It is always with a hint of mirth that I watch the quadrennial analysis of political pundits who seem befuddled by the electorate’s behavior. This year the attention falls squarely on the Republican primary voters who are shifting their preferences with the rise and fall of the personal predilections of the various presidential candidates (the latest Washington Post-ABC poll has Newt Gingrich on top in Iowa, but it’s still early in the game). And it will be no different when the Democrats and Independents enter the fray in the general election.
The phenomenon should come as no surprise given two facts:
- Most voters are not clear about the leadership qualities they wish to see exhibited in candidates, let alone officeholders; and
- The electorate is still largely comprised of hopeful souls who believe that a (fill in the blank) president, senator, governor, etc., can actually change something they themselves are not committed to fixing.
I too long for a candidate that can raise my spirits and make me believe the impossible. It would be wonderful to find someone who could magically change the way Washington works, fix our economy, and fund our schools. Unfortunately, we cannot seek solutions not found in packaged rhetoric, it will only come to fruition through the thoughtful engagement of our citizens in creating solutions we not only aspire to, but are committed to ensuring through our daily actions.
As long as politicians can, they will tell us what we want to hear. Until we stop falling for their pick-up lines, we will continue to be disappointed with what they really look like in the morning – and we will be all too willing to move on to the next, better-looking candidate.
Kathleen Schafer is founding principal of Leadership Connection and author of Living the Leadership Choice (release December 2011). Connect with Kathleen on Twitter and read her blog at leadershipconnection.net.