Category Archives: Politics

Who Do We Think We Are?

Has there ever been a year we wanted to end faster than 2020, or one we were more ready for than 2021? Not in my lifetime. After a devastating, intensely polarizing 2020, a new start was something everyone seemed to agree on, regardless of political affiliation.

Well, Happy New Year. Here we are. Did you really think we could do all that drinking and avoid the hangover?

Yesterday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol was both completely shocking and absolutely predictable. And it was terrifying, and infuriating, and depressing, and scary. For years now, we’ve allowed ourselves to be swept up in maddeningly polarizing political rhetoric, to surround ourselves with people, news sources, and TV stations that tell us what we want to hear, regardless of whether or not it’s true. What did we think was going to happen? And what does the fact that we let it happen tell us about who we are? Many world leaders, including U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and lots of our congress people, have commented that “the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not represent who we are.”

I’m not sure I agree with them. I’d argue that after these last several years, the scenes of chaos at the Capitol reflect exactly who were are. I’m just not sure it reflects who most of us want to be.

Who are we?

In his speech yesterday, President-elect Joe Biden said:

America is about honor. Decency, respect, tolerance — that’s who we are, that’s who we’ve always been.

[…] For nearly two and a half centuries, we the people, in search of a more perfect union, have kept our eyes on that common good. America is so much better than what we’ve seen today.


This is a hopeful view of what America stands for, but it’s not an accurate assessment of who we are. If we really want to be a nation that values decency, respect, and tolerance, we have a lot of work to do, and we have to be honest with ourselves. We can start by educating ourselves with great books like Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, or by acknowledging the differences between the way police treated yesterday’s armed white insurgents, opening doors and taking selfies, and the way they treated peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors just a few short months ago, with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Are we capable of being decent, respectful, and tolerant to people who don’t look, think, or act like we do, or do we only embody these qualities when we’re surrounded by people who are just like us? Can we tolerate facts even when we don’t like them? And if we don’t respect each other or the rules, will we be held accountable for our actions? Right now the answer to all of these questions appears to be “no.”

How do we go on?

While our elected representatives in Washington D.C. debate how to repair our broken nation and hold those responsible accountable, the rest of us have to figure out how to do our part – and go on with our lives – from our home offices. Lots of us have to go back to work, developing code, completing projects, providing support, and leading teams. We can’t spend the week watching CNN or Fox News. We can’t quit our jobs and dedicate our lives to a better government or police force. We can’t crawl into a hole and wait this out. Depending on our jobs, maybe we can’t even say what we really think. How do we go on?

The first thing we can do is acknowledge that we’re all in this together, regardless of our politics. Some things, like trying to overthrow our democracy, encouraging racist behavior, or promoting conspiracy theories that are demonstrably false, are issues of human decency and ethics, not politics. We don’t have to agree on everything (I’m strangely excited for the time when we can go back to arguing about taxes and legalizing marijuana), but we can agree on a few things, including what we will and won’t tolerate from ourselves and each other. We can also acknowledge that there are times in life when standing on the sidelines is not a viable option, and that some topics once considered taboo – like systemic racism, misogyny, sedition, and lies – need to be confronted consistently and openly regardless of politics. We need to have the courage to be who we are, even at work.

And if work isn’t the best place to share our thoughts on what’s happening in the world, there are other places that are. I’m not advocating preaching to the echo chamber on social media. I’m suggesting that each of us take a look at how our elected representatives behaved yesterday and what they’re saying today. These people work for us. They need to know what we think, and that we will remember and hold them accountable for their actions, both good and bad. My wife and I still remember which of our senators voted for and against issues that were important to us 10 years ago – remembering how each our representatives responded to an attempted government coup is worth the effort. Making a few calls to your local representatives now, while you’re fired up, couldn’t hurt either.

The next thing we can do is admit that these last 12 months have been hard in ways in which many of us have been completely unprepared, and to show more empathy for each other than we ever thought possible. For employees, that means understanding that emotions, fears, despair, and anger come in waves over time and that they will get in the way of everything else you’re trying to do. It means knowing your family may need you now more than ever. It means making sure your work gets done and your coworkers aren’t left holding the bag … but it also means giving yourself and others the space to be human, regardless of work pressures and deadlines.

