Fixing America Part 2: politicians’ role

politicians debate



“In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.”




H.L. Mencken





“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, I think everybody can agree that politicians are crooks. But I don’t think politicians are thieves, because you can’t steal what you’ve been given. Once we stop giving in, they’ll stop taking.




Jarod Kintz





“The rich and the powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government.


Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society – the farmer, mechanics, and laborers – who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.”



Andrew Jackson 1832






Richard Lugar <Indiana senator for 35 years>



“It takes courage to declare dozens or even hundreds of positions and stand for office, knowing that with each position, you are displeasing some group of voters. But we do our country a disservice if we mistake the act of taking positions for governance.


They are not the same thing. Governance requires adaptation to shifting circumstances.


It often requires finding common ground with Americans who have a different vision than your own.”





trump politics showThis is Part 2 of Fixing America … focusing on the politicians themselves <and what I believe THEY need to fix in how they conduct their business>.



Politics in America is an eat or be eaten world today. I could, and will, suggest this is not only not healthy for democracy it is also unhelpful to progress.



It is exacerbated by the fact in a non-parliamentary political system that only offers a choice between the Democrats and the Republicans, neither party is ever more than a recession, scandal, or foreign-policy crisis away from winning the White House.



Politicians and getting elected is at the core of fixing what needs to be fixed.


Here is the main issue: Those in Congress realize they can do nothing to control spending or cut waste and still get re-elected.


Their life solely revolves around preparing for the next election.



Therefore I will actually begin with those electing <us> and not the politicians themselves …



Politics was becoming more central to Americans’ identities in the 21st century than it ever was in the 20th. Would you be upset if your child married a supporter of a different party from your own? In 1960, only 5 percent of Americans said yes.


In 2010, a third of Democrats and half of Republicans did. Political identity has become so central because it has come to overlap with so many other aspects of identity: race, religion, lifestyle.



We, the people, seemingly … well … <1> can’t handle the truth and <2> are almost treating our politic identity like a gang mentality.



Therefore … politicians have found themselves in a very odd position … doing & saying what it takes to win a job … even if it is not exactly what they mean and then basically finding the job is something altogether different than what they ran on.



What comes to mind when I wrote this is dating & relationships.

politicians country hope do dream love


When you are infatuated with someone or with the idea of being with someone … some people compromise themselves figuring “she will love me once she gets to know me”.

It’s basically the theory of “I have to get in the game to have a chance to win the game.”


Theoretically … it is an undebatable strategy.


Pragmatically … it is a strategy doomed for failure.


At some point in a relationship you just start being yourself … and when it happens … when the curtain rises … the other person goes “what the hell !!! … where is the person I dated?”


The whole situation of how they get elected runs counter to the fact that our best politicians, as with any leaders, are complex, nuanced figures.


They are bold and extreme and moderate and pragmatic. They also <gulp> compromise.



And I imagine I am surprised we have moved so far away from considering compromise as effective in governing because we only need to look at business to understand the need for it.



–  Leader <and leadership>:

It’s odd.

obama biden shooting aftermath

We so often discuss presidency in terms of business and business leaders.

And yet a president rarely makes final decision on policy nor can they actually choose and hire the employees in their organization nor can they actually fire the people in the organization. Heck. even the people the president can hire has to be approved by people he didn’t hire.

We the people choose the decisionmakers who work with a president.They are elected to make decisions for us <we are a republic not a democracy>. A president works almost within a structure to lead and not always ahead a structure to lead. I say all that because it is apples to oranges in terms of business & government leadership. As a business leader I could keep my employees aligned but rarely could they stop progress once a decision was made.

A president doesn’t have that luxury.


But where a president DOES have a luxury is that there is a natural inbred love of the organization itself. Its called ‘patriotism.’ Reagan is most likely the most recent president able to tap into this wacky thing called patriotism:




– Patriotism.


Politicians SHOULD talk about patriotism. But they should do so not as exceptionalism but rather what makes us who we are … our responsibilities & duties … the necessary appreciation for all citizens necessary to prosperously coexist.

Reagan did this well.




… patriotism.


This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.


An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world?

Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America.


We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its politics destructioninstitutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio.

Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-60s.



But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed.


Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it.

We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection




Ronald Reagan farewell speech





Patriotism, when well communicated and well intended, is a powerful positive engine. When wielded poorly it can be one of the most divisive tools a politician can use.

Politicians need to assume some responsibility for how patriotism is utilized.






Hope is being dragged down by some pragmatically stupid targets.



–  Connecting hope & belief:



Consider this paradox.

All politicians have the same objective – opportunity for all citizens.


Hate ’em or love ’em there isn’t one politician who doesn’t want everyone to do well, be better, get better. Don’t haggle over 1% or an entitlement population … the bottom line is that we would all be happy if everyone was doing better and felt better about themselves.

We keep getting all caught up in how we should do it.


We all have the same hope.

What I believe is happening is that a staggering amount of people are questioning hope. And when you lose hope you get disappointed and get angry. Just like in business … an angry organization is inefficient and difficult to lead.


While the devil will be in the details with specific policies and initiatives we need to galvanize the ‘organization’ in a positive way. Because when an organization ‘believes’ it is … well … pretty much unstoppable. This isn’t about policies or projects or taxes. When we struggle with those things it is because we have somehow lost sight of what is important <the overall objective>.



And ‘believing’ is imperative because … well … change is painful and difficult.

In general most people do not want to change – how about 300million+ people?


But America is changing whether we want it to or not and we are going kicking & screaming.

One of my struggles with politicians is that change is going to occur and the worst thing you can do is … well … nothing. America is changing right before our eyes and government is doing nothing simply because they cannot agree on how to implement the change <the crazy thing? … but the change is already happening>.


