Real Leaders LISTEN And Make Everyone Around Them Better; Donald Trump’s The Exact Opposite

Pete Souza’s wonderful photo of Barack Obama, bending down so the son of a WH staff member could pat his head.

What makes Barack Obama a superb leader (his approval rating’s 58%) — regardless of whether you liked or like his policies — is his limitless capacity to inspire those all around him to do better, be better. Not because Big Brother was compelling you to — for Big Brother’s benefit — but because being the best you could be would make your life better as well as everyone else’s. We v Me. What gave Donald Trump away as the worst possible kind of “leader” was his apparent belief that “I alone can fix it”. As the British half of my family would say: “BOLLOCKS!”

“I alone can fix it” is something only a delusional male would say. Same goes for the idea of the “rugged individualist”. Those are little boys who equate their refusal to color inside the lines with entrepreneurial spirit when, really, they’re just little boys who don’t know how to color. On a team, they’re the question mark — sure, they have a skill set, but will they feel like using it on the day we really need them? Libertarianism is so self-congratulatory, it’s a wonder libertarians can talk about anything else. They’re all mole rats convinced they’re eating caviar when, in fact, they’re feeding on the rot inside their own corrupt intestines.

I’ve been lucky in my show biz career. Damned lucky. Before I took my best shot at undoing all that luck, I got to work with extraordinary people. When I ran “Tales From The Crypt” for HBO, among my Executive Producers was Robert Zemeckis. Bob’s features include “Back To The Future”, “Forrest Gump”, “Castaway”, “Contact”, “Flight”. I wrote two of the three episodes Bob directed for “Crypt”. Watching Bob work — his process — was a master class in leadership.

First, Bob challenges with “the cool idea”. What if we could do “this” — “this” being something we’ve never seen before? Yeah, we all agree, that would be cool, but the problem is, it’s un-doable. “Oh, is it?” asks Bob with a smile. Bob has a way to get there. He’ll reveal it eventually. But, first, he wants to see how we might solve it — knowing there’s a possible solution. His goal — see what we might contribute to what he’s thinking. We can’t hurt what he’s got in mind, but we can definitely add to it. Ideas flood the floor — good, bad, indifferent. It doesn’t matter. Everyone in the creative team is invested and investing in finding that solution.

And then — as we (feel like we’re) collectively solving the problem — the problem gets solved. And we feel like we did it together! The truth is, Bob guided us all along. We don’t know where Bob’s idea ended and ours began. We solved the problem, not me. The environment was entirely nurturing.

Again: We v Me.

Making movies and TV shows is a crap shoot. Aspirations to greatness don’t always produce box office boffo results. How’s that old saw go — “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game”. Yeah — THAT. In almost every project Bob Z does, there’s a moment where Bob gathered the creative team all around him and told them what he had in mind. The idea was awesome. “Okay, guys,” Bob said, as he looked from eye to eye, “How’re we gonna do this?”

That’s leadership.

Joe Biden — regardless of whether he’s progressive enough for you (and he isn’t progressive enough for me but I do see him as a means to the end I want) — has been and will be a good leader because he draws on those same leadership skills. To him, a big part of leadership is LISTENING.

I’ll say it again: LISTENING. Leadership = Listening.

If you can’t listen, you can’t lead. Even if you’re a pirate by nature, surely you see that listening to your crew — even if only occasionally — could work out to your advantage. Donald Trump can’t even manage that because “he alone can fix it”.

Oooh, wait. I think I see our problem. We’ve misunderstood how Donald means “fix”. When HE says “he alone can ‘fix’ it”, he means “fix” the way a criminal does.

I may be talking myself out of my own argument here… If Donald means he alone can make everyone around him more of a criminal, then he’s absolutely right! To enter Trump’s sphere is to criminalize yourself. If you won’t compromise yourself (provided you haven’t already), you don’t get to play or stay in Trump’s world. Donald Trump is great at turning people into criminals! I may not like how that’s transforming people, but — in his own way, isn’t Trump making these otherwise mediocre Republicans “better”?

Hmmmmm… No. Even in criminal world, the REAL criminals — the Vlad Putins, the Kims, the MbS’s — see Donald Trump as a piker. He’s just a greed machine and a garden variety bully. He couldn’t kill anyone — for real — in cold blood. He’s too much of a wuss. He’ll throw money at someone — tell them to get blood on their hands. Even among criminals, that ain’t “leadership”.

Donald may be a black hole of corruption, but he’s not a super nova black hole of corruption. He’s simply not good enough.

Whew! That’s a relief. For a second there, I almost had to admit Donald Trump was good at something — as if he could “lead” in it.