For leaders, it means acknowledging that all of the things I just described are true not just for your teams, but also for you. It means taking the time to process your thoughts and feelings so you can be there for your teams. It means knowing when you need to get some perspective, take a walk around the block, and come back ready to kick ass. The emotional roller coaster we’re all on, and the logistical challenges we face given the pandemic, can’t be controlled or wished away, but if we work hard at it, they can be understood and managed. We need to take care of ourselves.

Who do we want to be?

Questions about who we are and who we want to be are important ones to wrestle with. In some ways, the country is not all that different from a company that needs to review its mission, vision, and core values on a regular basis to make sure everyone still agrees on where we’re heading, how we’ll get there, and the rules of engagement. It’s hard work, but it needs to be done. We can be aspirational, as long as we’re honest. And no good leader would tolerate an employee who openly flouted their company’s – or their country’s – values. This applies to our congresspeople at least as much as it does to our administrative assistants. Those who actively and openly lied to our people in order to fan the flames of hatred and undermine our democracy need to be held accountable, and they need to go.

But if we’re honest about who we are and who we want to be, and if we all agree and are aligned, then our actions will speak for themselves. When that happens, in the words of President-elect Joe Biden:

And this godawful display today, let’s bring it home to every Republican and Democrat and Independent in the nation, that we must step up. This is the United States of America. There’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever been a thing we’ve tried to do that when we’ve done it together, we’ve not been able to do it.


We just have to agree on what we’re doing first.

Donald Trump, Job Applicant

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I’m not the first person to point out that if Donald Trump had a “normal” job, he’d have been fired by now. No HR policy would allow his behavior, and no Board of Directors could withstand the scrutiny, regardless of how much money he was making the company. A recent Business Insider article titled “What if Your Boss Acted Like This?” put it this way:

Imagine your boss did this: 

You send him a memo about a life-or-death issue for the company, and he doesn’t read it. He has regular calls with firms you’re doing deals with, but he doesn’t prepare for them, and instead spends the whole call talking about himself, or insulting the person he’s talking to. He commits an egregious, humiliating screw-up one morning, then turns his phone off and plays golf, leaving everyone else to clean up the mess.

These are not hypothetical examples. This is quite literally an account — taken from a single day! — of how Donald Trump does the job we hired him to do, and that we pay him to do.

But Donald Trump doesn’t have a “normal” job, and the only way he can be “fired” is if the American people vote him out. In fact, Donald Trump has never actually even had to  apply for a job (if you think running for president counts, compare that with any job interview you’ve had). So I started to wonder: what would happen if he did?

An interesting resume 

Imagine it, if you can: Donald Trump, fresh off his tour as President of the United States, sending out resumes in the hopes that one of the companies he’s considered buying over the past 50 years might hire him instead. The jobs I hire for, typically team leaders, product managers, product designers, and software engineers, are somewhat specialized, and require a fair amount of experience, but let’s face it: Trump’s resume is pretty interesting, so I might bring him in regardless.

The Interview

The interview here is, of course, imagined. Trump’s words are his own, pulled from interviews and statements he’s given in the last five years, with links to their original sources. My questions aren’t actual interview questions, but I think they get the job done.

Lee: What makes you a the best candidate for the job?

DJT: ….Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star…to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!

Lee: That sounds impressive. And that makes you the best candidate?

DJT: So great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!

Lee: Um, okay. Accountability is a big deal to me. Tell me about a time when you took responsibility for something that didn’t go well.

DJT: [Silence]

Lee: Maybe related to the coronavirus?

DJT: I don’t take responsibility at all. This horrible disease was sent to us by China. It should not have been sent. They should have stopped it. They could have stopped it.  They didn’t. And the entire world has gotten infected, and a lot of countries are going through a lot right now.

Lee: Once it was clear that coronavirus was here, and that we needed to deal with it, how did you see the role of the federal government versus the states?

DJT: The states’ testing is up to the states to do, which will implement the test and logistically coordinate the tests.

Lee: “The states’ testing is up to the states to do”? That’s not really saying anything at all.

DJT: Similar to the situation with ventilators, states need to assess their complete inventory of available capacity. Some states have far more capacity than they actually understand. And it is a complex subject, but some of the governors didn’t understand it. Not simply ask the federal government to provide unlimited support.

