As most of you know, I am a Democrat (worked for a Democratic Congressman, Governor and a bunch of other great electeds and candidates throughout the years). So, don’t take my headline as any indication of a change in my spots. But I get concerned when parts of my home country continue to turn against pragmatic, progressive (even if not liberal) candidates who tell the truth and, as a result, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous political insight.
Tim Pawlenty appears to be another such victim. And at the same time, Governor Rick Perry has indicated his entrance into the race. I don’t oppose Governor Perry’s entrance, I just would love to understand what it is our citizens are demanding? Do we wish to take a hard turn to the right? Do we wish to take a hard turn to the left (note the two State Senate recall victories in Wisconsin last week)? Or, do we want a return to Statesmanship as indicated by continued reference to Ronald Reagan and Tipp O’Neil?
Dannielle Blumenthal, over at Government in the Lab, has analyzed a similar sentiment. Have we talked past each other to the point that we can now only see the far ends of each spectrum with no way to move forward as a united country? The exit of rationality in many of the debates is disturbing. Global warming, national debt, financial meltdowns, national obesity, diabetes epidemic, infrastructure degradation, education rankings plummeting, healthcare system insanity, global industrial competitiveness issues all have carried warnings from one side or the other. And we have, as a nation, ignored them. Is it because the predictions in ’1984′ have come true? Have all words in our national debates become double-speak?
I am currently reading Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson. Great book that spells out a few points. The main one is that motivation by itself is not good enough to engender real change. That is why most of us fail at dieting, we are motivated as heck. We understand the adverse health outcomes. We get the positive benefits of looking great and feeling better and living longer. Motivation is NOT the issue. The missing piece in most of these debates is, ability. We simply lack the real world tools to make the change. We have not acquired the skills needed (the right ones not the mythical ones). Our inability to sift through the double-speak means we often exercise the wrong toolsets (fad diets, ab machines, etc). We need to understand this dual nature (motivation/ability) to be able to unlock personal, professional and political change.
In our national debates (and our global ones) I believe we all have the right motivation. We get that in many cases we are on the brink. And, in many cases we are not. We understand that to move us forward we need to change the game a bit. Even the most recalcitrant among our civil servants get that the world has changed around us (note the shots across the bow in Wisconsin) and that the pragmatists that were preaching for change over the past ten years were right. But motivation alone will not accomplish the change we need. We must acquire and exercise the correct abilities.
And thats where Government 2.0 comes back in. Not just as technical adoption, or paving the cow paths as we call it back home. But true transformational Government 2.0 that remakes our government, our society and our civics in a way that makes it more affordable, sustainable and healthy. When we focus on transformational outcomes we can understand the rightful place of regulation in a market economy (and its necessary limits). We can understand the need for fiscal sanity in public sector spending as well as the rightful role of public spending in times of recession. We can unleash the best parts of current systems and destroy those parts that no longer work (remember that the postal network is an incredible social animal that has some unfortunate inefficiencies in it, what if we could truly leverage that network into one that shares resources, efficiently distributes services and revitalizes the center of our country). What if we opened up all of the data streams in our governments to allow massive and crowdsourced innovation on some of our more difficult challenges (look at what happened when we opened up the human genome). If we treated Government as a Platform, could we not only solve many of our challenging issues, but could we also vitalize a whole new set of private sector opportunities that are clearly exportable to municipalities, regional governments and national governments worldwide? We have some of the largest data stores on the planet with regard to healthcare and issues related to it. And we have some of the biggest companies in the world focusing on “big data”. What if we combined these, solved enormous problems, and made this world an incredible place?
If we embrace these tools, these abilities, with the motivations that we all already have, real change is within our reach. Dare we grab it?
A return to rationality requires us to embrace the concept of compromise. We must concede that inside our deeply held self-truth beliefs (see the image above) is the possibility for error and need for balance. This position is not a weakness, it is the greatest strength we have. Our founding fathers understood this. They didn’t simply draft our fundamental documents based upon a single set of thoughts but a grouping of those thoughts, debated long and hard, focusing on a common goal or motivation. What resulted was not perfect but was decided to be pointed at becoming “more perfect” over time.
Now is the time for all of us to demand “more perfect”. Not just from our elected leaders, but rather, from ourselves. This is our democracy. This is our nation. This is our civility. Blame for its problems lies squarely on us. And the resolution of its challenges are ours to attain.