It’s a stone cold fact: Donald Trump — alone — can’t fix OR LEAD anything.

There’s No Such Thing As A “Rugged Individual”

There’s a line in the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” that nails it: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend”. The “rugged individual” is pure legend.

Only men ever think of themselves as “rugged individuals” who believe down to their atoms that “they alone can fix it”. They’re absolutely wrong, of course — like a man driving around lost, too arrogant to ask for directions — even from his phone. Women know biologically that no one alone can do anything. One cannot bear and raise a child by oneself. One can try — but one won’t succeed; neither mother nor child will thrive or flourish if left to do all that completely on their own.

As Hillary Clinton wrote, “it takes a village”.

Libertarians love the idea of the rugged individual. But then, libertarians think Ayn Rand can write.

Libertarianism is nothing more than a bunch of 6 year old boys running around braying “You’re not the boss of me!”. They think that’s what freedom is — it’s all the perks of doing whatever the hell you want with none of the responsibilities. And if their freedom and yours contradict each other? Guess whose freedom is going to get the priority? Spoiler alert: it won’t be yours.

Here’s the kicker. Know who coined the term “rugged individualist”? Herbert Hoover did — while POTUS — during the Great Depression. Hoover wanted “rugged individuals” to save America instead of the federal government.

We all know how that worked out.

Hey, Rand Paul — Thanks For Reminding Us — Libertarians Are Selfish Little Boys

In the Pantheon Of Bullshit, Libertarianism has its own vestibule.

This is from the Institute For Humane Studies at George Mason University:

“The libertarian perspective is that peace, prosperity, and social harmony are fostered by “as much liberty as possible” and “as little government as necessary.”

Or, put another way: “You’re not the boss of me”.

That’s really the libertarian philosophy — it’s how a little boy thinks. A selfish little boy. Rand Paul took a test for coronavirus last week. Something motivated him to take it. Fear perhaps? Regardless, Rand took the test but apparently assumed he’d test out negatively (in which case why would he have taken the test?). To his surprise, he tested positively for coronavirus.

But, while waiting the 24 – 48 hours needed to get those results back, Rand Paul did what any self-respecting libertarian would do — he acted selfishly. He went to the Senate gym and worked out then went for a swim in the Senate’s indoor pool. Spreading coronavirus wherever he went. And not giving so much as a shit while doing it.

If anything epitomizes libertarianism, that’s it.

There’s a reason most critics & academia as a whole turned its back on Ayn Rand — she’s as bad a writer as she is a philosopher. Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead are badly-written sentence after badly-written sentence amounting to twaddle so self-indulgent and puerile it should be laughable. And it is — except to the club of angry little boys who think Rand’s a genius.

Rand took herself very seriously as a philosopher. And while parts of her objectivist philosophy are indeed sensible, it’s sensible in the way a broken analog clock is right twice a day. For example — Rand “considered all knowledge to be based on sense perception”. That’s great — if your senses perceive everything. Too bad our senses don’t.

We don’t perceive every kind of light for instance which is why cosmic rays beyond sunshine are invisible to us. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there, it simply means we’re not equipped to see them. Our perceptions in other words are incomplete. Only an idiot — or a stupid little boy — would assume their perceptions WEREN’T incomplete.

As the coronavirus crisis is driving home to us — a successful human society depends far more on its ability to work together than it does on any “rugged individual”. Sure, sure — we need our rugged individuals to fill out the mix. But, actually, there’s no such thing as a “rugged individual”. That’s a characterization “rugged individuals” give to themselves. As in, “Hey, don’t you tell ME what to do, I’m a ‘rugged individualist’!”.

Don’t tell ME not to go outside my house when I want to. Don’t tell ME not to socialize in close proximity with my friends. Don’t tell ME not to go to the Senate gym & swimming pool even though I might be contagious with a deadly virus that’s sweeping the globe. What will Rand Paul say if he succumbs to the virus. Will his daddy insist that Rand’s death — like the virus itself — was just a hoax?

There’s a reason why most libertarians (aside from Ayn Rand) are men. Ayn must have had a selfish little boy’s brain chemistry. She thought in those terms & wrote in them. Laissez-faire capitalism is crony capitalism. It’s corruption. How can it not be?

It’s a philosophy only a selfish little boy — who’s also a bully — could love.

Fear Of The Word “Socialist” Is Soooooo 1950

Conservatives want to live in the past. It says so — right in their name: they want to CONSERVE. Considering as you can’t “conserve” the future, all you can conserve is the present — which owes pretty much everything to the past.

