In lead­er­ship, ap­pear­ances mat­ter

The Covington News - - THE SECOND OPINION - JACKIE CUSH­MAN COLUM­NIST To find out more about Jackie Gingrich-Cush­man, and read features by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit cre­ators.com.

Last week, I was ex­it­ing my neigh­bor­hood Star­bucks when I hap­pened to over­hear a mid­dle-aged man talk­ing to a younger man who ap­peared to be his son.

“It mat­ters what you wear,” the older man told the younger, whose clothes re­flected a cross of grunge and goth. “When you go out with your friends on the week­end, you can dress one way; when you are go­ing to a job, it mat­ters what you wear.”

While many might ar­gue that ap­pear­ance should not mat­ter, we know in re­al­ity that it does. Ex­pec­ta­tions vary by sub­cul­ture. What is ac­cept­able for a mu­si­cian may not work in an in­vest­ment-bank­ing firm on Wall Street. But the but­toned-up, in­vest­ment-bank­ing look might not go over well in an art deco en­vi­ron­ment.

Ap­pear­ance mat­ters in pol­i­tics, too. Not sim­ply per­sonal ap­pear­ance, but the ap­pear­ance of the party and the or­ga­ni­za­tion it­self. Is it ho­mo­ge­neous and re­flec­tive of a by­gone era, or does it rep­re­sent the het­ero­gene­ity of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion?

Last week, my col­umn con­cluded: “In the end, it’s not enough to have the right poli­cies or the right mo­ral val­ues. It comes down to who wants to go with you. If no one goes with you, you can­not win.”

In speeches on Tues­day at the Kemp Foun­da­tion Lead­er­ship Award Din­ner in Washington, D.C., Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Florida, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis­con­sin, of­fered a com­pelling vi­sion for the party, one that is in­clu­sive and invit­ing.

Limit the size of government, grow the mid­dle class and en­sure op­por­tu­nity for all were the themes of the night.

Ryan briefly men­tioned the re­cent cam­paign but rapidly moved on. “For all of us, the work goes on,” he said. “We must carry on and keep fight­ing for the Amer­i­can Idea — the be­lief that ev­ery­one should have the op­por­tu­nity to rise...to es­cape from poverty...and to achieve what­ever your God-given tal­ents and hard work en­able you to achieve.”

Ar­tic­u­lat­ing the Repub­li­can vi­sion is an area where Ryan sees op­por­tu­nity for im­prove­ment: “We have a com­pas­sion­ate vi­sion based on ideas that work — but some­times we don’t do a good job of lay­ing out that vi­sion,” he said. “We need to do bet­ter.”

He urged the party to fo­cus on what brings Amer­i­cans to­gether rather than on what di­vides them. “We must speak to the as­pi­ra­tions and anx­i­eties of ev­ery Amer­i­can. I be­lieve we can turn the en­gines of up­ward mo­bil­ity back on, so that no one is left out from the prom­ise of Amer­ica.”

Ru­bio spoke about the mid­dle class and the role of government. “Government has a role to play. And we must make sure it does its part. But it’s a sup­port­ing role: to help cre­ate the con­di­tions that en­able pros­per­ity in our pri­vate econ­omy... It is not the ever-ex­pand­ing reach of government, but rather hav­ing ac­cess to the ben­e­fits of (a) thriv­ing econ­omy that al­lows the poor to rise into the mid­dle class. Not by mak­ing rich peo­ple poorer, but by mak­ing poor peo­ple richer.”

“To do that we need a lim­ited and ef­fec­tive government. Big government has never worked. The prom­ise of more government as the an­swer to all our prob­lems is easy to sell. But when it is put in prac­tice, it fails ev­ery time. Big government has never been able to cre­ate and sus­tain a vi­brant and sta­ble mid­dle class,” Ru­bio said.

In ad­di­tion to ar­tic­u­lat­ing a com­pelling, in­clu­sive vi­sion, the Repub­li­can Party has to come to grips with the re­al­ity that ap­pear­ances mat­ter. Reach out to women, Lati­nos and Asians and in­clude them so that oth­ers can eas­ily see that Repub­li­cans do more than talk about op­por­tu­nity for all; they prac­tice it.

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