Politics and business are interwoven pursuits. Politicians love business; that’s where the money is. Business loves politicians; that’s where the power is. Of course, more often than not money trumps power, because as most of us quickly learn, money is power.
A year ago, we found ourselves looking at two significant events: one in business, one in politics.
In Florida, attention was focused on chads – dimpled, hanging and dangling – and how the campaigns of George W. Bush and Al Gore would end, and what it all meant for the country. In the Magnolia State, Mississippians packed into the New Capitol for a historic announcement: Nissan was coming. The Japanese automaker had selected a site in Madison County to build a $930-million auto assembly plant, which would mean thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in new investment and international attention (and scrutiny).
Today, Florida is all but forgotten. President Bush enjoys approval ratings of 80%-90%. Americans are worried about terrorism, anthrax and Afghanistan. Mississippians share these concerns, but most of us are excited, too, about the possibilities of Nissan and what it means for our economy. And it is an economy that needs a boost.
The events of Sept. 11th hammered markets, industries and individuals that may have been on a rebound. A national economy climbing out of near-recession became wishful thinking after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington. We remain hopeful that the Administration’s economic stimulus plans will have a positive impact on the situation — in our country and in our state — but are just as skeptical of government intervention providing lasting solutions to the problems of business and industry.
We often wish that government could be “run like a business.” Wishful thinking, indeed. But nonetheless, our politicians could learn a number of valuable lessons from the business community. Nowhere would this be more valuable than in resolving the mess of congressional redistricting made by a number of our legislators.
At last week’s impasse, it would seem that more than a few legislators would prefer to shirk their responsibilities and see a court draw new voting lines. Such a resolution would offer them political cover, if we let them get away with it, and be yet another example of a troubling lack of leadership in Mississippi.
And that perhaps is the most important common factor in all of these events: leadership — or the absence of it.
Last year in Florida, we saw leadership fizzle and fade into partisan rhetoric and rancor. But with the Nissan deal, state government, our congressional delegation, higher education and business and industry leaders worked together to a profitable end. After Sept. 11th, millions of Americans in every walk of life took up the mantle of leadership in ways that never before seemed important, necessary or even possible.
Turning back to Mississippi, as the history is written on the congressional redistricting battles of 2001, we hope that it’s not a story of politics trumping good, common sense.