Community Organizer vs. CEO

Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention mocked Barack Obama’s career as a “community organizer” and said that what America needs is a president with “executive experience” who can act as our CEO.  She got a lot of cheers from the party delegates.  Probably a lot of them are (or want to be) CEOs themselves and like the idea of somebody like themselves being in charge.

To me, though, those words pressed completely different buttons than the Republicans intended.  To me, a CEO is someone who makes the occasional important decision but delegates all the hard work to underlings who never get much credit, someone who plays golf a lot and eats fancy dinners on an expense account, someone who runs the business into the ground and then escapes with lots of money while other people clean up the mess.  To me, “executive” means “I think I’m better than you because I wear a tie and never clean my own toilet.”

That’s not the kind of president I want!  That’s very much the kind of president we’ve had for the last eight years, and it looks like he’s going to get away with the golden parachute, instead of being shipped to Iraq to accomplish his damn mission already. 

A CEO has two top priorities: to crush the competition, and to maximize shareholder profit.  I believe that the United States can be a great country without crushing anybody; in fact, we’ll be a better country if we think in terms of setting a good example and encouraging other countries to follow, instead of being paranoid that other countries will conquer us if we don’t conquer them first.  As for the shareholders, the Republicans like to make it sound as if all Americans will benefit from their policies, but the reality is clear: When Sarah Palin said Barack Obama would raise your taxes, the “you” she was talking about is the richest 5%-25% of taxpayers.  Those are the shareholders they serve, whose profit they want to maximize at the expense of the rest of us.

Some people have suggested that sneering at the “community organizer” is a Republican strategy to be racist and/or classist without coming out and saying so.  Perhaps.  But I think it’s less a matter of race or class than of attitude toward the people.  The Republicans want us to fear the outside world and depend on them for protection.  (I think it’s hilarious that Rudy Giuliani, notorious for mentioning 9/11 at every possible opportunity, criticized the Democrats for not mentioning 9/11 enough at their convention!)  The Democrats have noticed that, during our eight years of being defensive and offensive, we’ve been letting our country fall apart on the inside, and they want to get it back together.

To me, a “community organizer” is exactly what we need to get Americans back to feeling like part of a community and getting things organized, instead of spiraling out of control and blaming each other.  I really like the idea of a president whose instinctive approach to problems is to sit down and listen to everybody’s perspective and then motivate everybody to stand up and work together to do the right thing.