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Leadership lessons from President Trump’s failure to repeal Obamacare

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In leadership, being bullish and somewhat arrogant pays sometimes, but definitely not all the time. This is a hard lesson that is now on US President Donald Trump’s platter after GOP failed to get sufficient votes in Congress to repeal Obamacare. It’s now left to be seen if Trump will overcome his mountain-size ego to take a bite off that humble pie and learn.

President Trump’s administration suffered a major setback to its first legislative initiative of his administration on Friday after House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled vote to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, after it became clear Republicans didn’t have the votes to pass it.

When it became clear that Obamacare will remain despite the fact that Trump had made repealing it a major campaign issue, the business-turned politician, surely had to blame somebody. Yes Democrats, it was surely their fault.

“I’m disappointed, because we could have had it. I’m a little surprised, to be honest with you,” he told reporters at the White House as he blamed the defeat on the Democrats’ refusal to support the bill. But similar to many of Trump’s assertions, this one is only half-truth.

The other cause of the defeat, which Trump should be more worried about, is the division within his party, the Republicans. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan failed to rally all congressional Republicans to support one of Trump biggest vision and campaign promise.

The defeat is even more significant because it means that Trump’s very famous negotiation skills has failed to help him close his first major deal as President. That is not a good record for the author of the best-seller, The Art of the Deal, who had, during presidential campaign, bragged audaciously about his ability to close deals better than typical politicians.

Leadership lessons to learn

  1. As indicated in the first line, being bullish is a leadership virtue but a leader should be wise enough to not apply it arrogantly: It’s apparent that the Republicans who stood against Trump on this health bill are those who are averse to his braggadocios style. When you are negotiating for deal that is important to you, you sometimes might need to stoop to conquer. Trump did not do enough to win the core conservatives, nor any congressional Democrat, and it boils down to the US President being too focused on himself; on making a strong point against President Barack Obama, to observe the basic principle of negotiation, which is shifting grounds when it becomes absolutely necessary in the bid to reach your goal. It’s obvious that this is not just about Obamacare. It’s largely about Trump’s administration coming from the hard right. In the words of US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (Democrat; New York), “If they (Trump/GOP) keep governing from the hard right, they’re going to have real trouble with everything they do.” Diplomacy also pays sometimes, and it’s not weakness.
  1. Giving your opponent some credit, where it has been earned, can be a winning formula: Obamacare is apparently problematic in some way but it is not as wholesomely bad as Trump paints it. If Trump’s health care bill focused on rectifying the errors in Obamacare, chances are that some congressional Democrats could have given it a chance, even if the name is changed to Trumpcare.
  1. Effecting a change requires painstakingly getting the buy-in of all stakeholders: Trump could have succeeded in repealing the Obamacare if he had been more thorough at the negotiation stage. And that requires time. He was too much in a hurry to blot out Obama’s legacy. Apparently, he wanted to count it as part of his accomplishments in his first 100 days as US President. But it fell through on Day 64.

As David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, told USA Today, republicans should move now to infrastructure spending, where they could easily attract Democratic support and build some bipartisan friendliness.

“You could probably get (an infrastructure bill) through the House and the Senate and put some points on the board and show that you can govern,” Cohen said. Tax reform is more complicated, he noted, and it could expose the same rifts that caused the health care bill to collapse.

This is the way to go for the Republicans, if this administration hopes to taste victory, and hopefully get Trump’s approval rating up from current 39%, which is abysmally low for a less than three-month old Presidency.


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