There was a Republican candidate who touted his business success as a qualification for office. During the campaign, a number of unflattering facts came out about his past, and his reaction was to attack the press for it. He made quite a number of outrageous statements, rude suggestions, and frequently issued threats. That he was actually the Republican Party’s candidate was a source of astonishment not only to Democrats, but a large number of establishment Republicans. Am I talking about Donald Trump? No, that was back in 2010, when the candidate for governor here in NY was Carl Paladino. Donald Trump was him 6 years later, on the national stage, and it’s no surprise that Paladino was one of biggest supporters here in New York.
When that was happening, I wrote a blog post about it, saying that running a government was not the same as running a business. In that, I pointed out something very obvious to me:
You see, governors don’t have the same capabilities that a business owner does. Governors have to work with a legislature, which can (and will) do quite a bit to either make the governor’s ideas a success or doom them to failure. No, the governor does not get to order them around, or at least not very often. Particularly if he’s from the party which does not control the legislature. Besides that, there are also limitations and separation of powers built into the structure of the government – it’s called a Constitution and the laws of the state. To be able to govern effectively, he can’t just decide that something will happen, and expect that it will – he has to persuade others to go along, and be willing to cooperate and compromise.
Fortunately for us here in New York, Paladino lost. Unfortunately for the country, Donald Trump won. The news over the past few months has been a litany of scandals, blunders, and disarray. Where I once obsessively read the news several times a day, I now dread seeing what’s in it. Every day there’s a new scandal revelation, a story of an ally being insulted, a firing, someone declining a position, or other blunders and outrages. Actual accomplishments are virtually non-existent, even though the President’s party also controls the legislature.
These issues can be traced to two fundamental myths: The first is that government runs like a business; and that Donald Trump was a successful businessman. The second never bore up to any scrutiny. A look back at his business record shows a string of failures and bailouts. He’s been good at marketing his name, but at very little else. He sold that notion to the voters, who wouldn’t listen to the reality – and yes, I speak from experience on that. What’s worse is that he believes his own hype.
It’s because of that, that he – and a great many of his voters and conservatives in general – are constantly running into problems because of their belief in the first myth. I’ve run businesses before, as a sole owner. One was a hobby business, the other was retail/services business. In both cases, I didn’t have to answer to anyone. If I wanted to do something, and I had the money to do it, I could. If I didn’t want to do something, I didn’t. I got to make all sorts of decisions without any debates, asking for permission, or obstructions. On the other hand, I’ve been an elected official in various organizations, and at no point did “because I want to” or “because I said so” work. That’s because the structure of those organizations meant that I had to build a consensus, I had to get permissions, and I had to deal with various obstructions or make changes in order to be successful.
The system of government we have is designed to have three co-equal branches. Congress does not answer to the President, and has it’s own responsibilities. The Judiciary does not answer to Congress or the President. They have defined responsibilities, and as a result, it takes a lot of work to get things done, which is how it’s meant to be. Which is something that seems to escape Donald Trump. He’s had a lifetime running a business where he was not just the person in charge, but he didn’t have to answer to anyone. It wasn’t even a publicly held corporation, where he had to answer to a board of directors and stockholders. Add in the second myth that he believes, and he’s been incapable of grasping the reality that the Presidency is far and away different from running the Trump Organization.
Which is why he’s been a disaster so far, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time in the future. The threatening of Representatives if they didn’t vote for the healthcare bill backfired, as many representatives of his own party went immediately into opposition mode. Screaming about court decisions, because he was unable to grasp that judges don’t care that he’s the President, they care about whether what he’s doing is constitutional and follows the law. Constant scandals, a dysfunctional White House, antagonizing allies, praising dictators, and a lack of accomplishments are all because he’s still trying to run the White House like his business, and it’s not a recipe for successful governance.
It’s why he has lousy approval ratings for the most part, and slowly the realization is trickling down to his supporters that “this isn’t working.” The reason it isn’t is pretty clear, they – and the man the elected – really thought it would be like a business and they were conducting a business reorganization. Instead, they’re finding out that it’s a government, with different structures, demands, and requirements and they’re not capable of dealing with that. If there’s only one good thing that comes out of this disaster, I hope it’s that once and for all we can destroy the myth that government is like a business. Because as we’re seeing now, “business success” has zero meaning when it comes to “governing success.”