The Politics Of Change

By admin ~ March 10th, 2012 @ 3:48 am

Change has become the bedrock issue in the 2008 Presidential campaign. In response to economic uncertainty, an unpopular war, record low Presidential approval ratings, and a grid-locked Congress, the candidates all promise to change Washington. But who among them is the best-qualified to lead change? Can any of them really accomplish the changes they promise?

The process of change is challenging in an organization as gigantic as the U.S. government. Change has two parts: letting go of the old and embracing the new. That’s why today’s compromise-politics is failing miserably – it does neither. In compromise, both parties regret what they’ve given up and try to get it back in the next round of negotiations. For example, consider the economic stimulus package recently passed by Congress and signed by the President. Immediately after the bill became law, leaders from both parties renounced the bill saying it didn’t contain features they wanted. Both parties refused to let go of the old to embrace the new bill, and didn’t seek a third alternative – one that’s better for the country than either the partisan Democratic or Republican positions.

I’ve worked with the Executive Branch as a consultant since the Carter administration; and I was a Naval officer during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. In my experience, the most effective Presidents in effecting change where President Johnson, an insider with over 20 years in Congress, and President Reagan as an outsider with little Federal experience before his election. Therefore, neither an insider nor outsider has an edge in accomplishing change. Rather the traits those two Presidents shared were clarity in thinking, consistency in relationships, and perseverance in executing change. Relative to the 2008 election, the question isn’t whether Senators Clinton and McCain as insiders or Senator Obama as an outsider are more qualified to lead change. The question is: do they have the clarity, consistency and perseverance required to make change happen?

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