CEOs Take Center Stage in the New Political Regime

CEOs have a critical role to play in reordering politics, fixing the parties, returning to the public square and working in the interest not only of business, but of the country at large.

ceos-2However, many Democrats are seeing a different message in election results that left them with less power than they’ve held in decades. “Obviously Democrats lost the white American worker, particularly those without a college education,” says Harley Lippman, CEO of the New York City tech-staffing firm Genesis10 and a devoted fundraiser for Hillary Clinton who attended her election-night party at the Javits Center. “Democrats have to pay attention to that.”

Republicans, too, are in the midst of a potential redefinition of party philosophy along the lines of Trumpism. “Are Republicans going to follow him down the line?” asks Blinder. “I’m not convinced that they will. [Trump] is a deviation from the norm who won the electoral vote narrowly while losing the popular vote decidedly. And it’s a stretch to think he won the election on the issues.”

Indeed, the blue-collar workers who helped elect him may pose Trump’s biggest challenge going forward, even as they’ve forsaken the Democratic Party. Most of their manufacturing-job losses have been due to global economics and digital technologies, not the “bad trade deals” excoriated by Trump.

“Are Republicans going to follow him down the line? I’m not convinced that they will.

But at least the Republicans are addressing a scrambled future from a position of relative strength, now controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, as well as enjoying the party’s biggest advantage in governorships and state legislatures in decades.

Besides participating in fixing the parties, here are 8 additional ways that CEOs could be putting their shoulders into saving their country.

1 / Help create a new political center. For most of 2016, New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and David Brooks were especially ardent in sounding a drumbeat for the creation of a new American political center, far inward from the alt-right and alt-left, removed from the vitriol and extremism of Bernie Sanders and Trump. But since the election threw the nation’s true political dynamics into alarming relief, more Americans are flocking to what Brooks calls “important caucus formation [in] the ideological center.”

This includes No Labels, a six-year-old organization that has created a centrist screed with 60 proposals to stimulate job creation, overhaul the tax code, balance the budget and undergird entitlement programs. No Labels even has an active congressional caucus that boasted more than 80 members before the end of the year, divided relatively evenly between the GOP and Democrats.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Jensen joined No Labels, too. “What we’re saying is, it’s time to stop,” he explains. “If we don’t figure out how to create a political center, we’re never going to get anything done. That’s the reason I decided this would be worth my time and effort.”

King White is a “diehard Republican,” but even he sees the need for “migrating to the middle. The whole system is screwed up,” says the CEO of Site Selection Group, in Dallas, “and that’s why everyone is voting the way they are.”

2 / Focus on bipartisanship. While seeing how a centrist coalition might develop, some CEOs believe they can be most helpful in the early days of the Trump administration by facilitating quick policy action in areas where both parties and the new Administration agree: launching an infrastructure-construction blitz, cutting corporate taxes and regulations and reconsidering Obamacare.


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