A Call for Action – Signed by Business Schools Professors from Across the United States
Polarization in American politics is at record highs, with Republicans and Democrats disagreeing strongly on many issues. But the American people—although disheartened by politics, divided on policy, and deadlocked on ideology—are still able to find common ground where it matters most. Indeed, an unprecedented streak of bipartisanship has emerged in recent weeks, with throngs of prominent citizens—representing a wide range of institutions and professions—speaking out against what they consider an existential threat to our Republic.
Large groups of veterans, generals, soldiers, politicians, scientists, doctors, ambassadors, civil servants, lawyers, journalists, and others have now come out against a President who denigrates science, peddles in lies, incites violence, attempts to delegitimize the press, politicizes everything from the justice department to the CDC to the postal service, and seeks to undermine the integrity of American elections. These bipartisan groups—who disagree on many things—now agree that no positive vision for our country can be realized under the continued presidency of Donald Trump.
It is time for business leaders to follow suit and speak out against the threat Trump poses to our country. For a profession that incessantly proclaims the importance of corporate values, makes much ado about CSR initiatives, and proudly embraces a commitment to everything from sustainability, to inclusion, to ethical business practices, it is unacceptable and immoral to remain silent at this time. As the growing list of open letters and editorial statements from other groups makes clear, publicly supporting the Democratic candidate in this election is not a political act. It is an act of conscience.
On September 24, a group of almost 500 former national security leaders—including generals, admirals, ambassadors, and senior NCO and civilian officials—signed a letter supporting Joe Biden in this election. “While some of us may have different opinions on particular policy matters,” they explained, “we trust Joe Biden’s positions are rooted in sound judgment, thorough understanding, and fundamental values.”
The editorial boards of the two most respected scientific journals in the world have also warned of the danger that President Trump poses to America. According to the editorial in Science, President Trump “deliberately lied about science in a way that was imminently dangerous to human health and directly led to widespread deaths of Americans. This may be the most shameful moment in the history of U.S. science policy.” The editorial board of Nature went a step further: “No U.S. president in recent history has so relentlessly attacked and undermined so many valuable institutions, from science agencies to the media, the courts, the Department of Justice—and even the electoral system… Joe Biden’s trust in truth, evidence, science, and democracy make him the only choice in the US election.”
More than 1,500 Department of Justice employees—both Democrats and Republicans—have expressed their “ongoing concern that President Trump and Attorney General Barr are weaponizing the DOJ in the service of Trump’s personal interests, thereby doing grave damage to the rule of law.” Over 1,000 present and former Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers have decried the “ominous politicization and silencing” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New England Journal of Medicine, the pre-eminent medical journal in the world, has called for a changing of the guard in the wake of Trump’s deadly lies. “Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative.”
Business leaders pride themselves on innovation and being first to market with a good idea, but there is also such a thing as a second-mover advantage. With other professions having already paved the path with their statements in support of Joe Biden, the risks are lower today for CEOs and executives who decide to speak out against the threat Trump poses. Analyses by Goldman Sachs and Moody’s—which indicate that a Biden presidency could be better for economic growth, better for employment, and better for lower- and middle-income families—provide additional cover to those in the business community who need it.
But speaking out in 2020 should not, ultimately, come down to such calculations. You would be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t feature integrity in its list of corporate values. It is hard to find a CEO who doesn’t want to instill a culture of honesty and accountability in the workplace. And rare is the corporate executive who does not believe that business can be a force for societal good. For a profession so dedicated to creating value, and so allegedly motivated to doing what is right, it is no longer acceptable to stay quiet.
It is time for business leaders to declare publicly what so many have been saying privately: that President Trump is unfit to lead and is a threat to the Republic. And it is time for journalists to start asking America’s CEOs whether they believe four more years of Trump would be good for the country. Ensuring that the Republic survives is not a partisan issue. Demanding a peaceful transfer of power ought not to reveal your political affiliation. And safeguarding our laws, institutions, and norms is important to both Republicans and Democrats.
The future of America—as always—will be a negotiated compromise among contending visions. But that negotiation requires a willingness to talk to each other. It requires a strengthening of the norms that inspire civic engagement and facilitate political discourse. It requires the preservation of institutions that safeguard our journey into the future. And it requires defending the rule of law on which our democracy is premised. No one can win if these are sacrificed. And everyone gains when these are protected.
This is not an attempt to change any business leader’s mind about the current president. It is simply a demand that those who already recognize the grave danger Trump poses to our Republic not stay silent. Never more relevant were the words of John Stuart Mill: "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."
It is time for our business leaders to exhibit the moral courage and civic-mindedness that they have long professed—and that others have already shown. It is time to sound the alarm.
Drafted by: Professor Deepak Malhotra, Harvard Business School [The views stated above are of the individual, and do not reflect the views of Harvard Business School or Harvard University.]
OVER 600 PROFESSORS HAVE ALREADY SIGNED. TO SEE THE NAMES OF THE OTHER SIGNATORIES, GO TO WWW.BUSINESSPROFESSORSOFAMERICA.COM
. NOTE: IT CAN TAKE A FEW HOURS FOR THAT LIST TO BE UPDATED, SO IT WILL NOT IMMEDIATELY SHOW EVERYONE WHO HAS SIGNED UP.