Crooked senator with crooked husband
I think we can all agree that many-- perhaps most-- politicians are crooks... That's a transpartisan fact of life... throughout history and throughout the world. Before anyone could imagine that Trump, an actual mobster, would ever sit in the White House, Scientific American asked which leads to greater political power: virtue or vice? Daisy Grewal, a research psychologist and the lead research scientist at People Analytics, began with illustrations from House of Cards and Machiavelli, both of which are warnings "that kindness only leads to weakness. In the modern era, some research suggests that people with narcissistic tendencies are more likely to rise to the top of organizations. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are effective leaders. When it comes to political power, how does virtue relate to success?"
She cited a fascinating study of senators in reporting that "that Machiavellian politicians may lose in effectiveness. This has implications for the kinds of characteristics that voters should pay attention to when selecting between candidates. Politicians who fail to care about others may also fail to win the respect and approval of their colleagues. For better or for worse, the U.S. political system depends on collaboration-- a reality that often makes it seem slow and ineffective but also provides balance and protection against someone with too forceful a will."
If virtuous leaders seem few and far between, there may be a good reason for it. Research has shown that virtuous people who have a strong sense of responsibility are less likely to actively pursue leadership roles. However, when they do assume positions of power, they end up making excellent leaders who are admired by others. Research also suggests that leaders who demonstrate greater integrity may be rewarded with more loyal and harder working employees. Given this, we may do well to encourage the more virtuous among us to step up as leaders. The next time you have an opportunity to help select someone to lead, it may be worth the effort to actively encourage someone you see as virtuous. It just might make your organization more effective, as well as a more pleasant place to be.
One of my jobs at Blue America is to try to ascertain not just what a candidate for office is promising but how they are likely to behave if elected. Blue America doesn't send candidates questionnaires, which are laughable (and laughed at), but instead tries to get to know them and make some kind of judgment based on intangible qualities of virtue, traits that I was asked to consider when I was named president of a division of a large international corporation:
• Courageousness • Empathy • Sincerity (Honesty) • Transparency • Efficiency and Practicality • Vision
Anyone looking for an endorsement and financial assistance from Blue America can easily say they support an unlikely-to-be-voted-on Medicare for All or something as amorphous as the Green New Deal. It's harder to feign the virtuous traits above. Sometimes candidates have clear records that show exactly where they stand in terms of virtue vs vice. Two such candidates are competing in the January 5 Georgia runoff-- Reverend Raphael Warnock and multimillionaire Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate by America's most crooked governor, Brian Kemp (who, as Secretary of State, blatantly stole his own election to the governor's mansion.
Loeffler and her husband have contributed over $3 million to conservative politicians-- including a million bribe to Trump this past May, 2 months after she was caught profiting from insider information about COVID-19, selling almost $19 million in stocks that would soon lose much of their value and buying other stocks that would go up in value in a pandemic.
As Roger Sollenberger reported for Salon this morning, Loeffler has been hopping between campaign stops in a multimillion-dollar private jet that she and her husband bought after Kemp appointed her to the Senate last December. He wrote that "Despite her campaign's claims that she uses the plane to 'save taxpayer money,' Loeffler, a former asset management executive, may well now have joined the 'frenzy' of Wall Street money managers who leapt at a loophole in President Trump's 2017 tax bill that turns private jets into flying tax shelters. Embedded in that bill is a provision that permits a company to write off the full price of a new or used airplane against the company's earnings. It is not clear how much Loeffler paid for the jet, a 2010 Bombardier Challenger 300 that she has used for campaign travel, but an online listing asks $9.7 million for the same model and year. Loeffler's federal financial disclosures put the value in the range of $5 million to $25 million, and indicate that the plane is jointly owned by Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, chair of the New York Stock Exchange."
She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she paid for the jet out of her own pocket-- an apparent lie, since individuals can't write off jets the way she has-- only companies. She has attempted to cover her tracks with a curtain of opaqueness and manipulation. When he was run
ning against her in the primary, Trumpist Congressman Doug Collins, frequently invoked the plane to paint Loeffler, the wealthiest member of Congress, as out of touch with Georgia voters. Collins: "Who buys a $30 million jet in secret then posts a picture with their new KIA on Facebook around the same time? That's all you need to know about Kelly Loeffler."
I never thought I'd write this words but Doug Collins is right about this-- and that's why I've embedded the Blue America Senate thermometer on the right. Please consider doing what you can to elect Rev. Warnock to replace Kelly Loeffler.