As Ivanka Hits the Public Service Road…
by Jim Palombo
Ivanka Trump is having a difficult time detailing her seemingly duplicitous roles as corporate profit seeker and public service attaché. And particularly in terms of the latter, people differ over how to interpret the President’s daughter glowing remarks about her father’s commitment to family, women and the general welfare of the U.S. society, especially in light of what other evidence suggests. It could be she is a pretentious, privileged, substantively inexperienced and uninformed “daddy’s girl,” and in that context she is not impressed with any other picture painted than that of her own. Or it could be that she simply isn’t quite up to speed on how to discuss elements outside her father’s point of reference and that she is now trying to find her own voice somewhere in this situation. In any event in the midst of these considerations there is a concern in terms of how she represents the country’s interests as she speaks to important issues. Therefore it would seem important that our citizens have a grasp of what she is actually endorsing in terms of overall public policy- is she speaking from the right, the left, in the middle or somewhere else?
In order to help establish a better frame by which to measure the answer here’s a few simple thoughts that might be of value. With these in tow one should be better able to understand where it is that Ivanka is pointing to even if what she says seems inconsistent at times. (A problem that seems to run in the family as well.)
Let’s take the conservative agenda that the President himself seems to be advocating for. Trump favors limited government involvement with social concerns, instead relying on the market to create jobs that will eventually assist people in working themselves out of problematic situations. For the most part then, people who are poor, or disadvantaged, or whatever can find solutions in work, which Trump expects to provide more of over the course of his presidential tenure. In essence jobs will develop as a result of reducing taxes on corporations, and/or by encouraging other forms of corporate incentives, and/or by reducing regulations that might hamper corporate development, and/or by going to war- refueling the military industrial complex. So, with a job in tow, most people will then find themselves in a position of being well-enough off in terms of work to support themselves (including paying for health care), which will simultaneously eliminate the need for others to pick up the tab. Importantly, given the emphasis on market influence, there isn’t much talk about the principles of democracy with Trump. It seems that issue like equality, freedom, justice, etc. will be taken care of by the people as they decide how to reconcile what they want with what they actually need – a difficult task indeed but for Trump, one seemingly better left to the people.
Here it might be prudent to introduce the topics of women’s rights and education, both topics that Ivanka is prone to discuss. In terms of the former, women’s rights rely heavily on equal opportunity and a respect for gender that extends across all political, economic and social lines. The market approach that the President endorses doesn’t really speak to these concerns in this systematic way, as if those in business will tend to them on their own/out of their own “goodness.” Leaving things for each employer to decide is not necessarily bad, but the notion does lead us back to a time when the concerns of profit (including at that time lower wages, inadequate working conditions and unequal opportunities) overwhelmed what should happen in a democracy. It was in fact this situation that led to the civil rights movement which then led to major changes with other equality-related concerns. So as Ivanka talks about women’s rights within the realm of her father’s logic, can she speak to the actual struggles that preceded her, which include the struggles between market and democratic influences? The answer here seems to be no.
In terms of education, Ivanka again follows her father’s (and his Secretary of Education appointee, Betsy DeVos) lead. In this regard she speaks about more education in the form of skilling individuals for jobs that exist and those that will soon develop. In this view then vocational-technological training is extremely important for the future of the country, in essence helping us to better compete in a continually growing, competitive world.
Again, this notion is certainly not a bad thing. Yet this is clearly supportive of a market oriented solution to a problem that is much more complex. In other words one has to wonder if Ivanka will at some point include in her education-discussion plans to better inform/educate citizens about the struggles that have existed in the country between market and democratic interests. This would in fact skill the public as well, making their political decisions more consistent with the realities before them. Once again the question seems to be: Will/can Ivanka address much needed civic-education, encouraging a look back through our historical difficulties in a way that will help better educate and inform our citizenry beyond immediate market considerations? And once again, if she stays within the frame of her father’s views, the answer is no.
Obviously the President’s daughter is facing some difficult times, especially as she begins to move in international circles where others are well-versed in comprehensive, political and economic analyses. She may well be in an untenable position – one where she simply can’t escape from the longstanding influence of her father’s logic and one where those on the world stage will not remain interested in her in the role as ingénue.
So keep your eye on the ball here. There will be much criticism of what Ivanka does, including by those educators, politicians, journalists and media experts who aren’t doing such a great job either in clarifying how democracy can effectively work in a market driven country. Again, she has a tough road ahead in terms of representing the country’s best interests. And it seems we can only hope that some legitimate enlightenment happens somewhere round the bend.
DONALD J AS PIONEER
While writing about Ivanka I happened to also be reading the newest edition of Fast Company, an impressive, “progressive corporation” themed magazine. Interestingly several of the contributing pieces framed the possibility of a number of CEO’s making a presidential run in 2020. In short, based primarily on their success within the business and social media worlds, it was being proposed that certain corporate leaders could make great presidents. Austin Carr in his “Why Oprah?” article notes the female powerhouse’s potential in these terms along with the likes of Mark Cuban, Bob Iger and Howard Schultz who also demonstrate the attributes of great leadership via their corporate prowess. In this light Carr implies that we might be better with a leader more in the role of chairman of the board rather than as the traditional president. Carr goes on to note via the words of Brian Fallon, the former press secretary for Hillary Clinton: “If the Trump presidency might have one silver lining, it’s that yes, politics matters. Public service is extremely relevant and you don’t need to be a career politician to succeed at it.”
