Another Election Day is in the books. We can stare at the carnage, the breakthroughs, the piles of cash thrown into the winds of political expediency … or we can look ahead to the challenges that will determine the political future.
I choose to look forward in this post, although those piles of cash … estimated at $4 billion for the 2014 general election … is a disturbing image in my rearview mirror.
Nationally, it was a bad day for the Democrats. Losing control of the U.S. Senate (52-45 Republicans, 2 Independents, Louisiana’s race into a runoff) and now facing a 65-seat Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
No doubt this was a referendum on President Obama and his administration, most particularly his Leadership or more appropriately the lack thereof. In some parts of the world, such polling would result in a coalition-busting dissolution of Government and the forming of new coalitions.
OK … So maybe I am glancing back at Tuesday’s carnage. Maybe in a bit of satisfaction … but you have to know where you are to get where you want to go.
My post-election quandary can be stated quite succinctly:
My kingdom for a Leader!
In my home state of Pennsylvania, the same storyline – described above – played out in the Governor’s race, only this time in favor of the Democrats. No confidence in Governor Tom Corbett led to a loss of support across all demographic groups except those over the age of 65.
Now that he’s been elected, the real problem for Tom Wolf is he is faced with the same Republican-dominated legislature that denied Corbett some of his most cherished legislative initiatives, like liquor privatization and taking action on the State’s unsustainable public pension problem.
How will Mr. Wolf provide Leadership for a legislature completely controlled by the opposition party? (Hint: Don’t look to The White House for an example!)
Leadership … a quality many believe our President fails to possess in any way, shape, or form. From his refusal to get acquainted even with the Democrats in Congress, his hands-off management style, an administration fumbling the basic functions of government, and his failure to take quick, decisive action in times of international crisis, President Obama set out the finest silverware when inviting the poll whooping Democrats received last Tuesday.
Leadership … the one trait you want any Chief Executive to demonstrate regardless of whether you voted for them or against.
Tom Wolf will have his opportunity to show what kind of Leader he can be. Can he work with those across the aisle, as he must to be successful? Will he be able to build relationships with his powerful political opposition? Can Wolf set a tone of Leadership that will allow him to cultivate alliances with a Republican Legislature and get things done?
Wolf’s off to a rocky start, choosing divisive Katie McGinty, Pennsylvania’s former Environmental Protection Secretary, as his Chief-of Staff and throwing down the gauntlet on Medicaid expansion, which the PA Legislature is all too aware will only be partially funded by Washington after the first years.
Not exactly your political olive branches …
The President, given what we have seen over the past six years, most likely will not even try leading with the fully Republican-controlled Congress. He will give lip service to working together and the fine Art of Compromise. But in the wake of an election where most Congressional Democrats treated Obama like he himself was Ebola-infested, it’s doubtful the message from Tuesday’s shellacking will resonate with the country’s Chief Executive.
No, it’s far more likely he will give Congressional Republicans his best Cheshire cat smile while all along fingering the nuclear option … government-by-executive-fiat.
Now despite my proclivity to criticize Democrats, nothing here absolves our esteemed Republican representatives in Harrisburg or in Washington, D.C. from showing a bit of Leadership themselves. In fact, it would be a breath of fresh air if perhaps we can expect the same kind of across-the-great-divide behavior from our legislative majorities!
As a close admirer (?) of mine recently cautioned, taking those first steps should never require that one abandon core principles. And I agree. But core principles rarely get anything accomplished on their own. They are anchors that should define one’s approach to policy. It’s the recognition of those principles as a foundation for making sound decisions and – when appropriate – suitable compromise that result in getting The People’s work done.
And somewhere in between perhaps the twain shall meet!
As I searched for a pithy way to wrap this up, I wanted something that would best characterize the implications of what occurred in voting booths this week and how it defines our political near-future, particularly for Mr. Wolf and our Pennsylvania State Legislator. (Unfortunately, I have given up on the D.C. crowd.)
Instead of referring to the wisdom of Aristotle, Benjamin Disraeli, or Napoleon Bonaparte, I stumbled on this little gem written just weeks ago by a Lt.Col. Stacy Clements, Deputy Commander, 821st Air Base Group in a commentary on Leadership from the cozy confines of Thule Air Base, Greenland.
To me, it says it all …
Some relevant excerpts:
As a leader, you need to take the initiative to solve problems, take action to get results, and take ownership of the responsibility for getting things done.
As a leader, your actions can inspire and influence others – or can create a toxic environment where work may get done, but not as effectively as it could be. To help and influence others, you need to be trustworthy and approachable; try to understand those you lead, what motivates them, and be open to helping them achieve their goals.
Don’t focus all your attention on the image in the mirror – focus your efforts on making things better and helping people become better. Remember, it’s not about you, but it is up to you.
Hopefully, someone will take the advice!