Thought is fragile—authority even more so.
If you defy thought’s first principle, thoughtfulness, the value of what one thinks decays quickly. Thoughts, ideas, plans are highly perishable. The wise test thought before asserting it and especially when the risks of failure are substantial. Presumably, if you occupy the White House, the risks are more important than penalties for failing to leash your dog.
Donald Trump in today’s news cycle, hyper-attenuated by Twitter, frequently displays thoughtlessness hourly. What is Iran to anticipate when the words are aggressive and the action passive?
Authority’s first principle is to use it carefully. Authority finds its highest value when it doesn’t have to be used; when those over whom you seek authority quietly yield. And thoughtful politicians understand that overused authority results in few, if any, lasting accomplishments.
What about dogma? Dogma according to the Cambridge English Dictionary means: “a fixed, especially religious, belief or set of beliefs that people are expected to accept without any doubts.”
In today’s Democratic primary, dogmatic assertions and compliance is pervasive. In the case of climate change, the underlying dogma is that a massive federal intervention is required and religious fealty is measured by trillions of dollars pledged. No time is spent on the sources of money.
The news media which has historically probed and probed and probed for rational thought often simply asks candidates to raise their hand if they support the “Green New Deal”. So rather than asking about the investment and regulatory framework needed to ramp up the use of “renewable sources” or the extent to which “carbon recapture” holds promise, emotive words suffice.
Now let me step back. We need a thoughtful leader whose assertion of authority is insightful and measured. Trump has stomped all over these criteria. And most of the Democrats running for their Party’s nomination are so compliant with dogma as to forfeit the opportunity to demonstrate independent thought. Although, I should give Senator Bernie Sanders a shout-out as on many fronts he has been specific and has led his challengers, thus his national Party, to the far left.
President Trump’s weaknesses are clear. But, the one thing he will have going for him is a pattern of results. Regardless of his almost daily breaching of the first principles of thought and authority there will be a pattern of results (like them or not).
I am adrift politically. My guess is that I am a part of a very large group of voters. But let me make a modest suggestion to Democrat leaders. There is nobody in the upper tier (Biden, Warren, Sanders) who will be easily embraced by a majority of Americans. It would be too bad if Trump won reelection because intense elements in the base of the Democrat Party shoved the Party too far to the left.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.