Donald Trump: Illusion of Bold Leadership

The willingness of so many Americans to embrace Donald Trump as a legitimate candidate for President is evidence of just how frustrated Americans are with the leadership in Washington, whether President Obama, whom so many demonize, or a dysfunctional Congress.

Trump’s immediate popularity is also a function of a desire for quick and easy answers to the seemingly overwhelming cascade of challenges facing our nation, its people, and the world community.

We do need bold, new leadership with fresh insight into the unprecedented number of issues of the Twenty-first Century but Donald Trump provides only the illusion of bold and fresh thinking; the kind one would expect to find on any of the inane reality shows on television.

The more frustrated we become with the challenges facing our society the more tempted the masses are to abandon good judgment and also the core principles of democracy. The truth is, the more complicated and critical the issues become the more important it is to cling to our democratic principles. Relinquishing those principles, however briefly we might envision doing so, is the single-most dangerous strategy a free people can contemplate.

The problem is heightened by the fact that we often confuse our democratic principles with over-simplified political dogma, catch phrases, and clichéd solutions. I love, for example, the assertion that we can turn our country around if we just cut spending or balance the budget. How could the logic be any simpler? Is it not common sense? The answer, of course, is only if we ignore the realities of society.

The reality is that a full third to nearly half of the American people depend upon their government for their economic survival. The underlying theme of conservative ideology is to cut off the poor, the infirm, the disenfranchised, and illegal immigrants because we can no longer afford to support their dependency. We quietly include the growing population of the elderly in this sweeping agenda but we are careful not to mention them too loudly. Neither do we draw attention to the fact that so many of the poor are minorities.

It would be one thing if the proponents of such radical spending cuts offered up alternative solutions to the problems facing the unfortunate members of our society but, of course, they do not. Rather they offer up the metaphoric equivalent of “Let them eat cake!” And, we have not addressed the enormous cost of protecting our environment and rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Sadly, this burgeoning population of Americans, many of whom have lost all faith and hope in the American dream, are the product of 65 years’ worth of dysfunctional policy making; both democrat and republican and both liberal and conservative.

If we cut them off, where do our leaders think these people will go? Will they quietly disappear and let the rest of us go on with our lives?

The growth of this population of vulnerable Americans will accelerate in the aftermath of our nonsensical policies regarding public education, poverty, healthcare, aging, employment, immigration, and Social Security. The greater their number the louder will be their clamor and the more reactionary will be the response of “middle Americans” and the government representing them.

The greater the enmity between the “haves” and the “have nots” the more incendiary our society. The social wildfire that will burst forth as a result of an inevitable spark will rage more furiously than anything we have experienced to date. How can a nation survive leadership that so egregiously neglects the needs and interests of such an enormous segment of its population while claiming to represent and serve the American people?

If we do not find meaningful solutions to these challenges the future will not be pretty and the more vulnerable we become as a nation the bolder will be the response of the nations that compete with the U.S. for economic, political, and military supremacy.

If we are to have any hope of sustaining the great American democracy throughout the balance of the Twenty-first Century we must find a way to bring our entire population on board as productive members of a fully participatory democracy. Not an easy task, to be sure, but it is impossible only if we fail to pull our heads out of the landfill of the past century’s failed policies and outworn platitudes.

Our future can be secured only if we reach beyond the boundaries of conventional wisdom for real solutions to public education, healthcare, poverty, immigration, discrimination, and the environment using all of our imagination and ingenuity. Only when we learn to think exponentially will new and innovative solutions be discovered that can meet the challenges of the Twenty-first Century and beyond.

In addition to this blog, Mel Hawkins is the author of Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, a nonfiction book offering a blueprint to fix public education and transform American Society; and a novel, Light and Transient Causes, about what happens if we don’t.

Welcome to The Leader (Thinking Exponentially: Leadership, Education, and the American Dream)

Thinking Exponentially: Leadership, Education, and the American Dream is a blog by Mel Hawkins, a writer and retired leadership consultant.

The mission of this new blog, which will be replace The Positive Leadership Blog and the Reconstructhealthcare Blog,  is to encourage its readers to think exponentially (outside the box) about the challenges facing the U.S. in this new Twenty-first Century. The blog will focus on the issue that the number of Americans who have lost faith in our democracy and who no longer believe in the American Dream has placed our nation in the greatest jeopardy we have faced since the Civil War, almost 150 years ago. Articles on positive leadership, education, healthcare, and the American Dream will be offered.

Literally tens of millions of Americans have lost their hope and faith in the American dream and no longer believe that they have control over their lives and destinies. These American men and women are becoming disenfranchised and they are disengaging from active participation as productive citizens at a time when our nation can least afford it.

Liberals argue that it is unconscionable to cut these people off. They push to find new sources of revenue in order to continue to support the poor and the disadvantaged. They suggest that such revenue must inevitably come from the increased taxation of affluent Americans. Under this leadership, federal spending continues to rise.

Conservatives counter that we need to shut these men, women, and families off because the nation can no longer afford to leverage our children’s future in order to care for the dependent. These men and women campaign against any and all tax increases, preferring instead to make drastic cuts in such programs as unemployment compensation, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. That most Medicare and Social Security benefits flow to Americans over 65 years of age who have labored over their lifetimes to earn such benefits is nothing short of tragic.

Sadly, neither the liberal nor the conservative strategies of the past will work in the Twenty-first Century. They are as outmoded, today, as the horse and buggy were a century ago.

When Governor Romney, during his 2012 candidacy for the presidency, suggested that 49 percent of Americans are dependent on the government, he was referring not only to the disenfranchised but also to that segment of the population that hovers treacherously close to the line that separates the hopeful from the hopeless.  What does it say about a society that is perfectly willing to write off virtually half of its people as not worthy of our concern and attention?

How can we possibly think we can compete effectively with the China and the other players in the international economic arena if we are literally dragging half of the American people along behind us?

What we need, instead, is to find a way to re-engage the disengaged. We need to get them off welfare and into decent paying jobs with which they can support their families. We need to re-sell the American dream to these Americans so that they will not only strive to achieve the dream for themselves but will also encourage their children to pursue it. We need these mothers and fathers to teach their children the importance of an education so that those youngsters arrive at school with both a motivation to learn and with parents who are prepared to stand behind both their children and their teachers.

We need to find a real solution to the problems of access to quality medical care rather than the well-intentioned but impossible Affordable Care Act.

Even though China, Europe, India, Japan, and other Asian rim nations are challenging us on every front, economically, educationally, and politically, our enemy is not the people of other nations. Our enemy resides within our own hearts and minds, and we must find solutions in those same hearts and minds. Our problems as a nation flow from our prejudices and our fundamental assumptions about the universe and mankind’s place therein. Our enemy exists within our unwillingness to embrace our diversity whether measured by the color of our skin, the languages of our cultural heritage, by our religious faiths, or by our view of the universe. We must challenge one another to embrace our diversity. That diversity is and has long been our nation’s greatest strength.

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It is not our futures we are talking about. We are talking about the futures of our children, our grandchildren, and our children’s grandchildren.

None of us can accomplish much by ourselves but if we come together there is nothing on this Earth that can stop us.