Thursday, July 28, 2011

Retail Politics and the Tea Party

The relationship between business and politics is an odd one.

On the one hand, politicians are often accused of being in the pockets of business.  Government pork is funneled to contractors.  Industry lobbyists make sure that politicians are kept rolling in campaign donations, just so long as every decision they make favors industry.  It's one of the charges leveled most regularly against elected officials, and one of the things that makes Americans so very very fond of our political culture.

On the other hand, being a competent and capable businessperson is typically seen as a significant asset for an elected official.  If a candidate knows business, and understand the dynamics of running a successful business, it's something that gets trumpeted in every campaign ad.  This is particularly true of the folks on the more conservative side of the political spectrum.

Looking at the imploding spiral of political paralysis that threatens to own-goal collapse the integrity of our financial system, I find myself wondering why it is that while conservatives frequently trumpet business as the model for what is best for America, the most conservative wing of our political sphere seems completely oblivious to the dynamics that make for a successful business.

A good businessperson wants to make a profit, sure.  They want to come out ahead.  But what you don't do in business, not ever, not never, is completely refuse to negotiate or compromise.   If you want to land a contract, or get the best deal from a vendor, you might haggle a bit.  But in the long run, you want to establish a working relationship, and to develop a customer base that views your business as resulting in a mutually satisfactory exchange.  It means occasionally compromising on the absolute bottom line.  It means making sure that people come away from an exchange feeling they've gotten a deal, and wanting to continue the relationship with you in the future.

This is not a Tea Party strength.

I find myself envisioning a Tea Party car salesman, sitting on a lot full of Fords, utterly unwilling to budge for a moment on MSRP, no matter what that guy across town has offered.

I find myself visualizing a Tea Party vendor, who pitches a proposal that is undercut by another vendor offering the same service, but who won't sweeten the deal at all.  The proposal is what it is.  Take it or leave it.

I see a Tea Party CEO who in the face of a flaw in the antenna of their companies' latest smartphone just tells people to suck it up.  You bought it.  You know how to make it work.  You'll get nothing more from us.

A business run by Tea Party standards would go bankrupt.  This does not augur well for America.