Whatever happened to bold business leadership?
Here’s what the politically active folks in Texas business believe:
They believe that their business interests are best served when they involve themselves in the political process, usually in a big way. Undeniably true.
They believe that if they hitched their wagons to Republican candidates, those candidates would have a better chance of winning elections, and as a result, those business people have a better opportunity to be heard in policy-making, since the candidates they support tend to win. So far, so good.
They believe that the stick works as well as the carrot: that when an officeholder fails to heed their advice on what is best for business, they can pour money into the campaign of their opponent, and the course can be corrected. Yup…standard operating procedure for a decade or more.
All fair enough, so far; it’s a system. And if you’re a politically active business person in Texas, you probably think it’s worked pretty well for you more times than not.
Except, oops. What are they going to do when Ted Cruz’s of the world defeat the David Dewhursts? How will they react when they wake up in early August and find out that everybody knows the emperor has no clothes?
How much clout do they believe they’ll have next January, when they walk into the Capitol building and begin talking with all those new members of the Texas legislature, who all got there because they defeated their business-backed Republican opponents in this year’s Republican primary elections? And how much respect will those new legislators have for business interests, knowing that despite all the money that Texas business poured into so many legislative campaigns, their candidates were easily defeated by the Tea Party inmates who took over the asylum?
So much has been written about the inability of Texas Democrats to be more effective in elections, and not without merit. But hardly anything has been written about the extent to which Texas business interests are losing their grip on the political party it birthed, nursed, educated, and raised as their own.
Elections don’t exist for the sake of political parties, nor do they exist for the sake of business’ ability to do business. They exist for the more well-rounded purpose of representing people. For too long, Texas businesses which have chosen to organize and participate in politics have ignored every aspect of the political process, except for the Republican primary process. They’ve assumed that what’s good for people is bad for their tax rate. They’ve paid little attention to long-term planning for success, too obsessed with the next fiscal quarterly report to the SEC. They’ve ignored their own business strategy of diversification, and have failed to diversify in the political process, instead betting it all on one team. And the likelihood that their interests are increasingly being pummeled by the ideologues elected on that team should be of grave concern to them.
Ideology aside, as the heart of things, what is good for business can be very good for people. It’s just common sense that the best economic development program for any family is a job. It has always been true that a trained and educated workforce is good for the economy. It is undeniable that a strong middle class is one which has plenty of cash to spend in the marketplace. It is common sense that an unhealthy workforce is an unproductive workforce.
So how did it come to pass that Texas business remains solidly behind the people who have devastated education funding, denied Texans affordable health care, and failed to fund a state infrastructure, both human and physical, which would best support its needs? How is it possible that Texas business continues to cower in fear at a governor who, purely for political and ideological reasons, stands in the way of literally billions and billions of health care dollars flowing into the state, to be spent and re-spent in the economy, and to make the state’s workforce significantly healthier?
If I were a 900 pound gorilla in the business community, I would quietly call a private summit of my peers. Once gathered, I would announce that anybody who arrived with their ideological baggage on their sleeve can immediately leave, with no hard feelings. And then I’d spend the rest of the weekend among the grown-ups, discussing how it could possibly be, when we’ve funded the lion’s share of political spending by those who have won most of the elections around here, that the things of highest priority to us are deemed unimportant by those in the political party that we built in the first place. We would discuss the fact that the things that best build an indestructible powerhouse economic future have somehow been thrown in the back seat with last week’s empty fast food wrappers, while we, along with the rest of Texans, are inflicted with never-ending babble about distractions having little or nothing to do with building a state or a country, and more to do with last Sunday’s church sermon.
And after that business summit, perhaps those titans of business would remember how to lead, instead of gamely following behind the ideologues who can’t even get a fact straight, much less lead a state with one of the largest economies on the planet.
Like I said, whatever happened to bold business leadership around here?