Politics and Governance

Leadership in America


The January 8 shooting in Arizona was a tragedy. A democratic society cannot condone political violence, and all sides of the political spectrum quickly condemned the attack. Yet, instead of uniting people, this event had a polarizing effect on a nation struggling to reach a political consensus on a just about every issue. The left blamed this attack on right's fiery rhetoric, and the right deflected such attacks by making them seem like an assault on the First Amendment. On the other hand, the right distanced itself from some who have made the most vitriolic pronouncements and blamed the usual "liberal agenda" for a degrading society.

A less personal, but also tragic event is now unfolding in Wisconsin. In a democracy a legitimately elected government has the (people's) authority to conduct government operations. This includes passing budgets and laws. The people of Wisconsin, elected 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats to their senate. The Republican majority is not due to a coup or an oppressive security force which dictated the election outcome. The Democrats lost because their story was not as convincing and their way of dealing with it: Walk away and stop a democratically and fairly elected government from functioning. We can blame the rhetoric of either side for causing this, but the bottom line is the same: Both sides are behaving like upset children at the playground.

Democrats and Republicans are both trying to define what it means to be American. Yet there seems very little interest in compromise or admitting that the other side may have a point. Partisan voting habits across the country illustrate that point clearly. I doubt the Founding Fathers of this nation agreed on everything when they were drafting the Constitution. There was debate and – ultimately – consensus. It is from this exercise that leaders in American society should take their cue.

John Gardner once said, "What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems." No matter how challenging and how divergent the views, consensus must be  possible – it is the only option in a democratic society. But that is clear. However, one question still remains: Are there any true leaders on either side of the debate?

One reply on “Leadership in America”

I’m a Democrat who never saw Barack Obama as a Messiah because like him I aerlady have one. I am a Democrat who realizes Barack Obama is facing a combination of problems the likes of which no president has faced before because the Brooklyn neighborhood where I live has had to deal with the realities of these problems since Reagan.I’m a Democrat who recognizes Barack Obama has made the right if not popular decisions because I remember it was a horse-trading Texan, not a millionaire from Boston, MA who got the Civil Rights Act through Congress.I’m a Democrat who knows how mean Republicans can be because I know when they’re talking about taking America back they’re talking about taking it back to a day when people who look like me had to step in the street when people who look like them walked by. I also know how mean Democrats can be because I watched how the party establishment treated Barack Obama before he became inevitable.I’m a Democrat who finds Barack Obama’s positive thinking a Godsend because I have long tired of the Democrats’ eight long years of whining about the Bush Administration while the majority of them decided to imitate their Republican counterparts.The glass half full syndrome is not peculiar to Democrats. It is part of the American psyche which is conditioned to believe it is normal to want what it wants when it wants it.I don’t think the White House thinks I’m stupid because for once the White House has someone who has experienced some of my reality first hand. I think it is those who see America solely from the vantage point of White male privilege (a point of view not only held by Whites or males) be they on the right or the left who think the Democrats are in trouble for any of the five reasons listed above.If and I do mean if the Democrats (now read Democratic Party) are in trouble it’s because they didn’t see what Barack Obama’s win really was: a chance to finally say welcome to the Fannie Lou Hamers of society as well as those of us in the party who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. But they couldn’t and they didn’t and that’s the trouble.Rev. Anna Taylor Sweringen

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