This video is captioned .President Trump fails to wear face mask on tour of mask-making factory in Arizona. It was not in any way a fail.
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It is very common for people to observe that a powerful person failed to do something or stop something. I have a problem with suggesting that powerful people failed. I think it's a way to blunt or soften the truth that they intentionally and willfully made something happen or allowed it to continue.
I think it is rare that powerful people fail. They succeed. They may have failed us, but that's very different than saying that they failed, without qualifying that they failed us or they failed their constituents or the nation or democracy. Powerful people make choices that betray their promises, their commitments and their constituents. These are not failures.
For example, here's an article on Daily Kos, 21 reasons why I feel Obama has failed Progressives. I'll list the first five
Didn't offer a public option
- Appointed countless Wall Streeters to his top economic team, failing to appoint labor voices like Robert Reich.
- He has bailed out Wall Street instead of Main Street:
- He failed to attack the mortgage crisis,
- He failed to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, doing away with habeas corpus, allowing the government to arrest and detain indefinitely without a trial or hearing.
- He agreed to an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and on top of that, he agreed to an egregious reduction of the estate taxes on the rich,
None of those were failures. They were all conscious choices. The title would have been more accurate if it read Obama BETRAYED Progressives.
More recently, there is a lot of talk about Trump failing to do the job dealing with Covid 19. But again, his actions were intentional. He tried, for many months, to deny that Covid-19 was a serious problem and blocked the development and production of testing resources. He chose to not be a leader and take responsibility by saying that states should decide how to do things.
Now I'm all for allowing for local input, but when it comes to an urgent, crisis problem as big as a pandemic, it's important to have top-down leadership. This has become particularly clear when it comes to the management and administration of the vaccines-- actually getting them into the arms of people.
Trump didn't fail. He avoided making decisions. If he failed at any thing it was failure to hire competent people. And I can get on board with that accusation. He failed because he is a back-stabber who throws almost every hire under the bus eventually. He created a situation where no smart, honest people with integrity would work for him.
My message for this article is that failure is an often misused description that softens or weakens the accusation, characterization or indictment. More often, powerful people intentionally betray, violate or continue. When you use the word fail, fails, failed or failure to describe the decisions, actions or inactions of a powerful leader, there is a strong risk that you are actually cutting the leader slack. Don't do it. Use stronger language.
Writing coaches advise writers to use less passive and more active language. Can you see that describe someone as having failed to do something is passive. The active way to characterize it is to talk about what the person actively does--
So, not "Obama failed to provide single payer" Instead, "Obama blocked single payer."
Or "Obama served the big insurers but keeping single payer off the table."
Not, "Trump failed to respond to Corona Virus." Instead, Trump exacerbated the Corona Virus by trying to look better and improve his election odds."
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