That is creating friction <one moving – the 300 million – and one not moving – the politicians>.

We people <a cultural shift> need to permit them to act in that we need to encourage implementation rather than perfection. We can adapt & course correct as we move forward. Anyone who is stopping action because they “know” what outcome will be is lying.

i must be perfect acceptedYou make the best decisions you can but no plan retains its original shape once the battle is started. you go, act, and adapt.


Politicians, worrying about elections, fear less than perfection.

They fear less than 100% benefiting.

If I ran a business that way I would get fired. Yet, they feel <and may possibly be right> that if they do not achieve perfection they WILL get fired.


What a conundrum <it would appear>.

You know what I have learned in business? You do shit you think is the best and in the best interest of the majority and suffer, or enjoy, the consequences. But do nothing is not an option and expecting perfection is stupid.


Which all leads me to Speaking truth and reality.





Let’s talk some reality.



– How they talk about success & the economy



Suggesting double digit growth is all about “what you had, what you expect and what you deserve.”


It is a fool’s discussion.


It’s not just looking over at your neighbors and trying to appear at least as wealthy as them. It’s a general feeling that you could be doing better. The economy has been steadily improving for almost a decade, but politicians are still out there hammering people with how terrible things are.change movement progress



I could blame society <as we view constant advertising promising “luxury at an affordable price” and all the reasons why everyone in the home needs a car> but today I am speaking of politicians – and they thrive on saying everyone should be a success, everyone should be wealthier than they are and everything should be better than it currently is.


I could suggest that this is consumerism at its worst. And it is politicians feeding us this crap not advertising.



We should be seeking a new normal which may be some growth and not double digit … or it may be at some time in the future … but not now.



Today’s discussions about America’s economy always seems:



– predicated on rapid economic growth



– an economy focused on a winner take all competition in which a few successful producers crowd out everyone else



– an economy where the only absolute seems to be the highest profit possible



I continue to believe that our next president will be chosen because he or she has a believable plan for robust job creation in America. Yes, foreign policy and defense will be front burner issues in this election, but let’s not forget that without a thriving economy, we will never be able to afford anything, let alone defense, that our country must have.



We need a politician, and politicians from both parties, to explain economic reality. We want to be doing better economically but when you have the world’s largest economy, the world’s most productive per capita, it is not a simple flip of a switch to make it go.


The majority of people are not destitute <most just want more than what they have> and the majority of people who want jobs have jobs.


I don’t want the president to be an economist I just want politicians in general to understand that economies ebb & flow and not take on a doom & gloom attitude when within ebb and not go crazy when within flow.




“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman think about the next generation.”



James Freeman Clarke



Simplistically … I think this is what people want in a candidate from an economic & success standpoint:


1. Correct identification of the actual, major problems.



2. Plausible, workable solutions.



We need politicians who deal in the pragmatic reality of governing and how it matters to the everyday business & person.





“Candidates don’t have to deal with reality.


They talk about the wonderful things they can accomplish as if advocating them is the same as achieving them. They live in a world of political make-believe in which everything from reconciling conflicting interests to paying for costly programs is easy.”



Fred Barnes






The politician’s overall attitude.





Let me quote Milton’s Satan:


“To wage by force of guile eternal war, irreconcilable to our grand Foe”.



I saw a recent study in which the parties … at their core … were diametrically opposed on the direction of the country. The politicians, in order to win elections from that base, have to play to that attitude <see my first point on dating>.

That almost demands increasingly radicalized, anti-establishment candidates <even if they are part of the system>.



We need attitudes which do not suggest irreconcilable views but rather an attitude of respect & integrity & listening.



Let me share an example of a shift in attitude. I kind of like Marco Rubio < on occasion at least> so I am going to use him.



“The reason why Barack Obama failed is because his ideas don’t work. It’s not that he didn’t have the experience. It’s that his ideas were the wrong ones.” Marco Rubio



I understand the ‘failed’ word <although I could argue with Marco that if he had truly failed we would be in much deeper shit than he believes we are> as part of politician rhetoric but where he wins attitudinally is “his ideas were the wrong ones.”



Here is the attitude that can work in discussion … this permits a discussion of ideas and not ideology.



I fully understand the challenge … what happens when you try to be a voice of reason in today’s politics is you get crushed by bombastic unrealistic rhetoric.


However … today, in this article, I offer solutions to fix and address current challenges.



If you make a list of America’s problems, needs, and desires, and then be willing to tell Americans painful truths and things they don’t want to hear by offering practical solutions & ideas a politician will inevitably be ‘in the right’ <albeit it will sound wrong to many people>.



And as for practical responsibility …the money issue is actually absurd if you truly think about t.


“We can’t afford it?”


“Where will we find the money to pay for it?”





Think about it.


We can pay for everything we seem to want to spend money on <war, defense, military, Wall Street bailouts, the prison system, tax breaks, corporate subsidies> and yet we cannot shift funds to pay for necessary things.


That, my friends, seems fucking crazy.



Isn’t the role and responsibility of a leader, a politician, a voice for the people not just OF the people, to take on the challenge and not simply accept the challenge as status quo?


That means telling everyone we do have enough money and it is about prioritizing and not ‘generating more money thru taxes’ <albeit taxing is a useful tool>.





“Too many leaders act as if the sheep … their people … are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.”


Ken Blanchard





Regardless.politics saying tuman



Attitudinally … promising a return to an imaginary past era of greatness is easy.


Doing it is complex. And, worse, the past is never the future.



I end there because it is always easier to focus, too much, on all that may have been done wrong or what is wrong. It is much more difficult to look forward and focus on presenting positive alternatives, actions & vision to everyone and a viable plan on how to get there.


We need politicians to quit diminishing and start building.


We need politicians who recognize success often requires finding common ground with Americans who have a different vision than your own

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