Leaders, Leaders, Everywhere?

After a hiatus, this column will now resume on a regular basis. My new book, with Todd Pittinsky – Leaders Who Lust: Power, Money, Sex, Success, Legitimacy, Legacy – was published on October 29 by Cambridge University Press.  My next book, title to be later revealed, will be published by Cambridge University Press next year.   

I have no idea what will happen if this happens. Specifically, I have no idea what other American leaders will do if it comes to pass that the president of the United States violates, as he has repeatedly threatened to do, the normal electoral order. For months President Trump has declared that unless the presidential election is a clear win for him, on November 3rd, or maybe early on the morning of the 4th, he will consider the results rigged.   

Which raises the question of what other American leaders will do if the leader-in-chief launches an attack on the American political system. We already know, or at least have good reason to believe, that we cannot count on Congress, specifically the Republican controlled Senate, to protect us. We similarly already know, or at least have good reason to believe, that the American military is highly unlikely in any way to intervene. No less than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, has already made as clear as he reasonably can that the American military would be reluctant, if not prepared to refuse, to intrude on what it determined a political, a civilian, dispute. This leaves one group of prominent American leaders from whom we so far have heard nearly nothing. Leaders of American business – especially leaders who control the levers of corporate power.

Historically they have preferred to stand aside, stay separate and apart from the political fray. Most, not all, but most, have deemed it not in their personal or professional interest to take a stand. And so, they have not. This past week, after Trump claimed that it would be “totally inappropriate” for election officials to keep tallying ballots after Election Day, business leaders did join in an anodyne statement that urged all Americans to support the process and the American tradition of free and fair elections.

But while some members of the elite will be familiar with their statement, effectively no one else is. By and large the American people have no idea that leaders of American business have taken even a careful, politically neutral, procedural stand.

Which is fine if on December 4th the election has been settled to widespread satisfaction. But, if it is not, leaders in American business cannot in good conscience continue to hide behind the cloak of their corporate curtain.

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