Self-made men and politics — like oil and water?
I believe there is a certain kind of character that does not do well in politics: self-made millionaires.Tough, impatient and independent, these are people who can make a great success of themselves in business, but mostly fail when they enter the arcane world of public office.Note former Gov. Craig Benson, a guy who built a multimillion-dollar corporation out of the puttering he and his partner did with computer cables and routers in a garage while little more than kids. Their company, Cabletron Systems, at one time was the state’s largest employer. Benson’s swagger and pushy ways did not go over well with the other prima donnas at the State House, or even the voters, who threw him out after just one term.There is Bill Binnie, a second-generation Scot and son of a janitor, who put himself through Harvard and has amassed a huge fortune. A race car driver (read Le-Mans, not NASCAR), Binnie is currently happily putting together what will likely be a very successful and lucrative commercial television operation. But as a candidate for the U.S. Senate last year he was dreadful.Then there is Jack Kimball, former chairman of the Republican State Committee. After he got out of the Navy, Kimball toughed his way through college while working full-time. He later built a successful commercial maintenance business worth millions, but was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the Republican primary last year.He was forced to resign as elected party chairman only six months ago.The problem with guys like these is simple: They find it difficult to deal in the currency of politics, which is not the dollars and cents they are used to.The currency of politics is drudgery for these doers, who are mostly outsiders. After the thrill and high-fiving of an election victory comes the reality that fills this world of compromise and palaver, dickering and hind-end kissers. This is not a happy place for people who are all about giving orders, taking names and driving race cars, who build great and mighty businesses that generate wealth in the millions, which are actually works of art.I’ve heard it all my life: “What we need to do is run this state like a business.”But government is not a business. It creates no wealth, produces no goods, and is filled with complicated problems, most of which are not easily addressed because of the many competing voices that must and will be heard, respected, or at least somewhat paid attention to, even with fiend patience, if necessary.Dean Dexter is a former Belknap County commissioner, state representative, and Laconia Republican City chairman. He resides in Meredith and Concord.