Lee: So the states should not ask the federal government for support?

DJT: The authority of the President of the United States, having to do with the subject we’re talking about, is total.

Lee: I’m not sure that’s true, but let’s assume – just for a minute – that it is. How would you rate yourself in your handling of the coronavirus? I mean, the U.S. has already had more than 5.5 million cases, with more than 170,000 deaths.

DJT: Nobody has done anything like we’ve been able to do. And everything I took over was a mess. It was a broken country in so many ways. In so many ways. We have done a job, the likes of which nobody has ever done.

When I took this over, it was an empty box. We didn’t have testing. We didn’t have anything. We had a broken system there. We had a broken system with stockpiling. We had a lot of broken systems. And I’m not just blaming President Obama. You go long before that.

Lee: I’m still trying to figure out which role on the team might be the best fit for you. Your responses don’t exactly scream “engineer.” What job on the team do you think you’d be best suited for?

DJT: I don’t know if you know this but probably 10 years ago I was honored. I was the man of the year by I think somebody, whoever. I was the man of the year in Michigan, can you believe it? Long time.

Other countries come to see me, all of their leaders they say, sir, first thing, sir, congratulations on your economy. We’re trying to do the same thing. Congratulations sir. And I say you think Hillary could do this? I don’t think so.

Lee: Are you talking about Hillary Clinton? I’m not sure what this has to do with her, and we don’t have an opening for “man of the year,” but since you’re focused on the economy, maybe a job in Finance? Although it’s been extensively reported that, under your leadership. the US economy is suffering its biggest contraction in 75 years. That doesn’t make it sound like you’d be an asset to our Finance team.

DJT:  It was just put out that the United States economy added almost 5 million jobs in the month of June, shattering all expectations. The stock market is doing extremely well, which means, to me, jobs. This is the largest monthly jobs gain in the history of our country. The unemployment rate fell by more than 2 percentage points down to just about 11 percent. We started at a number very much higher than that.  As you know, we broke the record last month, and we broke it again this month in an even bigger way.

Lee: This certainly seems like good news to me. All this talk about jobs makes me think you might be a fit for our HR department. Like other companies, we’re working hard to be anti-racist, and as a Minneapolis-based company, we were sickened by the murder of George Floyd.

DJT: All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served.

Lee: I’m so glad to hear you say that, I was nervous you were going to say something about there being “fine people on both sides.”

DJT: Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, “This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.” This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality. It’s really what our constitution requires and it’s what our country is all about.

Lee: How on earth can this be a great day for a man who was brutally murdered by police?

DJT: What we’re announcing today is a tremendous tribute to equality. We’re bringing our jobs back. When we had our tremendous numbers. And when we had just prior to the China plague that floated in, we had numbers, the best in history for African American, for Hispanic American, and for Asian American and for everybody. Best for women, best for people without a diploma, young people without a diploma. I mean so many different categories. Our numbers were the best in almost every category.

Lee: I notice you mentioned women.

DJT: You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the –

Lee: [Interrupting] So definitely not a job in HR. Wow, look at the time! Thanks so much for coming in. We’ve got a few other candidates to talk with, but you should expect to hear from our HR team within a few days.

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Unqualified for any job

There you have it. My imagined interview, with answers pulled from real interviews, speeches, and Tweets. My goal was not to be comprehensive – I barely scratched the surface – but you get the idea. You can’t make this stuff up.

And yet, much of what Trump has said, even here, is made up. Recent data shows that the President tells more than 23 lies every day, a number that has increased since the start of COVID-19.

Setting aside the bluster, Trump’s record as a President is clear, consistent, and public. So is his record as a businessman. A quick internet search will give you the facts related to his handling of race relations, the coronavirus, his record on job growth, the state of the economy, what he’s done to the environment, the company he keeps, and who has benefitted from his policies. It will also reveal that Trump has golfed 135 times since taking on the presidency at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $140 million, and that he has openly used the highest office in our country to line his own pockets.

If, after all of this, you’re still feeling good about a second Trump presidency, consider this: if Donald Trump showed up at your place of business (office, fire station, convenience store, restaurant, etc.) for an interview, what job would he be qualified for? What job would he be good at? What job would you give him? If your answer, like mine, is not a single one, then is he the right person to run our country?