Leadership lacking in America

America has a crisis in leadership.

That sentence has to be the greatest understatement of this century. But not only do we have a leadership crisis on the national level, we have a crisis in leadership on other levels; in our elected representatives in the state legislature and in business and civic groups who are responsible for strategic planning for future practices which require a data-driven, science-based approach to defeating the current surge in COVID-19 cases. We begin to address these issues, first with the crisis at the national level in this column.

  • Our esteemed president, Donald Trump, has demonstrated he is ill-prepared for the tasks of national and global leadership. His favorite response to a crisis is not to invite a bevy of experts into the situation room and receive a situation report, complete with options to address the crisis in a reasonably rational manner, but to use highly suspect sources of information, then support and encourage spontaneous reactions from his fan base through tweets.

A recent controversial tweet was Trump’s retweet a video of MAGA supporters in a retirement community shouting “White power!” Later deleted due to immense political and social backlash, Mr. Trump claims he never saw that portion of the video—which suggests his vetting process and due diligence in discovering all there is to know about a subject is extremely limited. It’s either that excuse, or he is lying.

Is this how an elected official of a global economic and military power should act? I didn’t think so. Is this how a successful businessman manages his own affairs? I didn’t think so, either.

  • Farmers, do you remember when in 2016, MAGA was a campaign slogan which boasted America was going to make China submit to our demands for fair trade, that we were promised new trade deals were going to be negotiated and we would be making more money than ever before? Yeah, I remember.

What happened to those trade agreements? Where are those new deals? The USMCA, a slightly reworded likeness of the old NAFTA, is not working any better than the old agreement. By the way, it may have actually have made things worse. Mexico has dropped further down on the list of our biggest trading partners. Is this a good thing? I didn’t think so, either.

Today, we wait with bated breath whether or not China will fulfill its obligations in the Phase One portion of the agreement, which, ironically, boasts China will purchase “huge” stocks of agricultural products, more than we’ve ever sold to one single nation. And let’s not even talk about “Phase Two.”

Rather than becoming more independent from China’s economic clout, we are becoming more dependent on them. Rather than expanding our economic clout among a host of many nations, diversifying our portfolio and reducing the risks from becoming too dependent on any single country, we’ve made the opposite choice. How’s that making “America Great Again?” I didn’t think so, either.

  • Science. Inquiry. Research. Data-driven. Peer-reviewed. Replicated. Questioned and analyzed. All of these points are the foundations of research in any field of study. Agriculture. Health sciences. Exploration in outer space. Discovering new uses in products and creating new and beneficial products. Our environment.

Today—I would not have believed it if this were fifteen years earlier when I began my mini-career into the field of agricultural advocacy—we are completely comfortable with blindly following the advice of science deniers as they square up in opposition to medical science experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

In an opinion column on Substack.com, “Fox News and the COVID Catastrophe,” writer Richard Hine interviews Tony Cardinale, President and Chief Insights Officer at American Insight & Strategy, and former head of Strategic Insights at NBC Universal.

The topic of conversation focused on three new studies reported by the Washington Post which paints a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others. Unsurprisingly, Fox News Network plays a significant role in this ecosystem.

Mr. Cardinale makes some important points in this discussion of the studies;

  • Fox News has likely caused extra Americans to die from COVID-19, compared to a world without them.
  • They show FOX News viewers have a greater skepticism about science and expert advice.
  • This skepticism has translated into audience behaviors that have been a drag on our ability to flatten the COVID curve.
  • Their audience is the least educated of any major news outlet. They care less about science. Fox News feeds them with a steady diet of editorial that undercuts science experts like Fauci.

Ouch. We not only have a crisis in leadership, we also have a crisis in followership.