Progressives — for comparison’s sake — want to PROGRESS — just like THEIR name says. Considering as one can’t “progress” into the past or the present, Progressives have no interest in conserving the past; they’re too busy dealing with the inevitability of the future and problem-solving accordingly.

Back in the 1950’s, communism and socialism were terrifying concepts. They were the villains to our shining white knight of Democracy (even though, ironically, at home, racism was still making a mockery of those democratic ideals). Unfortunately, we’ve been selling crony capitalism as capitalism — undermining the integrity of our own argument while getting fat off the graft. All those years, while we were painting socialism as the worst evil imaginable, we were turning capitalism into that very same thing.

Ask a real socialist if Bernie Sanders is a “socialist” and you’ll get a sorta-kinda nod. Bernie’s “socialist adjacent” at best. He’s a Democratic Socialist. Similar but very different in key ways — the ways that explain why “socialist” doesn’t carry the same terror it used to. Lots of Western Europe operates under Democratic Socialism. The government acts as not so much “safety net” as “leveler of the playing field”.

That’s really the point of Democratic Socialism — to give as many people as possible the greatest possible chance to thrive and give back to the system that nurtured them. Would our taxes be higher to pay for all the “giveaways” We The People would receive? Yes, of course. But the caveat is — you’d be getting something palpable that you already pay for — out of pocket. If you compare what you’re spending now (between premiums, co-pays, deductibles & other uncovered expenses) to have medical CARE (not medical INSURANCE — those are NOT the same things) vs what you’d spend out of pocket from a system that took a piece of your tax dollars and gave you full medical CARE that didn’t cost you another penny — you might not feel so resentful about paying the taxes. You’re getting something.

And — when you compare apples to apples — you’re getting it for less money and — this is key — without the possibility that getting sick could bankrupt your family for a generation. Nobody in any of those “socialist” European countries ever loses everything because they got cancer. Is socialized, single-payer medicine perfect? NOTHING is perfect. Stop asking for something you don’t ask our current system to be.

As Bernie went into the Nevada Caucuses, the “conventional wisdom” being burped out by the TV punditry insisted that the powerful Culinary Union — having fought long and hard for its very good health care PLAN (that’s insurance, not actual care, mind you — it’s ACCESS to care) — would never vote for Bernie Sanders and his Medicare For All with no private insurance allowed. Well, that’s not what happened. Plenty of those union members voted FOR Bernie — despite the fact that “socialism” would mean they’d lose their very good health PLAN in favor of health CARE that would duplicate what THEY have and give that same level of care to EVERYONE.

So — all those union members — people who think COLLECTIVELY (like Socialists) appreciated that thinking collectively means Medicare For All is better for more people and should therefore be what we do. It’s the “un-greedy” choice. Those union members didn’t fear the word “socialist” or the idea that they were voting for “socialism”. Neither do all the young voters coming into the system.

Young voters have been notoriously unreliable. They’ve never been taught any sort of civic pride. Hell — we don’t even celebrate voting. Instead of making Election Day the National Holiday it should be, we make it “Tuesday” — another working day. Can’t get to the polls? So what.

I don’t care, frankly, why we did that in the past. We don’t live by an agricultural schedule anymore. That’s why daylight savings time is now absurd. But, hey — conservatism, amiright? It clutches onto the past with bizarre dedication.

Young voters are pissed off. They’re cynical and that’s all our fault. They can’t afford to live in the world we made for them. But Democratic Socialism levels the playing field — for them and for the rest of us, too. It levels the playing field for women and people of color. It levels the playing field for Latinos — which is why, as a group, they seem to be taking Bernie’s message — and Democratic Socialism — to their hearts.

Moderate Democrats — and cable news punditry — are determined that a Democratic Socialist could not possibly beat Donald Trump because Trump will hurl the word “socialist” at them. If this was 1950 and Joe McCarthy was on the come, yeah — they’d be absolutely right: be afraid, be VERY afraid. But it’s not.

Western Europe is not communist or socialist per se. By virtually every metric, Northern Europeans (the most Democratically Socialist) are far happier than Americans, living happier, healthier, LONGER lives. They don’t fear bankruptcy because they got sick. They know their children will be educated through college. They know, come retirement, they won’t end up on the street or struggling to get by. Yes, they may not get to be quite as rugged an individual as a libertarian, but then the libertarian isn’t actually a rugged individual to begin with. He’s a little boy with no taste in literature who wants to believe that “he alone can fix it”.

