Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pop Trump! #election2016, Let's make America Great Again!


-Populism revolves around a charismatic leader who appeals to and claims to embody the will of the people in order to consolidate his own power. It is leadership from the rear. For this reason polling is a favorite strategy of populists. The campaign of Donald Trump can be considered a populist movement. He is playing to the emotions of the electorate. There are good and bad things about populism. Populism increases voter turn out. Getting more people involved in the political process will normally make a democracy stronger. There are also bad things about populism. The rest of this post will focus on these negatives.
We have had other populist candidates in the past. Andrew Jackson was a war hero who people admired and looked up to. He was quick to make decisions from the gut, and used little restraint. In the capitol building he once blunted a man with a cane to unconsciousness. Jackson pragmatism accomplished the founding of the modern Democratic Party. This can be contrasted with the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln forged coalitions by investing time and effort into building relationships. Some of his most productive relationships were his political enemies that he appointed to cabinet positions. He was the founder of the modern Republican Party. In the publication, "Rating the Presidents" by William J. Ridings, Jr. and Stuart B. McIver, published in 1997, president Lincoln was ranked first among the presidents by 719 professors, attorneys, historians and authors. Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act, the National Banking Act, and a bill that chartered the first transcontinental railroad. He signed the Emancipation Proclamation that led to the 13th amendment outlawing slavery. Perhaps his largest accomplishment was holding our union of states together in the midst of a civil war. The comparison of Jackson and Lincoln is as different as their leadership style. Jackson led from the rear. Lincoln led by taking us to a place where we did not want to go, and then we thanked him for it. 

Populists need a common enemy. The abuses of Wall Street are a common enemy in many populist movements just as they are today. Back in Jackson's day the New York syndicate at Tam-minty Hall was just beginning. For this reason the candidates of 2016 should be wary of discussing the stock market during this election cycle. During the American Revolution Thomas Pain wrote Common Sense, and then went on a crusade against loyalist to the crown in the colonies. This made sense at the time, but unrestrained passion directed against our neighbors never makes sense in the long term. Neither does it make sense to hate all Latin American people because they are attempting to come over the border for a better life. They are not the enemy, but to the unemployed factory worker it can feel that way. Building a wall is a simple solution to this problem.

Populists answer complex problems with simple solutions. Donald Trump's wall between Mexico and US is a great example. The real problem is not people crossing the border from Mexico. The real problem is what President Obama and others have addressed. The middle class is shrinking. People are underemployed and stuck in a changing economy that they cannot adapt too. Technology has outpaced our training and tolerance for change. This is a complex problem. When analyzed it also encourages us to get training for new skills in a new economy. It is much easier for me to agree with someone else that our problems are all because of a common enemy. This is especially true when that someone is a populist candidate running for President of the United States.

Our country has a rich history of populist movements. Pragmatism can be a good strategy to employ in the short term. But, populism in the long term is leadership from the rear.  It is what Joachim Posada calls, "eating the marshmallow".  Taken from his book, "Don't Eat the Marshmallow Yet" Joachim reviews the famous Stanford University longitudinal study of preschoolers who were promised two marshmallows if they would delay their gratification and wait to eat the marshmallow when the researcher came back. Unfortunately two out of the three preschoolers choose the simple solution and ate the marshmallow. When they followed the success of preschoolers into adulthood the researchers found that the students who resisted eating the marshmallow had the most successful lives. Too many of us today want simple solutions to difficult problems. When we do not sacrifice in present we are destined to fail in the future. Let's make America Great again! We can do this by taking initiative, getting new skills, and using our ingenuity to solve problems. Blame shifting does not work in a successful marriage, and it will never work to ultimately solve our national problems.

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