The job of president of the United States seems cut out for a lawyer-cum-professional politician profile possessing a degree of charisma and gravitas. There are procedures, protocols and customs to be followed, along with a particular usage of language. Lawyers seem to fit the profile. Our most recent example is Barrack Obama whom the commentators felt comfortable with. There was a degree of certainty about him. Nevertheless others from different career backgrounds, such as Ronald Reagan, have been successful in this arena too. But really it is not only leadership abilities coupled with charisma that is required, it is also about gravitas, that soundness of character that builds trust. It is this trust that creates the needed degree of certainty.
The case of the two Bushes is interesting as neither left an imprint as presidents. George Bush senior, an oilman and a former CIA director, was perhaps one of the best managers ever to enter the White House, but he didn’t possess those leadership abilities and had little charisma (but strangely enough he did have gravitas). His son, George W. Bush, was the first president to hold an MBA degree, although, he was the reverse of his father, in that he had some charisma but totally lacked gravitas.
The news coming in is that more business people are interested in running for the White House, such as the former chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz (64). Schultz has let it be known that he is interested in running for the Democrats in 2020. He told The New York Times that “for some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country – the growing division at home and our standing in the world.” Schultz joins the long list of President Trump’s critics. He has proven his success as a businessman, building his Seattle cafe into an empire of 28,000 cafes in 77 countries. One also suspects that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and many other high profile business people may have a similar idea in mind.
But we have to ask, is a successful business career a good training ground for the incumbent of the White House? Or is it safer to rely on our lawyer-cum-professional politician profile? I don’t know the answer to these questions.
The recent move away from the lawyer-cum-professional politician background has caused many commentators sleepless nights. It reminds me somewhat of when the Roman general, Marius, came to power. Marius, who was not a patrician, had worked his way to success through the army. The senatorial class grew frantic, as this successful and popular Roman general had not come to the consulship in this expected way. He had not worked his way through the senatorial route or been part of the patrician elite. Is history repeating itself? Donald Trump certainly lacks a degree of gravitas, and is different to our usual lawyer-cum-professional politician. Marius, who certainly did possess both charisma and gravitas, was an outsider to the patricians who made up the bulk of the Roman senatorial class in the first century BCE. Perhaps the problem is, “how do we deal with uncertainty of a ‘novus Homo’?”.