#594 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #31 – Politics 101. We, the Presidents of the United States of America

November 6, 2012, “we, the people” will select, by our vote, or by our non-vote, an entire assortment of representatives, from local to national level.
We’ll vote well-informed, or ill-informed on candidates and on issues. We will be solely responsible, as always, for our action (or inaction).
We like to ‘slice and dice’ our elected officials, bureaucrats, and the like. But the uncomfortable fact is that we are the true leaders of this democratic republic called the United States of America.
Recently a friend sent a link where nine experts described the single biggest mistake a leader can make. Because you are a leader, it is worth a look, here. It takes about six minutes of your time. Apply it to yourself…as a leader.
Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune carried a long front page article about the legal flap over the words to be used on the November ballot to describe two proposed Minnesota Constitutional Amendments. You can read it all here.
I understand the politics and policy parts of these two proposals quite well. I would contend that the challenges to wording are necessary and appropriate. The people who want the amendments to pass are hoping people will vote yes without understanding the implications or even the substance of the issue they are voting on.
(I’ve been watching these issues for a long while. I’ll be on the “no” side on both.)
Sometimes I marvel that our country and its states survive at all given the non-thinking that is all too prevalent in our society, particularly about that broad realm that is called ‘politics’.
On the one hand are those, primarily off on the right fringe, who are terrified of the words that represent who I am: “liberal” and “union”.
I know many of these folks, some of them very well, and I think they’re okay with me, personally. But there is a tendency to broad brush my ‘kind’, and to drag into the kettle of shame anyone who seems even a little similar to me.
Political leaders of this right-wing bunch want to take control of government at all levels.
I’m more than a bit concerned.
On the other hand, out on the edges of the left are people who essentially argue “my way or the highway” in a somewhat different way. The position is well articulated, in a letter I received from a prominent leader in the local peace and justice community in mid-January 2012: “Politics is the art of the possible and involves compromise. That is the job of politicians and I respect that. The job of the _____ movement is to focus on issues.”
Herein lies the rub: the “issue” for todays radical right wing is to get control of government and through that to get control of policy making.
Conversely, the left-wing leader doesn’t like the scrum of politics, considering it something other than an issue.
No question, who will win if their view is ascendant in November.
History is full of examples where a fringe manages to get temporary control of government.

November 6 we’ll be faced with an array of candidates and issues, among which are those constitutional amendments.
But you would think, at this point, that the only office up for grabs is the office of President of the United States.
At this point, most people probably even have only a vague notion about any of the other candidates for any office.
Below is my rough version of a ‘picture’ of the Pyramid of State: what’s ahead for each of us in the next few months.
Disagree if you will, or suggest modifications.
But get informed, work hard and contribute to the campaign of best candidate for each office, and vote very well informed on November 6.
(click to enlarge)

1. Joan, July 12:
Reading this post, and watching and listening to the video were exactly what I needed at this moment.
How can we return to this kind of real leadership, where integrity and compassion, balanced and reflective, open to options and working in the service of others, are the respected model. The video lists many important qualities, and they are all important. My question back to you is this: how do we move our society to a higher ground with expectations for leaders to be working for others and the greater good (in deed, not just in word)?
2. Allison and Dick, July 12:
Allison: Just read your most recent blog post and really enjoyed it. The video you posted a link for, however, (about the worst mistakes a leader can make) was troubling. Isn’t it alarming how so many of the mistakes people cite as the worst thing a leader can do are just assumed to always be true of the US President? For example, people often say that you can’t really trust the President or that he (hopefully we can say “he or she” in the future) is not always consistent. I understand that politics are complicated and that compromise is often involved. I think the American people understand that too. But what does it say about leadership in our country that we accept that our President will, and maybe even must, make all of the “worst mistakes a leader can make”?
Dick: The main point I hope to make with the post is that we are ALL LEADERS, but we tend to focus all attention on one person.
If you’re a leader, you’re going to make mistakes, period. It goes with the territory.
The key thing is to learn from the mistakes.
And if you expand my argument to “We, the people” at large, we are abundantly guilty of a lot of the sins mentioned by these business leaders, including arrogance, and all the rest!
I’ll add your comment to the blog post, by the way.
I might redraft a little my illustration [above, original rendition], but it will basically remain identical to the first, just a little more explanation like s.d. means school district, that sort of thing.
Allison: That’s an interesting argument. I understood that you were trying to point out that we are all leaders, but I don’t think I understood the implications of that. Perhaps I still don’t understand. I get that mistakes come with the territory for any leader. Are you suggesting that our whole understanding of what it means to be a leader needs to be revamped a bit? Like that because we all make mistakes, political leaders included, the “worst mistakes a leader can make” essentially becomes a meaningless category since we all do them? If that’s what you’re saying, I totally agree. Max Weber wrote a famous analysis of charisma and leadership. Though I probably don’t have the most sophisticated understanding of what he said, I understand his argument to mean that what makes a true leader is charisma – such that the mistakes are all there still, but the leaders charisma conceals the mistakes. It seems like for many people Obama achieved this before his first election. To me this seems like a useful way of understanding the mythical phenomena of leadership on a large scale, as opposed to the daily leadership that you are arguing we all participate in.
Dick: I’m going to try to make that more clear.
We are accustomed to blaming everybody but ourselves for things that don’t go right….
Actually, I had gotten the video from someone else in a different context, and initially looked at it as if a corporation ceo or such would have looked at it, but as I thought about it, it seems it applies to all of us, particularly politically.
If we weren’t a democracy, we could use the argument that we don’t have any say. In our society, at least so far, we all have equal say, and it’s called an informed vote on election day. But too many of us don’t vote at all, or vote uninformed.
I’m going to ponder your thought, though, and stay tuned.
Thanks for reading it.

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