True Leadership in American Politics Requires Informed Voters
I have always been a political junkie. I mean, I love keeping abreast of both the local and national political scene. It intrigues me how citizens like you and I can rise to positions of power in local, state, and federally elected offices. Currently, we are witnessing a historic national democratic primary, facilitated by two popular candidates. On one hand, you have Illinois state senator Barack Obama who enjoys an almost rock star appeal. On the other hand, you have New York state senator Hillary Clinton who is using all of her power and influence to try to reclaim the White House. Now, I would agree that to the average political junkie like me (republican, democrat, or independent), this primary season is entertaining to say the least. Nevertheless I question, does the attainment of political office in today’s political atmosphere inspire leadership in our elected officials? Some may answer yes, citing former mayor of New York City, Rudolph Guliani’s handling of 9/11 as proof that American politicians are leaders. However, I’m not so easily convinced.
I am not so quick to agree with such arguments because even though American politicians have been using the term leadership in their campaigns since forever, I don’t think that we the American people require our elected officials to be true leaders. And when I say true leaders, I mean those that govern based on sound thinking, courage, vision, compassion, and don’t bow to the pressures of doing or saying whatever is necessary to be elected. For ever American politician that one can cite as having these qualities, there is another that displays the opposite. If this is the case, how can American voters decide on who to vote for in elections and shift the political conversation from simply elected officials to true elected leaders?
This question is hard to answer for the average American voter as political campaigns are loaded with high-priced consultants, pollsters, and spin doctors, all aimed to confuse you but still garner your vote. Every political season, American voters are bombarded with flyers, phone calls, advertisements, and pundits telling us either who we should vote for, or what issues should matter most to us. With this constant diet of propaganda, it is no wonder that so many Americans are disenfranchised with the political process and don’t vote on Election Day. However, the problem with this approach is that when we don’t vote, we are turning over our collective voice to the small percentage (relative to the total American population) that do vote. This means that any given candidate can get elected and claim to be a leader, simply by appealing to his/her party’s base (core voting group), leaving those that did not vote out in the cold if their views don’t coincide with the newly elected politician’s.
So, how do we demonstrate our collective voice and force our elected officials to govern as true leaders so that we get a political system that energizes the American public to participate? Well first off, you have to become an informed citizen. Informed in regards to:
How the political system works (the roles of the three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive)
How laws are created and passed
What the local, state, and federal election issues are, and how they can potentially impact you
Which candidates are running for which offices, and their corresponding platforms
In order to achieve all of this, that’s right, you have to research and read. I can’t stress this enough.
Doing your own research more than any other means of processing information, will remove your ignorance and disenfranchisement pertaining to our political process.
After learning about the political process, issues, candidates, and their platforms, you should observe the candidates in debates. Determine what you like and dislike about their responses, alliances, posture, appearance, etc. Listen to the political pundits as well, but not so they can determine for you, who to vote for, but for them to add to your wealth of information regarding the candidates and the issues at play. They may have access to information that you may not.
Also, try and discuss your political views in situations where you feel it is safe to exchange ideas without persecution or judgment so that you can get different perspectives regarding a given candidate or issue as it relates to other citizens that may not necessarily share your views because of a difference in background. But do be clear that this may be difficult for some to do because politics can be a testy subject to discuss if the environment is not supportive of open and diverse points of view.
Finally, vote!!!!!!! Vote for the issues or candidates that best serve you and your constituents’ purposes. Our elected officials can be true leaders if those that are voting make informed choices. Only then can the politicians that are put in office be expected to lead. Think about this as you evaluate those running for office in your hometown, state, and national offices this coming November.
After years of self-inquiry and discovery, coupled with significant academic research in the field of leadership development, Dr. Barrett, Ph.D., M.S. is now ready to teach individuals and organizations what it takes to become a leader utilizing an inside-out approach.
George Carlin brings TRUTH to the masses using comedy. Rest in Peace George.
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