The magazine continued to also present articles that identified a theme running through the progressive corporate world. In short, many contemporary corporations are moving beyond the “profit motive” toward “public good.” As Robert Safian, Editor of Fast Company put in his opening editorial piece, “Are You Proud of Your Company? “…some of the smartest people in the world run some of the most impressive, highest-impact businesses in the world. If they use those positions for something more than just making money, for making the human condition better across the globe, then anything is possible.”
Given the focus of the Ivanka piece it seemed apparent that what both Carr and Safian were suggesting was an ideal fit for what Ivanka might attach to in her continuing public addresses. In other words there was hope – perhaps the articles contained the “enlightenment around the bend.” In this light Ivanka could make the case that her father, even if flawed, should be considered a pioneer of sorts and that corporate leadership could indeed be a legitimate prerequisite for the role as president. Her father as pioneer would of course necessitate some significant wrangling, especially if it implied that Donald J himself was not the end all. And the corporate to political leader notion would demand that she herself link to a comprehensive analysis that extends from the work-place to the country, one that speaks to equality, fairness, justice, the environment as well as the struggles that exist between capitalism and democracy.
Of course the question still remains, “Can Ivanka get there?” Could she, perhaps with the help of her contemporaries like those at Fast Company, step out from her father’s shadow and in essence become a pioneer of her own? As with her father legacy only time will tell what actually unfolds. Yet in terms of today the concerns on the table are nonetheless important for public consideration. And if it can happen, wouldn’t a move by the President’s daughter in the direction implied be REALLY TREMENDOUS PEOPLE!
I’ve been contemplating ideas linked to corporate and political leadership for quite some time. I wrote the following a decade ago which attests to the fact, and the piece certainly blends with the previous two. Among other things it prompts the question whether capitalists can alter capitalism – not by a revolution against its shortcomings but by a form of evolution tied to its own significance – enough so that it actually brings socialist principles to a country like the U.S.? Asked another way, could what John Stuart Mill referenced as “liberal corporatism” centuries ago – where economic constructs could have more to them than maximizing profits, where they could actually take the lead in creating economic democracies – come to fruition in capitalist America? It seems a legitimate answer here could be yes, with the caveat that the stewardship of this movement be in the hands of those who can measure up to the grand task at hand. So take a read, and as always drop a note as to your thoughts. And who knows maybe Ivanka might do the same.
BILL GATES WINS PRESIDENCY
Yes fellow Americans, he’s done it. The man who won the game, our game, the champ of capitalism, one of the wealthiest men in the world, has become president. Not by a small margin either. More than two thirds of the public voted, and three quarters of those votes were for him.
What a grand day. Finally, a man no one can afford to buy, a man who understands how it works and will put it all to work for us. Respected throughout the world for his abilities and achievements, he can bring to the international tables a new sense of power for America. After all, it is not as much bringing America to foreign shores as us understanding what’s out there – and he’s got it going out there. On the home front, well, just imagine, a man who developed a company right here at home that got him the gold. And we watched him do it, seems there is nothing up his sleeve so to speak. What a relief.
We had to admire his campaign. He told us how the import of capitalism and its namesake globalization must be brought forth and detailed in their fullest sense. He told us that our ideals of democracy must be interwoven with the tenets of capitalism in order for us to make sense of what we’ve done and will do both nationally and internationally. He demonstrated to us how this new ‘capi-demo’ match (profit meeting public good if you will) would look and how it would have to be analyzed, tinkered with, put out in our societal market via education for examination, re-tooling and the like. No doubt he understands the notion behind research and development, and his technological aptitude, especially applied to social ills, well, he sounded like a man with a warm, philanthropic heart and a clear, business head. He made us recognize that what he was offering was no panacea, and that his course of action would be painful at times, and that there would be sacrifices. Measuring the desire to enjoy our freedom up against our principles tied to achieving equality during the civil rights movement certainly demonstrated this type struggle. At the same time however, he stressed that as long as we kept our focus on making our country better, and realized that we might well loose what we have come to call our own otherwise (which seemed to be happening right before us anyway) we could only benefit from this course of action.
His detractors kept saying that he and/or we could never make this happen. Capitalism and democracy were clear enough to the public, and what he was suggesting would tip the U.S. on its head. Some even said he was being unpatriotic, that he was a socialist. But Bill made it clear that things weren’t so clear to the American public, and that we were being tipped because of that anyway. And Bill Gates as unpatriotic and socialist, please. In actuality, his referencing of the realities of capitalism made issues like health care, crime, poverty, the environment, immigration and the war seem more legitimately framed for our consumption. After all, it’s capitalism that we contend with everyday more than democracy. Pardon the pun but Bill seemed to be making the practicalities of capitalism and the ideals of democracy user friendly.
His comparison to understanding capitalism to analyzing baseball was really what grabbed us. Come on, he said, trying to understand America without talking about the nature of capitalism would be like trying to understand baseball without talking about the pitcher and the catcher. In both cases, leaving the mechanisms unexplained simply makes little sense.
So, we now have a man who makes non-partisan sense, a man who can educate while leading. I’m telling you, there is hope out there. Willy boy has come to the plate.
About the author:
Jim Palombo is currently at work organizing a national based “education-discussion caravan.” It follows from the issues touched upon in various articles he’s written for Ragazine, and concerns raised at the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry, www.cicorg.com. You can read more about him in “About Us” . You can reach him here: