Members of Congress–Watch @AOC and Learn…

I read this @USAtoday story and had to laugh “The House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee is hosting a session Thursday morning with Ocasio-Cortez of New York (@AOC – 2.42 million followers) and Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut (@jahimes – 76,500 followers) ‘on the most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling.’”  

Members of Congress, it’s not about how to use Twitter, it’s about how to lead! 

I’m center-right politically, and I don’t agree with some of @AOC’s views on issues, however, I do have a great deal of respect for her leadership abilities.

As a side note, I don’t disagree with what Himes is quoted as saying, “The older generation of members and senators is pretty clueless on the social media platforms”.  Just review the senate’s embarrassing questions at the Zuckerberg hearing and you will see plenty of “clueless” senators … However, Congress is totally missing the point in regard to @AOC’s momentum and it will bite each of them during their next election cycle if they don’t wake up—The point is @AOC is showing leadership—watch and learn!

Congress–your constituents are people… not objects!

@AOC is listening and talking to people—Twitter is just one of her preferred communication tools.  Here is the point–Many of today’s politicians tend to treat constituents as ‘objects‘ versus ‘people’ with hopes, dreams, and pains. Remember back when Bill Clinton engaged with a person directly at a 1992 town hall meeting—he talked with people. @AOC resonates because she is having a conversation with ‘people’.

Members of Congress–stop labeling people (i.e.  ‘deplorables’, ‘Trump’s base’, ‘the Democrats’, ‘the Republicans’, ‘Men’, ‘Women’, ‘Black’, ‘White’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘LGBTQ’ etc..), fight for what you believe is right for your ‘people’.

Congress—we don’t want ‘managers’ we want ‘leaders’

Management’ is about systems, processes, policies, and resources (what all those federally appointed officials manage daily…) but ‘leadership’ is about vision, inspiration, values, and people.  Leaders deal with management short-falls– Basically, leadership is required when the systems and process do not work…. Leadership is required when the policies are not applicable or do not exist… Leadership is required when there are not enough resources to accomplish the task…

In 2019, being an effective member of Congress requires you to have an open dialog with people, take a stand on issues you believe in, simplify complicated subjects and educate others, build consensus regardless of party and admit when you are wrong (and don’t take credit when you are right).

Regardless if you agree with @AOC or not… learn from her because she is showing you what we expect from members of Congress in 2019.

Hope…

Preface: I’ve always respected well-practiced leadership principles—they were drilled into me during my time as a mid-level manager at Microsoft and I have built very strong opinions. With this background, I must say I find our President’s leadership unacceptable on many levels.  However, this set of notes is not meant to promote a conservative or a liberal position.  These notes have one goal – to find a glass-is-half-full position and to test those positions over time.

If you are wondering about my bias: I’ve always been fiscally conservative (i.e. lower taxes, reduced government spending, minimal government debt, free trade, and deregulation of the economy etc..) yet socially liberal (i.e. support universal healthcare, SMART poverty programs, investment in education, gay marriage, abortion, cannabis legalization etc..)—…and I believe good managers of resources can make both work!

Backdrop: On our family’s vacation in Europe this past summer we had dinner with the owner of a bed and breakfast where we stayed for a few days.  Over the course of a great meal, the owner edged the discussion to the current US political landscape and he made the following statement that stuck with me–“the USA is getting a long-needed enema” … “The USA’s [government] system is strong enough to handle such an invasion and this Presidents’ flaws will highlight your country’s strengths.”  I didn’t quite agree (I had a much more negative view at the time), but I’m starting to understand where he was coming from. I started to find the light recently when a good friend (HR executive and minority) said to me, “the racists were always there but it was hard to know who they were prior to this President, and now they are out in the open.”  Another friend (ex-CIA) said “I look at him [the President] much like a plumber fixing a broken overflowing toilet—I don’t care if he smells, shows his crack, or even tells racist jokes… I just want the toilet fixed and the crap cleaned up [in our government].”  I’m used to hearing people that have little underlying facts regurgitate what they have heard the night before on Fox News or MSNBC and I generally ignore them, but the friends I referenced above are highly educated people that have spent a great deal of time analyzing the US government and our political system.

So, after thinking about this quandary for a while I thought I’d write down some of the glass-is-half-full items that hopefully will come out of this President’s assault on the Executive Office to see if they stand the test of time.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller

I’ll group these items in 5 broad categories:

1.     More people will vote and get involved in politics

It seems that the President’s misogynist tendencies are driving more women to get involved—more are voting, and more are running and winning political office.  It started the day after the President was inaugurated when millions of women worldwide took to the streets in a massive show of resistance. But since that day the President has been accused more than once of silencing women with whom he had had extramarital affairs during his administration. His liaison director in the White House Communications Office accused the President of calling her a “dog”. The President has publicly defended advisors and friends when they have been accused of domestic violence and sexual harassment at work. He continues to insult television presenters, artists, and models. He mocked Dr. Ford’s testimony at the Kavanaugh hearings and insulted a reporter during a press conference at the White House after giving her the floor to state her question and stating, “I know you’re not thinking, you never do.”. At rally’s he’s called out the negative consequences of the #metoo movement saying, “It is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of,”. The hope is that the President’s misogyny provides fuel for the #metoo movement, and its positive impact on women’s rights, and will drive more women to get involved in politics.  Things look hopeful because a record number of women have run and won primaries for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and governorships this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, and a record number of women have also won nominations for state legislatures. (more)

It seems that the President’s well-documented racist comments are driving more minorities to vote, especially after his remarks about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville–As of August 2018, PBS found nearly 100 examples bridging on racial discrimination. According to the African American Research Collaborative, who surveyed African-Americans immediately before the 2018 mid-term elections, “9 out of 10 African-Americans surveyed on the eve of the election said they were voting or had already voted early for a Democrat in the congressional races, up from 77 percent who said so in July”. The hope is that more minorities vote and run for office and it seems to be working since an unprecedented number of Latinos ran for office in the 2018 primaries.

And then, we can only hope that the President’s hundreds (if not thousands) of bold lies and authoritarian tendencies (admiration for dictators) will wake up those that are considered ‘supporters’ to the fact that he is highly likely mentally unstable—and it looks like this is slowly happening. The fear about these unstable characteristics are also hopefully driving more people overall to the polls–We saw this during the 2018 midterm elections which aren’t usually known for high levels of turnout. On average, roughly 40% of eligible voters cast a ballot in a midterm. At least, that was the case from 1982 until this year, when an estimated 49% of the nation’s voting-eligible population (about 116 million people) cast a ballot, according to a preliminary analysis by the U.S. Elections Project.

2.     The quality of our US Congress will go up

This is a simple point—The President had a huge effect on the 2018 midterm elections.  Our US Congress is well documented as being broken by many intellectuals that would know (more) (more) (more).  The hope is that the turnover (the two-year congressional term ending in 2018 had the third-highest rate of turnover since 1974) and the 114 women that won will take on these challenges.  Congress is also getting younger which is well needed—after all, did you watch the Mark Zuckerberg hearings? Every person under 50 was embarrassed for our Senate’s lack of understanding of the Internet.

3.     We will have less bias in our media

Millions of citizens get their information, and form their opinions, by watching cable television or reading internet media sites. The US media systematically skews reporting in a way that crosses standards of professional journalism due to strong profit-making incentives by drawing conservative OR liberal audiences for infotainment versus news and monetizes those audiences with advertisers (see the bias here).  Rupert Murdoch, the owner and executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox (the parent of Fox News), self-identifies as a “libertarian” and exerts a strong influence over the media he owns (more on the Fox News effect here). Comcast owns NBC and the Xfinity cable system as well the MSNBC cable channel has a known liberal bias. These arguments intensified when it is revealed that both parties receive donations from these same organizations.

On February 17, 2017, our President tweeted “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

The hope is that by our President calling attention to media bias (even though how he is doing it is twisted and self-serving) our citizens will recognize the undue influence of the outlets and begin to understand that they are being manipulated by one-sided propaganda.

4.     We will have a better understanding of the weaknesses in our systems

Yes, partisan elected officials should not be in charge of the election administration process… yes, money has had a very corruptive influence on our Capitalism (see Citizens United)… yes, granting 2 senators from a rural state such as Wyoming (population 580,000 ) the same representation as California (home to 39 million) makes no sense—this list goes on and on… However, this is not the issue!  The risk to democracy occurs when: “A nationalist leader gets elected by playing on public fears and anxieties, then uses the election as a hijacking tool by asserting a democratic mandate to centralize power by controlling or undermining pluralist institutions that stand in the way – a free media, an independent judiciary, a diverse civil society, civil liberties, and minority rights.  What’s left is the shell of democracy.” “He’s [our current President] labeled journalists “enemies of the people” and assaulted the mainstream media as purveyors of fake news.  He’s challenged the independence of the judiciary and smeared the integrity of judges.  He’s attacked civil society by claiming massive voter fraud, challenging the voting rights of millions of Americans, and discounting minority voters by supporting the gerrymandering of their election districts.  And he’s abused the power of the presidency by putting pressure on the FBI Director to drop an investigation of a former Trump White House official, then firing the Director for investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the Presidential election.” – HumanityInAction.ogr

If you don’t believe in the President, then believe in the system! Our Constitution divided the Government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial for something called checks and balances to make sure no one branch would be able to control too much power and to guard against tyranny. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty is this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.” — James Madison, The Federalist Papers

The hope is that we learn where our system is vulnerable and legislate fixes to strengthen our democracy.

5.     We will have a better understanding of the weaknesses in our society (Technology & Globalism)

Technology: Google, Facebook, and Twitter threaten our democracy by being abused and if left unchecked will continue to be used for political corruption.  These social media & search giants are beginning to understand their roles, but they are public companies that are driven by profitability and will always have their shareholders as their top priority. The hope is that we now understand these issues and take a thoughtful approach to new legislation.

Globalism has had both a positive and a negative impact.  Positive for corporations (and in turn employees) and negative for those displaced by the change.  Countries like China and India benefit where the US, UK, and EU may not—hence populism is taking hold across all those geographies.  China transformed peasant farmers into low-cost manufacturing workers, thereby reducing poverty but those jobs were at the cost of jobs in America’s Rust Belt.  India and western Europe’s $15/hour accounting, customer service, and technical skills replaced white-collar American workers earning $50+/hour.  These issues had a lot to do with the election of this President and can no longer be ignored–The hope is that we never again neglect these issues.

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” – Winston Churchill

Whether you are left or right leaning, respect our President or do not… Have hope, understand the bias and its motivations, respect others, know your facts and get involved!

Are you a member of the Common Sense party?

First of all, I love this country and all the opportunity it has provided me.   As a father, I now worry about the future and what kind of nation my son (and hopefully his grandchildren) will live and I want him to have all the same opportunities I have had over the years.    For that reason my vote means more to me this year than any other year I can remember.

Before I decided how I was going to cast my vote I thought a lot about what I wanted in my President and I’m writing those ideals down so I have a reference to come back to in 4 years.

Yea, and I had the Rolling Stones playing ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ in the background. 🙂

I want a President that believes a high national debt is bad and has an actionable strategy.   Our nation is living on a credit card and those debts must be paid back with interest eventually.   Right now we owe 42K for every person in the country.  That is significant.  Anyone that owns a credit card knows that eventually you can only afford to pay the interest and not the principal.

I want a President that believes Transparency is a priority.  I thought this article was a great analysis of the last 4 years.

I want the truth.   I don’t want ‘spin’.  I don’t want a President that distorts the truth for their party’s benefit.   The examples are endless and you can get a good glimpse of them at http://www.politifact.com.

I want a President that owns a problem and does not blame the other party….

I want a President that leads with vision, mission, strategy, objectives and results and not with fear. However I do want a President that believes that Intelligence and National Defense are a top priority.

I want a President that commits to a bipartisan approach.  The Congressional Quarterly who has tracked partisan votes since 1953, and its tallies show extreme levels of partisanship over the last 4 years.  I want this to change…  I want a President that can enable the American people to help them drive a bi-partisan agenda.   Something more like what Lyndon B. Johnson did with the civil rights bill when it was being blocked by the chairman of the House Rules Committee he reminded the nation that the GOP was the “Party of Lincoln” and brought huge numbers of people in to Washington to speak to congress.   This resulted in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.   I don’t want to hear “where I can work with them (Republicans), I will. Where they don’t want to compromise, I’ll work around them.”—see CNN.

I don’t want a President to push through their party’s agenda on the back of a crisis.   I was very disappointed when I heard Rahm Emanuel say “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”.   The comment just oozed with ‘we can slip a lot of our agenda through by piggy backing on this crisis’.

I want a President that believes government policy (law) is only necessary if a free market outcome is not fair (examples: providing healthcare to those that cannot afford it).  I don’t believe policy is necessary where the market works such as healthcare for those that can afford it.     I just don’t believe a government agency can manage healthcare as good as a commercial company can…  Many others can be found at Citizens against Government Waste and at The Cato Institutes ‘downsizing government’ site.

I want a President that believes government policy (law) should deal with Causes and not Symptoms (example: taking an aspirin treats the symptom of a fever, but the fever is usually caused by something more serious).   The “Cash for Clunkers” program was a great example of a policy directed toward a symptom versus the cause.  Not sure that was worth the 3 Billion we paid for it…  the 862 Billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Stimulus) was filled with policy that was dealing with symptoms (Coburn/McCain documented much of this in “Summertime Blues”).

I want a President that believes the US Tax collection system should be consistent (more in line with a flat tax).   People that earn more money should pay more in tax (not a higher % but the same as everyone else). The current system is antiquated and needs attention.  Taxes basically redistribute cash from those that earned the cash to those that need it more, as well as, pay for our national defense.  We all need to be paying the same rate.

I want a President that believes the size of the government should be limited based on a % of GDP.

I want a President that has a plan to work to be the best at k-12 education and continue to have the best colleges and universities in the world.

I want a President that believes we need to allow those people educated in our country to stay in our country to help our countries companies be successful. See here for more info.

I want a President that believes we need to make the US a great place to build a company.   There needs to be emphasis placed on corporate tax rates compared to other countries and fixing loopholes that allow large companies to pay little tax.   Startup America was a good program but that is not where the growth is in helping drive jobs.  The focus needs to be on middle market companies– The middle market contributes approximately $3.84 trillion to the U.S. private sector GDP.

I want a President that is against new legislation from congress filled with pork barrel spending.   Here is a list for 2012.

I want a President that is not going to drive a broad social agenda when we have so many other issues to prioritize at the Federal level.   Let the states deal with gay marriage and gun control.   I want a President that will choose a Supreme Court Justice that is balanced and not too liberal or conservative.

I am not a Republican or Democrat.  I’m a member of the ‘Common Sense’ party.