What I Learned From the Debate

In looking at the forest of the second Presidential debate and not the trees, here is want I saw:

1. Americans don’t want government interfering in their lives and yet they want to know how the next President is going to help them go to college, lower gas prices and find a job.

2. It is now acceptable to say anything to “get elected” and the public is not going to hold officials accountable as long as it doesn’t impact them directly.

3. That being President means you are responsible for everything that goes wrong within the government and have no part in what goes right—even in the face of a status quo that encourages animosity and disdain from the other branches of government, not cooperation.

So the first thought that occurs to me is why would any sane person want this job? The second is how are any of these issues going to be successfully addressed until the American people come to terms with their own cognitive dissonance around our relationship with government?

In this Presidential election as in many of the other down ballot races this year the choice has become a vote the between either the philosophy of allowing a free market profit motive to drive society or a government centric vision that views itself as the final authority. In the battle to ensure each side’s worldview reigns supreme have we lost site of insanity of the arguments they are making? And what about us—as voters in a democracy are we going to take responsibility for our fuzzy thinking and allow our elected officials to lead in a way that will actually address the issues we face or rather do we prefer they simply tell us what we want to hear?

Some specific examples:

  • Governor Romney repeatedly pointed to high gas prices, high unemployment high cost of education as a failure of the Obama administration and he asserted as President he would do better. Yet according to his philosophy, all these things really ought to be up to the free market to determine. If people are willing to pay $5 a gallon for gas and the suppliers can make a profit so be it. If this puts a crimp on family budgets, work harder and figure out how to make more money, this is an individual issue and not one that should be clouded by government intervention. In his pursuit of the presidency he postures as if he believes this is an issue in which he should have a role.
  • President Obama spent much of his time defending his record of the past four years as if he alone is able to move much of anything forward without Congressional cooperation. The posturing of incumbent Presidents that they alone have made something happen is absurd—both to my previous point that it is much easier to cast blame towards them and to the idea that nothing can be truly implemented without bipartisan support. President Obama needs to level with the American people about the enormous limitations of governing in a politically toxic environment and he needs to substantially revamp his approach to this challenge if he is to serve a second term.
  • In the town hall debate format the third player in this election gets a small role—the public. If these undecided voters are a reflection of the greater electorate is there any wonder why we have the problems we have? Where is their leadership? So many of the questions come from a place of being totally unempowered and looking up to these powerful men to solve these problems for them. Regardless of your partisan sympathies no government, no business, no one is going to do for you what you are unwilling to do for yourself. Ultimately it is up to each person to determine their quality of life, to create it and not look to someone else to do it for them. In addition, it is up to each of us to hold our elected officials accountable for their leadership in creating a partnership that fosters growth and doesn’t impede it.

In working with hundreds of people to improve their leadership efficacy I know that what people want for themselves and for others is to be happy, fulfilled, secure and free to do what they love. Yet somehow in the evolution of our democracy we have become convinced that there is only one way to get there and we must crush those who believe otherwise. This is not only absurd; it is diminishing our ability to create what we want for our society and ourselves. If we are to move forward it is time to look in the mirror and become the leader we want to see in the world.

Being President is not the only way to solve problems—in fact; it is one of the slowest avenues to change. If you see something that you want changed in your life or in your community—ask yourself what YOU can do to be a part of the solution and then GO DO IT. As each person takes greater responsibility for putting their talents, skills and passion into the world real, change occurs. When this happens in greater numbers it won’t matter if it is a business or government or as Democrats or Republicans—in fact when individual leadership blossoms who is President will matter a whole lot less and who you are as a leader will matter a whole lot more.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply