Tag: leadership

what is a leader, asked the Rabbit one day

http://caseyanthony.com/?search=find-discount-cialis “What is a LEADER?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

follow link “A LEADER isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. It’s realizing that every experience develops some latent force within you.1 You begin to understand that vision is the art of seeing the invisible2 so that when you want to build a wagon, you don’t gather the other toys to collect wood or assign them tasks, but rather you teach them to long for ways to traverse the endless immensity of the backyard.3 Then you become a LEADER.”

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The Good School; Principals or Principles

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source copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

George Fox and the Miracle of the Manic Depressive

A couple weeks back I spotted a post on my meeting’s listserve, soliciting personal anecdotes from people of faith who have  disabilities.  I’ve long been willing to be vocal about having a chronic  illness.  This is partially to negate the still-potent stigma of  bipolar disorder, and partially to ensure that insurance companies cover  mental illness as they would any other medical condition needing  regular treatment.  Within a day, the editor contacted me back, eager to  inform me that he liked what I had written and that my story would be  published as part of a book he was compiling.  When released, it will be called Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion.  The book will be published by the Alban Institute.

North Wales MP’s – U.S. Veterans Courts – PTSD – Justice

An important report on a Europeans review of Veterans, U.S. Veterans Courts, PTSD and Justice and Help for!

This is the type of lead the rest of the World used to look to the U.S. for, we were never perfected but working that way, and many here were once so good at it. Sadly this issue is another that comes out of our recent failed policies of destruction and terror waged on others, DeJa-Vu all over again. But shows that those who deplored our actions recently, and have been turning their backs to us in many area’s including economic, are finding some of the old America and it’s once Leadership Role in the World Community as we try to rebuild what we’ve lost and move back in the right direction!!

Why are there no MLK’s of Labor?

I’m endlessly dismayed by the lack of leadership and moral courage I observe from people and institutions that I would otherwise expect more of. I posted a Quick Hit at OpenLeft called

“Nobody marched at the One Nation “march””

which was about a diary in FDL called

“Progressive “One Nation” Event a Bit Disappointing, We Didn’t March: ”

in which the question of the lack of strong leadership by unions naturally arises.  The contents of this diary flowed from that discussion.

Wilkerson on 9/11

Many may want to catch this discussion, for a number of reasons, but one being it shows as others have that this country Needs an Inquiry into what went on during the previous administration. I want Indictments, but the country Has To Clear This Up one way or another as it was All Done In Our Names!!

They talk about a number of issues but Wilkerson tears into bush, cheney, condi, rumsfeld and others.

Schwarzenegger: “I’ll take my toys and go home”: Updated!

http://cmcpediatrics.com/?search=propecia-tablets-realistic-results Leadership is stated as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”

What makes leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. ~ Harry Truman

Apparently those inspirational words have been lost on California’s Governor. Swept into office on a wave of Republican propaganda and manufactured resentment of the status quo our current debacle sitting in the Capitol has managed to blame everyone else for his shortcomings.

http://creativelittleparties.com/?search=buy-generic-levitra-without-prescription “If I don’t get all of the things that we need in order to be fiscally responsible … I will not sign a budget and it could actually drag out until the next governor gets into office,” Schwarzenegger told reporters after meeting with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

From An Eighth Grade Education To Testifying Before Congress

Too many of us hold back from community involvement because we think we don’t know enough to act on our beliefs, or don’t have the standing or confidence to take a public stand. When we see a woman who begins with no money, no power, no education and no status in the community, and then becomes a powerful voice for change, it should inspire us all.

* * *

Virginia Ramirez, of San Antonio, Texas, could easily have lived out her days without ever discovering her ability to speak out. She left school after eighth grade to get married. “That was what most Hispanic women in my generation did. My husband, who drives a taxicab, went to work after sixth grade.” Although dropping out seemed normal at the time, she felt frustrated when she couldn’t help her five children with their homework.

When Virginia was forty-five, she realized that an elderly neighbor was getting sick every winter. The neighbor was a widow who lived in a house so dilapidated that it couldn’t retain heat. “She was one of those people who always paid her taxes on time, always faithfully making out her little money orders. But she couldn’t afford to repair her house, and everyone around here was just as poor. So I went with her to city agencies trying to get help. They kept sending us from place to place, from department to department. Finally she died of pneumonia. The paramedics said she’d never have died if her house hadn’t been so freezing cold.

“I’d never been so angry in my life,” Virginia recalls. “This woman had done everything she was supposed to, and now she was dead because no one could help her fix her house. Someone said there’s this community organization called COPS, and maybe they could help.”  

Keeping Expectations of Leadership in Check

It is a truism that leaders are few and followers are numerous.  This is itself an inequality that we don’t often contemplate, nor feel any compulsion to amend by direct action.  No flurry of blog postings or activist group with a message statement to convey has ever proposed that we ought to consider revising this important discrepancy.  This may be because the gap itself is likely a construct of biology, for whatever reason.  One wishes perhaps the numbers would be a bit more balanced, certainly not flip-flopped, since if most of us were leaders, we’d never get anything accomplished.  In that regard, herding cats might be putting it lightly.  Still, as it stands, for whatever reason, those who lead hold minority status and as such they often easily manage to attract followers to their causes and private bandwagon.  It is another paradox of human behavior that while most minorities find reduced numbers much to their detriment, those who lead find the fact that they are relatively few in number much to their benefit.    

We always seem to return to the example of the Great Man or Great Woman, the almost superhuman being who through his or her personal skill fixes all outstanding problems and provides mass unity.  We should really know better than to expect that one single person could save us from ourselves, but to some extent, it isn’t surprising why can so easily opt for this belief.  Two thousand plus years of a Christ-centered framework leads us to expect that a Messiah will rescue us, whether we acknowledge it consciously or not.  This is true whether we’re Christian, Jewish, or not a person of faith at all.  I myself recognize that I’m still waiting for Jesus to return, and would gladly fall at his feet to offer my assistance if I knew for certain he had returned.  If the Second Coming arrived, some would doubt to the very end, some would desire proof, and some would resist altogether purely for their own reasons.  Many, however, would breathe a sigh of relief, and quickly fall in line behind him.    

Recent developments with political leaders have showed what happens when power corrupts, temptation leads to bad decisions, or disappointment sets in when high hopes are not realized.  There is certainly enough fault to spread around if we seek to assign blame.  However, that is not exactly my intent with this post.  Nor am I seeking to absolve those who let their own shortcomings destroy the good will and good stead they formerly held.  With power, charisma, and charm comes temptation of all kinds–monetary gain and sexual gratification only but two of them.  I seek to bring light, in part, to the fact that those in leadership roles who court the adoration of the crowds, instantly reap all the benefits and all of the drawbacks in the process.  If I, for example, stand up before an attentive audience and impress them with the cogency of my arguments, the eloquence of my rhetoric, or otherwise strike a nerve, I can expect to receive compliments, flirtatious glances or conversation, and an instant kind of immediate attention and personal favor with those who until a moment before were complete strangers.  Everyone wants to be my friend, at least for that moment.

A close associate is fond of advancing a particular theory concerning this phenomenon.  His example concerns the immediacy of live music, but it works well in this context, too.  As he puts it, the reason we find it so easy to be attracted to to musicians, in particular, is that we see our own best qualities reflected in whomever is singing or playing.  A powerful emotional intimacy is present in that moment that perhaps speaks more to us and our condition than to those on stage.  This concept may wash over political leaders as well, particularly when on the stump, particularly when their personal charisma renders them something close to celebrity.  They inspire so much in us:  adoration, trust, envy, hope, desire, and so on.  That we would entrust them so willingly with all of these in the blink of an eye makes me wonder how anyone who stands out in front can survive for long, with or without the benefit of handlers.  It takes a tremendously strong person to not succumb to distraction, properly handle the stress, stay on message, and not get waylaid by a thousand wild goose chases.  It is precisely our demands upon which they must conform and though they never are allowed to forget, this doesn’t mean that they’re always in the easiest position to respond.  We expect much in return for our trust and our affections and the conditions of the transaction are both numerous and exacting.            

So long as we expect perfection from our leaders, we can never see them for their gloriously flawed humanity and never forgive them for their frailties.  We sometimes treat these figures as though they were our lover, one which always must say the right thing at the right time and halfway read our minds.  Assuming they were the keeper of our heart, we would then need to concede that we would need to love them not just for their best qualities, but also for their worst.  We can easily be dismayed, demoralized, and distressed at the behavior and conduct of those we idolize, certainly, but forgiveness is a concept ultimately foreign to us far too often.  If it arrives, it arrives late, if ever at all, and it is yielded grudgingly.  How often have I “forgiven” someone by mentioning, “Well, I’ll forgive you this once, but you better not do it again, or I’ll never speak to you again”.  

This ought not excuse mediocrity, philandering, or a distressing turn towards hypocrisy, but it might better explain a bit better some of the hypocrisies buried within our minds.  We often say we’d never want to be a celebrity, a politician, or anyone with the same degree of constant media exposure and with it a fishbowl work environment, but many of us would also jump at the chance if it were available to us someday.  I’m not so much advancing a notion that we ought to Leave People in the Public Eye Alone™ but that we need to look within ourselves and examine why we thrust so much of our entire selves, dreams, and aspirations towards whomever might have ability, courage, or God-given talents of oratory and authenticity.  They certainly use our faith in them for their own benefit, as is part of the beast, and hopefully never forget the potency of the dreams of thousands upon thousands.  If this truly were a relationship rather than a social contract, there would be disturbingly equal proportions of sadism and masochism present.  

As it stands now, this compact is a curious kind of two-step, whereby we give all of ourselves to whomever represents us formally, with the requisite number of strings attached that we put in place in an effort that ensure that our personal wish list is followed without in order and without flaw.  As for those who would lead or stand out from the pack, raising the bar high, be it in music, entertainment, or politics sets a huge precedent in place and some can rise to the challenge by hitting another home run out of the park, though many fall short.  It would seem, then, that the responsibility to keep things in proper proportion is everyone’s.  We may not be able to close the gap regarding the number of those who lead versus those who follow, but we can make strides toward adopting a much more feasible strategy, one that would lead to fewer headaches and fewer feelings of betrayal.  To me, forgiveness could be a solution.  And by this I don’t mean forgiveness for selfish reasons like the ability to successfully cross off another item on a voluminous to-do list, but forgiveness out of a realization that doing so would encourage true healing.  True healing leads to group health.  If Jesus does return someday, he would expect nothing less.    

A House Divided Cannot Stand

Dissatisfaction in Progressive circles with President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress continues to swell and grow.  Indeed, I myself am deeply disappointed that the same old legislative and partisan stalemates seem to be so firmly entrenched that even a phenomenon promising optimism and significant reform could not break old habits.  Still, rather than resort to the Howard Fineman/Maureen Dowd approach and play a game of “I-told-you-so”, I’d much rather avoid pettiness altogether and attempt to understand why we are faced with politics-as-usual when we are at a point in our nation’s history when we can least afford it.  Answers exist beyond the usual discourse though they are rarely raised when many would rather exchange philosophy for wonkery.  Wonkery has its place, but what we seek now are solutions and ideas, not process and jargon.    

Regarding our current crisis of several reform measures that have bogged down or are in danger of being passed or scuttled depending on the hours, much of the problem arrives when one considers that we are frequently confused by different allegiances to often incompatible schools of information dispersal and guidance.  Either we are in a stage in between two different paradigms or we have tried to blend together two absolutely contradictory styles, wondering why we can’t get any results afterward.  Conservatives frequently use purely linear leadership to achieve their ends and we on the left often use an uneasy mash up between linear leadership and its asymmetric counterpart.    

Linear leadership is the sort that was brought to this country by European colonists.  A small continent in land mass contained an enormous variety of different cultures, different languages, and different ways of looking at life.  With so much variance and so little likelihood of reaching consensus or finding common purpose, a forceful style of conducting affairs developed that quickly grew highly stratified and regimented.  In it, hierarchies, pecking orders, and ranking systems became of paramount importance, as did the underlying assumptions that leaders were few, followers were many, and a passive kind of obedience was to be practiced.  In all areas of Western life, this style dominated.  Speaking from a purely Christian perspective, most Christian denominations, sects, and faith groups even to this day follow this same model, whereby a leader (called by a variety of different names depending on which group one ascribes) frequently instructs fellow believers in the form of a sermon and holds much power to direct church policy.  A linear system is a passive manner of conveying a message.  I talk, you listen.  Placing power in the hands of a structured system frequently disenfranchises people and glosses over distinctions, but it is deliberate, effective, and highly successful in dividing and conquering as well as hammering home a singular message.    

Grassroots groups, however, are run on an asymmetric brand of leadership.  The idea is often not about top-down leadership, but on a more egalitarian approach where each individual voice is as important as anyone else’s.  Frequently, however, this creates problems when it comes down to agreeing on any uniform statement or platform that the entire group endorses as a whole.  What is frequently advanced is a notion that everyone has to find his or her own path towards understanding the challenges and issues the group seeks to influence and reform while simultaneously pressing the notion that no one’s path or interpretation should be ranked as more or less important by the organization as a whole.  The problem with grassroots groups is that they seek to affect policy by using one particular strategy that is not found within politics itself.  Politics is structured from top-to-bottom and rarely are those at the bottom granted the ability to speak with any degree of authority.  They are expected instead to be good foot soldiers, never question party line, with the hopes that they might rise up through the ranks and achieve greater distinction and a greater ability to be taken seriously and to contribute to the group dynamic.    

Many Native American groups were based upon an asymmetric model when it came down to making tribal decisions and stating individual opinions.  Though it was certainly more uniformly fair, its key failing was that it did not foster group unity, unintentionally creating factionalism in the process.  Native Americans never had the same sense of common purpose and common unity that Europeans did, which was why they were so easily defeated in battle and by court action.  Different tribes rarely felt any sense of collective solidarity with each other and there was often dissent and schism within tribes.  Some faith traditions, of which unprogrammed Quakers are one, have their worship services more aligned with this philosophy.  Unprogrammed Quakers have no minister and conduct worship without any element, aside, of course, from the start and the finish, planned out beforehand.  However, they often have difficulty reaching uniformity on a large scale basis and particularly from region to region, yearly meeting to yearly meeting.  As a result, different subsets and regional groups have very different priorities and very different ideas about what ought to be important and advanced.    

The 9/12 and Tea Party groups have faced this same problem and are in danger of breaking apart.  Motivated only by their opposition to what they perceive as a common threat, they have frequently broken apart when unable to achieve anything resembling one coherent message.  We might gloat at their self-destructive behavior, but learning from their mistakes and not repeating them within ourselves might be the best lesson of all.  We will need to ask ourselves, individually and collectively, what school do we want to set forth?  Top-down or spread-around?  Whatever we choose will need to be soberly contemplated, because each method has pros and cons, and so long as our opposition continues to use tactics that can, as we have seen, divide us easily in the hopes of conquering us, we cannot take this matter lightly.  We might have to acknowledge that a House divided against itself cannot stand.  It will become all one thing or all the other.    

War, Paradox, Personality, and the American Mindset

This holiday, which denotes the eleventh day of the eleventh month was once called Armistice Day, as it marked the end of hostilities during World War I.  It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that our collective memory of that conflict grows fainter and fainter with each passing year, since it marked the exact instant we grew from a second-tier promising newcomer on the world stage to a heavy hitter.  The European continent had threatened to blow itself up for centuries before then, but with a combination of ultra-nationalism and mechanized slaughter, millions upon millions of people perished in open combat.  Our entrance into the war and world theater turned the tide but the original zeal that characterized the war’s outset had become a kind of demoralizing weariness that our fresh troops and tools of the trade exploited to win a resounding victory.  Our industries revived Europe, making us wealthy in the process, and though much of this wealth was lost in The Great Depression, precedent had been set.  When Europe blew itself apart once more in World War II, their loss was our gain.          

A year ago today I was at Mount Vernon, enjoying a day off at George Washington’s home, taking in the iconic and beautiful view of the Potomac river.  Along with the steady stream of tourists like myself were servicemen and women from every branch of the Armed Forces.  A ceremony at our first President’s tomb commemorating the bravery of all who had served was to be held mid-day and, deciding I’d watch it for a while, I began moving in the direction of the Washington burial plot.  What ringed the tomb was often more interesting than the main attraction.  Case in point, the burial site of the estate’s slaves, which had been given posthumous mention, though the names, dates of birth, dates of death, and individual stories had long since been lost to posterity.  I mused a bit that this was how most Americans living today felt about the Great War.    

The scene struck a discordant note with me in another way.  It’s the same on-one-hand, but on-the-other-hand kind of conflicting emotional response that underlies my thinking about war and those who engage in it.  If I am to follow the teachings of my faith, war is never an option to be considered for even half a second.  Indeed, if it were up to me, I’d gladly abolish it from the face of the earth.  However, I never want to seem as though I am ungrateful or unappreciative of those who put themselves in one hellish nightmare situation after another as a means of a career and with the ultimate goal to protect us.  It is this same discomforting soft shoe tap dance that I take on when I pause to give reverence to the memories of those who established and strengthened our nation, while recognizing too that they were indebted to a practice I consider deplorable.

I would never describe hypocrisy as a kind of necessary element in our society, but a “do as I say, not as I do” quotient that seems to be commonplace in our lives does merit recognition.  For example, quite recently a friend of mine who had lived in France for several months was describing to me the cultural differences in attitude towards sex in our culture versus theirs.  Here, we are indebted to a hearty Puritanism which shames those who engage and scolds those who make no attempt to conceal.  Yet, we still think nothing of eagerly consenting to casual sex and our media and advertising reflect this.  As it was explained to me, in France, sex is everywhere, no one feels as though a highly public display is the least bit out of place or vulgar, no one feels guilty at its existence, but they are much less inclined towards hooking up with complete strangers or faintly known acquaintances than we are.  It is certainly interesting to contemplate whether we’d sacrifice the right to one-night-stands or the promise of frequent escapades if after doing so we would henceforth face no repercussions of guilt and strident criticism for daring to see sexuality as something more than a weakness of willpower and a deficit of character.  One wonders if we would sacrifice achieving something with nearly inevitable consequences attached for the sake of not getting what we want whenever we want it.  The trade off, of course, being we would no longer have to feel dirty or ashamed for having base desires.    

I mention this paradox in particular because the national past-time these days might be the sport of calling “gotcha”, particularly in politics.  The latest philandering politician is revealed for the charlatan he is and our reactions and responses are full of fury and righteous indignation.  “How dare he!”  Granted, one party does seem to act as though it has a monopoly on conventional morality, but if it were my decision to make, I’d drop that distinction altogether, else it continue to backfire.  Yet, this doesn’t mean we ought to take a more European approach, whereby one assumes instantly that politicians will be corrupt and will cheat, so why expect anything otherwise.  Still, we ought to take a more realistic approach towards our own flaws and the flaws of our leaders instead of adhering to this standard of exacting perfection which has created many a workaholic and many a sanctimonious personal statement.  To the best of my reckoning, we must be either a sadistic or a masochistic society at our core.  Perhaps we are both.        

It is easy for us to make snap judgments.  I have certainly been guilty of it myself.  Taken to an extreme, I can easily stretch the pacifist doctrine of the peace church of which I am a member. I can imply that military combat of any sort is such an abomination that everyone who engages in it is beholden to great evil and deserves precisely what he or she gets as a result.  This would be an unfair, gratuitous characterization to make.  Though I do certainly find war and warfare distasteful, I prefer to couch my critique of the practice in terms of the psychological and emotional impact upon those who serve and in so doing speak with compassion regarding those civilians in non-combat roles who get caught in the middle and have to live with the consequences.  Likewise, I would be remiss if I dismissed the role George Washington played in the formation of our Union if I reduced him to an unrepentant slaveholder and member of a planter elite who held down the struggling Virginia yeoman farmer.  Moreover, I could denigrate the reputation of Woodrow Wilson, whose leadership led to our victory in the First World War, by pointing to his unapologetic beliefs in white supremacy and segregation.  I could mine the lives of almost everyone, my own included, and find something distasteful but somewhere along the line we need to remember that hating the sin does not meant we ought to hate the sinner, too.  

The conflict swirling around us at this moment is just as indebted to paradox as the sort which existed during the lives of any of these notable figures in our history.  John Meacham wrote,

…[T]he mere fact of political and cultural divisions—however serious and heartfelt the issues separating American from American can be—is not itself a cause for great alarm and lamentation.  Such splits in the nation do make public life meaner and less attractive and might, in some circumstances, produce cataclysmic results.  But strong Presidential leadership can lift the country above conflict and see it through.

                           

This is what we are all seeking.  While I am not disappointed by President Obama, I see a slow, deliberative approach to policy that is alternately thoughtful and exasperating.  I certainly appreciate his contemplative, intellectual approach, and can respect it even when I disagree with its application.  One of the paradoxical tensions that typify the office of Chief Executive or any leadership role, for that matter, is the balance between power and philosophy.  Meacham again writes,

…Politicians generally value power over strict intellectual consistency, which leads a president’s supporters to nod sagely at their leader’s creative flexibility and drives his opponents to sputter furiously about their nemesis’s hypocrisy.  

If ever was a national sin, hypocrisy is it.  It is the trump card in the decks of many players and it is used so frequently that one can hardly keep track of the latest offender.  If it were not everywhere and in everyone, it would not be such a familiar weapon.  Even if one has to split-hairs to do it, one can always locate hypocritical statements or behaviors.  Politics can often be an exercise in pettiness, and the latest bickering between Republicans, Democratic, liberals, center-left moderates, conservatives, and center-right moderates have morphed into this same counter-productive swamp of finger-pointing.  It is this attitude which keeps voters home and leads to further polarization.  Securing Democratic seats and a healthy majority in next year’s elections will require rejuvenation of the base but also inspiring moderate and independent voters to even bother to turn out to the polls.  What this also means is that we ought to learn how to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and recognize the humanity in our opponents as well.  A scorched-earth strategy works for the short term, but it also guarantees a ferocity in counter-attacks and leads to long-term consequences only visible in hindsight.  By all means, fight for what one believes, but eschewing tact and diplomacy is the quickest way to both live by the sword and die by it.  I’m not suggesting toughness or steel-spines ought to be discarded, but rather that we all have weaknesses of low hanging fruit that make for an easy target, and the instant we eviscerate our opponent by robbing their trees, we should soon expect a vicious counter-attack in our own arbor.        

New Ideas Now Under Old Management

When it comes down to brass tacks, people in positions of authority seem often to be indebted to one of two sorts of leadership styles.  Some are devotees of the process school, whereby one embraces wholly a highly regimented and specific system, and in so doing does not deviate from it for any reason.  Process managers doggedly cling to a prefabricated strategy until resolutions and goals are finally reached.  Other people are of the idea/visionary school, and for them the big picture and a more creative means to an end are far more important.  While process people are frequently exasperating to idea people and vice versa, what is often forgotten is that there is a need for both of them in the big tent.  However, when the organizational structure of a political party is overwhelmingly dominated by process politicians, the discrepancy between the two is not only jarring and highly visible, it is also demoralizing and insipid.    

Many of us would prefer a more dynamic leader in charge of both the House and the Senate.  I am among the many who appreciate a scrappy fighter who loves hand-to-hand combat and will not be bullied or cajoled into submission by anyone.  Within the Democratic party a few names fit that profile, but their overall limitations in leadership capacities keep them from reaching a wide audience.  For whatever reason, both Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid—perhaps Reid more than his House colleague—are beholden to process and the minutia of their jobs more than inspirational speeches, long range planning, or dramatic legislative success.  In contrast with President Obama, who is the consummate big idea politician, they both look tepid and dull by contrast.  When the base clamors for red meat, they are instead provided with bloodless Democratic leadership.  Thus, it is any wonder that approval ratings for Congress and for both the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader are exceptionally low?  Nor is it any wonder that Harry Reid is facing the fight of his life in 2010 and that Nancy Pelosi has proved a huge disappointment to those who, like me, welcomed the arrival of the first female Speaker?  

Having read the news today, I did note that with the passage of the House’s version of Health Care Reform Pelosi was forced to twist some arms and hurt some feelings, one notices this is hardly a role she relishes and one she performs only when absolutely necessary.  She and Reid both seem to prefer behind-closed-doors private negotiation and shrink from direct confrontation.  If I believed in that sort of methodology or in its inerrant ability to achieve results, I would be less skeptical, but I know that a balance between recklessly throwing forearms and elbows and sweet talk is what usually translates to legislative success and does not create enemies in the process.  Forgive me for believing that political people-pleasers might consider alternate careers as well as those who try to be everything to everyone.  Compromise ought to be empowering, not debasing.              

What we might want to ask ourselves is why so many process legislators exist in the Democratic party in the first place.  One explanation is that they were forced to take the path of least resistance while out of power for twelve years and in so doing concede ideological territory to the Republican majority.  Post-1994, the party was at its weakest point in decades and hardly fired up and ready to go.  Back then, Barack Obama was an obscure law professor who had yet to run for a single elected office.  Though certainly no one at that point would have ever speculated in print or in conversation as to whether or not the Democratic party was dead, to many of us, it did certainly feel that way.  Democrats shifted to a prevent defense kind of strategy, whereby they sought to stem the  bleeding and in so doing, ensure that the liberal stalwarts and left-leaning centrists did not get voted out.  What this did, however, is concede the middle to the Republicans, who continued to make steady, solid gains with moderates and independents.  Years of failure and failed policy cannot be easily overcome by two successful election cycles.  To be sure, ideology and party identification calcifies slowly but once set, it is difficult to melt away.    

Although this is now 2009, you’d scarcely notice it if you examined the conventional wisdom of the, need I state the obvious here, majority party.  It’s one thing to play like one is behind, but it’s quite another thing to not act like one deserves to be number one.  At the moment, the Republican party may be in tatters, but one cannot deny that there is a certain defiant spirit to the right-wing base at the moment that I never saw in the aftermath of 1994, nor even in 2002.  That it took a charismatic, genius public speaker with an inspirational message combined with highly incompetent incumbent President to bring that perfect storm to Category 5 status reveals some very key limitations within our goals and expectations.  Electing a President promising transformational reform is not sufficient.  We must also elect stronger, better, more effective Representatives and Senators, too.  We know, now more than ever, that a President can propose anything, but he or she cannot vote and cannot through force of will break up logjams or counter the inertia of committee and counter-productive partisan posturing.                        

Process is beholden to policy wonkery and, rest assured, I do not deny the importance of knowing the existing framework, also.  The best Senators, for example, are masters of that chamber’s rules and in so doing utilize their encyclopedia knowledge of said fact to push legislation in the direction they feel is best.  However, process can also result in stubborn inflexibility and a wanton disregard towards changing course when what is being tried clearly is not working.  Process individuals often feel utterly rudderless and lost when their carefully formulated theories prove insufficient or ill-equipped in a changing environment.  Complacency in any form is anathema to any movement or any organization.  What some fail to understand is that reform is a constant process with no end because those who oppose reform constantly redraw the battle lines to suit their own desires.  My own hope is that we may have recognized finally that letting things get this bad for so long provides us with challenges so large and so looming that even getting the minimum passed and enacted provides a supreme challenge.  Had we not buried our head in the sand all these years, our plates and portions would be of much more manageable size.  Above all, we cannot and must not ever assume for an instant that victory is owed to us based on moral high ground or that any battle can be won so conclusively that we have nothing else to do but swap combat stories and reminisce about the good old days.        

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