A Vision Not Up For Debate

By J.F. McKenna

When that rabble of Republican presidential hopefuls arrives in Cleveland this August, the hotel managers will cheer. Calculating the profit from the pols, their minions and the media visiting C-town, the inn keepers are guaranteed an actual payoff connected to the 2016 election—even if other Clevelanders, along with the rest of the nation, can’t be equally certain. As of right now, even the most delusional political Pollyannas expect little more than an evening of confusing crosstalk among the top-10 GOP candidates for the White House.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be as bleak as just described. And given the national and international challenges that post-Obama America will face in January 2017—it shouldn’t be.

As management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, creating a customer—or, in this case, a voter—demands mastery of marketing and innovation. The aim of marketing, Drucker explained, is “to make marketing superfluous,” which means “knowing and understanding the customer so well that the product and service fits him and sells itself.” Drucker also insisted that the second function of a business—or, in this case, the federal government—is innovation, which the father of modern management defined as “the provision of different economic satisfactions.”

“It is not enough for the business to provide just any economic goods and services; it must provide better and more economic ones,” Drucker preached in his 1974 classic, Management, Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “It is not necessary for a business to grow bigger; but it is necessary that it constantly grows better.”

Which brings me to the upcoming hot August night in my hometown. What if the candidates were to junk their debate notes, jettison their over-rehearsed ripostes and pass on the empty if telegenic posturing? What if these Grand Old Partiers simply gather and present the American voter with their united vision of what the nation needs, must have and can be in the 21st century?

Kind of a revolutionary idea, in that truly American sense, no?

Without question, the framers of the Constitution didn’t agree with one another on every detail of what ensures national greatness; nonetheless, they worked out a common vision “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility…and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosperity….”

Surely 10 folks scoring rhetorical points against one another can’t compare with the preceding eloquence—even if the stage is in good old Cleveland. But a common vision delivered from that stage is a worthy restart toward national recovery.

And there can be plenty of vision to share with that “customer” who has his hard-earned vote to invest. Take the economy, just for starts. Or as the classic comedian Henny Youngman might quip, “Take my economy—please!”

“Take the case of Barack Obama,” Forbes columnist and eminent historian Paul Johnson wrote earlier this year. “By any standards he’s been a bad President—idle, muddled, contradictory and weak. His one major achievement, ObamaCare, is likely to prove costly and inefficient….Obama’s Administration is crowded with enemies of business. If it has an ideology, it’s watered-down socialism. Obama has done nothing positive for the economy, and many of his decisions have been discouraging and obstructive to private enterprise.”

Johnson’s lyrics may sound a bit rough to the untrained ear, but his notes ring true. In this exclusive appearance near the shores of Lake Erie, the Cleveland Ten can assemble quite a common song book from which to sing this summer. And the candidates will find a receptive audience on opening night. Moreover, a tune never sticks better in the listener’s mind as when each singer is harmonizing with the others. Time enough for solo performances.

Certainly the encore that evening should focus on national security, and the candidates can start by jointly recommitting to the words of one of the country’s three basic documents: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

You bet the devil’s in the details of that oath. I’m too experienced a business writer to believe otherwise. But the rest of America and I want to hear these job candidates, in their own words, convince us that any of one of them is up to the task of fulfilling that oath to our expectations. In a world threatened by ISIS and its thug-brethren, each voter especially wants to hear a pledge to principles, not reheated platitudes.

Overall, as my hero Drucker also wrote, “What distinguishes the leader from the misleader are his goals. Whether the compromise he makes with the constraints of reality—which may involve political, economic, financial or interpersonal problems—are compatible with his mission and goals or lead away from them determines whether he is an effective leader.”

For starters agree on that, candidates. And enjoy your visit to Cleveland.

We citizens can figure out the rest on our own.

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor and marketing-communications consultant. He is a former staff editor of such magazines as Industry Week and Northern Ohio Live. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in neighboring Steeler Country with their dogs, Duchess Holly and Lord Max. Reach him at jfmckwriter23@yahoo.com .

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