It’s a big week for diversity in the Republican Party. On Monday, Ben Carson announced that he is running for president. And then Carly Fiorina announced that she would too. Reince Priebus must be so happy. Now we will have a black and a white woman to stand on the debate stage with all the white guys. It will be the Republican Party’s way of showing they not only allow African Americans and women in their party — they also allow them to run for president! There’s just this one small problem with that: neither of these token candidates have any actual experience in government.
Because I am a Californian, I want to focus on the strange candidate who is Carly Fiorina. Here main claim to fame is that she is rich. She got rich by being a very bad CEO for Hewlett-Packard. But we must give credit where it’s due. She was given the job because she had clawed her way to the top the way most people do in business: by being exceptionally ruthless and amoral. None of that turned out to be of much help in running HP. The truth is that rock star CEOs are almost all about myth. Running a company is nothing magical — HP had problems and it continues to have problems. I don’t think Fiorina should be disqualified from being president because she managed HP badly. I think she should be disqualified for other reasons.
Republicans (and to a large extent, Americans in general) think that governing is easy. Anyone can do it. It’s just common sense! So why is it exactly that people like Sam Brownback do such a bad job of governing their states? Recently, the state of California got a good opportunity to test whether governing is something that just anyone could do. We let Arnold Schwarzenegger — regardless what you think of him, a smart guy — be governor. And he was terrible. So we elected lifelong politician Jerry Brown. And he got the state in order. Skill and experience matter.
But Republicans refuse to believe this. And so they continue to push candidates who don’t know anything about governing. Thus Fiorina can run for president without anyone thinking that it is strange. But it is strange — especially after 2010. That was when she ran for Senator in California against Barbara Boxer. Fiorina lost that election by 10 percentage points. Again, that was in 2010 — the best year for Republicans ever. The previous time that Boxer had run during an off year, she won by the same amount against the uninspiring Matt Fong.
My memory of the race was that most people in California knew Fiorina’s record and they weren’t impressed. It is also the case that she did not line up with Californians on social issues. I think by that time, most of the state was embarrassed about the anti-gay Proposition 8, but Fiorina was an outspoken supporter of it. She was also anti-choice (although against personhood laws). And she was basically a global warming denialist. All these things hurt her in the eyes of Californians. But they are doubtless helpful in her quest for the Republican presidential nomination. And this may be why Meg Whitman isn’t running for president. In addition to her full-time job of bringing down HP, she’s pro-choice and that would never fly running for president as a Republican.
It is widely thought that Fiorina is really running for vice-president — like John Edwards in 2004. But again, she has no experience. Other than being a woman who is willing to recite the same tired Republican talking points, what does she have to offer? Not much.