US needs leadership that transcends party politics - GulfToday

US needs leadership that transcends party politics

Donald Trump, Melania Trump

Donald Trump, Melania Trump

Valerie Keller, The Independent

This week the US Senate begins its hearing in the Donald Trump impeachment proceedings (mark II). The danger is that the trial inflames rather than settles divisions, with a partisan outcome simply reflecting the deep fractures in American democracy.

Although the impeachment case is compelling, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Trump will be acquitted. Constitutional, legal and moral questions – even the lives lost on 6 January – will all be suborned to a system which repelled me from politics twelve years ago.

I was urged then, by both Republicans and Democrats, to run for a Louisiana seat in the House of Representatives. Having campaigned with Steve Forbes, in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, the GOP were keen to bring me into the fold.

However, as a community organizer through my church and a social entrepreneur through NGOs, we worked with those who needed help with transportation to get out and earn a living. A lot were single moms craving affordable housing and childcare; many were from Black, Asian, or Hispanic backgrounds, and they disproportionately Democrats.

For me, neither the blue nor the red shirt was a good fit. But politics does not have a monopoly on helping you to live the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”. I entered business instead as a place to accelerate change for the better, unleashing creativity and innovation to help solve market and social failures. There is much politics could learn from it.

At the start of this century, corporations had too often been hijacked by shareholder interest – at the expense of its stakeholders: their citizen consumers, their employees and (in a wider sense) the Earth. But by bringing leaders together for transformational action in “courageous collectives”, my colleagues and I – many of them former CEOs who led the charge for sustainable business – are helping big firms wake up.

If the disaster of 6 January is to lead to something, it must be to urgently wake America up to a leadership role which transcends party politics. From the top of the United States’ political institutions to the cornfields of Indiana where I spent my youth, everyone now has to recognize that our common enemies are so much more significant than our individual enmities.

My own parents – still in Louisiana – have a gilded framed photo of Donald Trump and Melania Trump on their mantlepiece, flanked by two “Make America Great Again” caps. It is the nearest thing to a political shrine that I’ve seen in a long time.

However, I always remember that while my parents’ political views are different to mine, we care about the same things. We each want our planet to be left in a better state for the next generation than the one before; we each want to live in a world where fair wages, access to decent healthcare, and education for all are rights rooted in our common humanity, not the lottery of our nationhood.

The impeachment trial will come and go, with some warm words about democracy from both Republicans and Democrats and a good many hotheads sounding off too. It is in the United States’ interests to move on from the process as quickly as possible, toward genuine opportunities for bipartisanship like the coronavirus relief package both parties want – in different degrees – to see passed promptly through Congress.

Leading businesses have shown the way through courageous collectives of people who would otherwise be competitors. These aim to remedy searing inequality, tackle the devastating climate crisis and halt the corrosion of our democracy. If business and government – across both parties – work together on that common ground, the United States can again be a country to emulate rather than lament.

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