Back this past summer there were a few things that were very, very obvious.
We knew that Walter White was going to meet his demise (c'mon...too many innocent people were dying because of him). We knew that The Lone Ranger would be terrible (Johnny Depp as Tonto? Really?). We knew, at least those of us in Philadelphia knew, that the Phillies didn't have a prayer of reaching the post season. And most of all, we knew that the government was facing a shutdown in October.
Everyone knew this. It was in the news, even back in July. The Treasury was making dire predictions. The President was warning the country. Sean Hannity was licking his chops, waiting for the battle to begin. And so it did. The big spending and debt ceiling battle that ended this week with an 11th hour agreement that kicked the can down the road to February. So the Republican leadership knew back then, right? Oh yes. They knew this was coming too. Way back in the summer. So what do you think they were doing back then? Playing golf all day? Pretending otherwise? Hoping that things would just be OK?
No. The leaders of the Republican party were making plans. I believe that we will learn about this one day. Seeing what just happened, it makes sense. And it's what good leaders do.
What do good leaders do? They've always got the next 30-60 days worked out. Instead they're looking much further ahead. They're thinking about the future. They don't lead reactively. They lead proactively. They have a long term goal and short term objectives to reach that goal. Sometimes those plans are unpopular. Sometimes they are difficult to execute. It's oftentimes a messy process. And nothing ever goes according to plan. But when you have a plan, you stick to it. It's because you're setting your sights way, way ahead.
I believe that the Republican leaders had a plan. Not only that, I believe that that their plan succeeded. And they're satisfied so far. I don't necessarily agree with all that was in the plan. But, as a business owner, I respect the fact that this was not a seat of the pants effort. It was thought out, many months ago. Back when we were not going to see The Lone Ranger.
Now take a deep breath and look at all that's happened over the past month. The debt ceiling was raised and a government spending bill was passed at the 11th hour. Hmmm. Representative Cruz, with all his theatrics, focused national attention on the Affordable Care Act, got the message out for the people that elected him, riled the base, and raised some serious doubts about the legislation. And then stepped aside. Hmmm. The government shut down for almost three weeks and life carried on. Hmmm. Aside from a few innocent bystanders, which can never be avoided in battle, Congress had immediately passed legislation at the start of the shutdown that guaranteed government workers their back wages when they returned. Hmmm. The President has, fairly or unfairly, been portrayed as a non-negotiator and a weak leader, unable to control events, compromise and do business with the opposing party. Most importantly, the issue has not been resolved - it's been delayed to later in 2014 which (surprise!) happens to be an election year. Hmmm. And to top it all off, the Republicans came together at the end to give their embattled leader a well-rehearsed standing ovation. Hmmm. Coincidences? I think not.
Back in July the Republicans knew they couldn't win this battle. They knew they couldn't stop Obamacare. They couldn't beat the President. They can do the math. They don't have the votes. But that wasn't their long term objective. Their long term objective was to take the battle into 2014 when there would be mid term elections. Their long term objective is to take back the Senate, control Congress and then really do damage to the President's agenda and legacy. By pushing this debate deeper into election season they give themselves the ability to make their case, again and again, to the American people. It gives them another shot. Even Nate Silver, the pollster who accurately called the last elections, has predicted that the debt ceiling battle will have little negative effect on both parties come November.
You have to admit...it's not a bad plan. You may not agree. I'm not sure I agree. You may find it unseemly, frustrating and sordid. You may be angry watching the dysfunction and angry at all the time spent and lives affected by this kind of politics. Even I was frustrated at the Republicans' tactics...and I'm a Republican! If you're the Chinese, you may be thinking of making your future investments elsewhere. But if you're a business owner like me, you have to watch...and learn...and be a little impressed. Because the Republicans had and still have a plan. And we're all watching it play out. This is what it's like to run a business. You make your plans. You execute your plans. You take the heat. And you hopefully achieve your goals.
And the Republicans have taken a step forward in achieving their goals. So they're satisfied. Because in the end, achieving your goals is the most important thing. Leaders should always be thinking ahead. You should always have a long term plan. Like the Republicans do. At least I hope they do. Because if this whole episode that we just watched wasn't part of a plan then I am definitely switching parties!
A version of this column appeared in Inc.com