Neophytes rising!

JUNE 11, 2010


In a time of social, economic and political upheaval, it appears to be business versus politics in an election year fight leaving the voter asking, is the politically experienced or the political neophyte preferable?

With Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman’s big Republican wins in this week’s primary election, the fight has already begun between “experienced politicians” and political neophytes. At least this is the case, according to incumbent United States Sen. Barbara Boxer, and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, both Democrats.

Boxer is running for her fourth consecutive term in the Senate, where she has been since 1992. Prior to the U.S. Senate, Boxer had five terms in the U.S. House of representatives and served from 1982 to 1992.

Brown wants to be governor of California – again, but this time, it’s 35 years after his last go around (1975-1983). Brown has a rollicking political career path, with three failed runs for president of the United States, one unsuccessful run at U.S. Senate, chairman of the California Democratic Party, mayor of Oakland, and currently, as California attorney general. And in the middle, Brown had a radio talk show.

While Brown and Boxer have been in their respective decades-long political careers, Fiorina and Whitman have been busy climbing the corporate business ladder, all the way to the top rung of mega-companies, Hewlett Packard and eBay.

And while the mood this election cycle seems to be anti-incumbent, many career politicians are scrambling for their political lives.

It’s not a bad trend to occasionally toss out the moldy oldies. But stop and think about the people running for political office. No one, while concurrently and successfully running a thriving business, leaves any more to become a citizen representative, eventually returning to the business. Most normal successful people don’t want the stigma attached with politics, or their reputations stained. Nor are private sector people willing to endure the public and media scrutiny, personal attacks, lies and allegations, investigations and scandals.

The days of the citizen representative are gone.

So, usually, those who make the transition from private to public are at a crossroads in careers, either ousted, retired or moving up the ladder to the only place left for them to go – politics. Where else was Meg Whitman going to go after running eBay? Once a CEO, unless another CEO position opens up, it’s either retirement or politics.

Thus, at every election cycle, we are faced with political insiders, career politicians and “experts,” or coddled business executives, who will eventually become the entrenched politicians they are running against.

If experience is needed to politically lead, as Boxer and Brown insist, most voters seem willing to take the politically inexperienced given the precarious economic position California and the nation’s Capitol are in. Experienced politicians have led America astray, and now it appears, they are going to pay.

Which is why California has Carly Fiorina running for U.S. Senate, and Meg Whitman running for governor, two very important political offices.

Business versus politics – Is the politically experienced or the political neophyte preferable?

Theoretically, I agree with the concept of bridging the expanse between politics and the private sector with business operators; more business concepts should be used in politics. But they don’t quit. Once elected, the careers continue until they become the entrenched political hacks.

With colleges and universities producing hundreds of thousands of fresh graduates planning on government careers, California has become a government mill, grinding out future government employees and politician-wannabes. The claim of having a desire to “give back” as a politician or “public servant,” is a crock. With the outrageous life-long benefits, pensions, perks and advantageous connections, most politicians fare financially far better in politics than they did in the private sector.

With Fiorina and Whitman already uber-wealthy, it will be interesting to watch their political progression.

This election cycle, it’s the pocketbook issues that will win out over social issues, placing Fiorina and Whitman in solid positions to win. Both Boxer and Brown are historically social issues politicians and candidates.

Keep a keen eye out on them to see if either Boxer or Brown tries to run more conservatively this time around. While I think both of them will lose, it’s about the public versus private, business executive versus politician, pocketbook versus social programs, this race.

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