is a punishable offense. Effective political leaders are geniuses at persuading, cajoling, and manipulating. They build coalitions, make compromises, and construct compelling narratives.

The unmitigated disaster of the Trump presidency is a perfect example of what happens when a person accustomed to, and only suited to, commanding people, confronts the realities of democratic governance. We get chaos. Paralysis. Rage.

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