And, why does an authoritarian traitor falsely screaming the word “socialist” have any more heft than a Democratic Socialist calling an authoritarian an authoritarian? If our MSM truly reported a level playing field FROM a level playing field, they’d be shouting from the rooftops that fascists & monarchists & authoritarian bullies have taken over the Republican Party and are trying to force their horrible version of permanent minority rule down the majority’s unwilling throat. By any measure, what the GOP is doing is corrupt and a thousand times more dangerous than anything any Democratic Socialist could imagine.

Democrats — even the Democratic Socialists — do not march in lock step. It’s just not something Democrats do or even think of. If we did, we’d be Republicans. We are still exactly as Will Rogers described us in the early 20th century — “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”.

We rely on our reach across the breadth of Americans. Diversity is the key to our success. Hell, diversity is American Exceptionalism. And Bernie Sanders’ growing popularity — across the breadth of “Americans” drives home another point the pundits have forgotten: how advertising works.

The people terrified of the word “socialist” think Trump advertising fear of socialism can’t possibly compete with Democratic Socialists “advertising” what “socialism” really is. It’s a lot like “ACA vs ObamaCare”. If you ask Trumpanistas if they like O-care — of course they don’t. But don’t you dare take their ACA away from them.

Ummmmm… okay. Democratic socialism by any other name is still wanted by a lot more Americans want than conservatives, moderate dems — and our MSM — realize.

Will Bernie Sanders be the Democratic nominee? Who the hell knows. This story still has a kajillion twists and turns to it. But, could that Democratic nominee be a Democratic Socialist? Yeah. They could. And they can win in November — in sufficient numbers and with sufficient enthusiasm — to overcome all the myriad ways the Republicans are already cheating.

WE Alone Can Fix It

The Big Lie that helped bring us the Age Of Trump flows from that wellspring of bullshit — Libertarianism. “I alone can fix it” is laughably absurd.

But, as much as some of us roared the first time Donald Trump spewed those words, some in the crowd — their ears perked up. They, too, think they alone can fix it, having convinced themselves that Ayn Rand was a genius who saw the rugged individual inside of them that ached to be a Master of His Own Fate.

Ayn Rand died in poverty on the public dole. So much for rugged individualism and “I alone can fix it”. Those are literary conceits — and, in the hands of Ayn Rand, horribly written literary conceits on top of it. I bet she even sucked as a typist.

As we all know about Trump, he couldn’t even “fix” his own election alone. Russia did that for him.

If the Democrats really want to draw a clear distinction between their message and the GOP’s (not that there’s any similarity between the two), they could focus in on the nonsensical Republican belief that “I alone can fix it”. What pretty much every single Democrat is already touting, the Democratic message is “WE alone can fix it”.

If I were running for office — that’s how I’d explain what needs to happen. For starters, we need to stop seeing a president as a fix-all. Great leaders — not fixing anything alone — know how to get the best from everyone around them. Great leaders don’t pilfer from the people supporting them (claiming credit for their ideas), they embrace the ideas — not just giving credit but demonstrating how the more ideas we get from more places, the better and more inclusive our problem-solving will be.

This is a rare moment in modern American history. For all the pride Americans take in the benefits of citizenship, too few accept the responsibilities that also come with being an American especially the responsibility to vote. Suddenly Americans want to vote. Suddenly Americans feel the tug of responsibility.

If the trend lines started in 2018 continue, the American electorate is pretty much woke. We’re paying attention as never before.

Americans, being Americans (with a very short attention span), this won’t last. We’re racing toward a resolution of Trumpism. Too many people who know the Truth are stepping forward now. 2020 will absolutely be a referendum on Trumpism — and it will be turned out utterly and completely. But, in the moments just before Americans revert back to deep-seated apathy, we can change how they think about being an American.

I would tell my fellow Americans that their being “woke” is essential to our health as a republic. Before they revert though, they need to pay attention for a little while longer. How we resolve Trumpism — how we go forward — how we think of “us” — how we think of The Rule Of Law — how we think of the taxes we pay and what we expect that money to do FOR US (not in spite of us) — all of these things need to be on the table.

Especially the last thing — how we pay for fixing us.

Americans view paying taxes the way they view death. A terrible, terrible inevitability. We believe our tax dollars buy us nothing except an army and a lot of useless bureaucrats.

I would attack that idea first. I would remind every American that we are the greatest experiment ever in human SELF-GOVERNMENT. We do this. WE.

If every tax-paying American were given a statement that showed where every penny of their tax dollars went — including things useless and things useful — they might not be happy (not at first), but they’d start to feel a little more in control. At least they’d understand their relationship to the government in practical, day-to-day terms they could actually relate to.

It’s a thought anyway.

America’s motto is not “I alone can fix it”. It’s E Pluribus Unum. From many, one.

That’s our strength. It’s our saving grace, too.