Hope in Political Leadership – Yours


What does John McCain have to do to turn around this election?  What does Obama need to do to hold on to his lead?  Better yet:  What do we have to do as everyday leaders to emerge as better citizens with a stronger democracy?  Start, I suppose, by asking that question: What do WE do?

As we took a break from visiting my mom after her successful heart surgery, two of my sisters – the political extremes among the seven of us siblings – engaged with each other about the race, abortion, racism, and experience.  Wow, that was precarious!  And heated.  It’s hard when our models for these conversations are people like Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olberman who are great at ranting and exaggerating and distorting, but mostly listen only to find a word or phrase they can twist and turn to their advantage.  Remarkably, my sisters managed to fight the inevitable human and familial tendencies to fight or flee, to try to overwhelm the other or to flat-out give up in frustration.  I believe that just such conversations are essential for all of us, critical for our democracy.

The negativity and inaccuracies emerging in the final weeks of campaign TV are absurd.  The dumbing down to Joe the Plumber, and (seriously), Al the Dairy Man, aren’t just insulting.* If unchecked by us, we will ensure that we’ll get more and worse thrown at us.  If we don’t create a sensible middle, a common sense discussion, a more honest dialogue, then we will only make ourselves more vulnerable next time to distortion and ridiculous pandering.  Would a candidate PLEASE tell us where we’ll have to sacrifice, or where they’ll truly cut?  Well they will, but only if we show – or create – enough sophistication and maturity among ourselves to give them hope that Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) was wrong in A Few Good Men, when he said, “you can’t handle the truth.”

So, talk, but especially LISTEN to a neighbor in these last two weeks.  See if you can handle their truth.  See through honest, unaccusing questions if they can handle their truth when it’s tested by someone who takes their words seriously.  Maybe we can find some common ground and some courage to face the really challenging issues that lies in front of us!

Open-eyed and open-minded,

Lead with your best self,




  • Your points are well taken. However, the one difficulty I see is the inability of most to undertake critical thinking. That is why the character attacks on Sen. Obama work. As he so aptly stated: “Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.” People go with their beliefs and have considerable difficulty looking at the issues with a discerning eye. Whether those beliefs are racial, political, or religious they seem to override one’s ability to think beyond the belief.

    I really think Sen. Obama has attempted to keep the attacks on Sen. McCain limited to his policies and issues. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin however have attempted to use illogical connections on the issue of character. I’ve always felt such tactics say more about the character of the attacker than the person attacked. They demean the attacker.

    • I agree with your comment completely.

      It is very difficult to take the higher ground when you are consantly being attacked. The only way to silence the critics is to vote!

      Vote your conscience and don’t complain if your candidate didn’t win because you failed to do your part! We need to participate in the political process, not watch it from the sidelines. I for one, hold all my elected officials responsible for representing my concerns.

      The TIP Lady

  • I’m amused by your story about your sisters. My mother was Republican and my father Democrat, so my sister, my brother and I should have come out in the middle, you might think. However, I’m quite sure my brother is conservative, although I never hear anything political from him. I’m pretty much a moderate with some liberal leanings. But, my sister is far right conservative. And, to my dismay, she loves to forward every right leaning email broadcast she receives, whether it has any truth to it or not. I’ve been a bit surprised by this because she had a career in teaching.

    However, I’ve decided that maybe I’m the one who makes the electoral decisions because my vote can be won! My sister will always vote Republican, as many do. And, stauch Democrats will always vote Democratic. But Moderates will vote for who they think is the best candidate. So maybe Moderates are the real “deciders.”

    And yet, every vote counts and everyone should vote.

  • A couple weeks ago, Rep. John Lewis — who was a victim of violent segregation in the 1960’s — made a comment about how verbal “violence” can lead to physical violence. Rep. Lewis chose a poor choice of words by mentioning Gov. George Wallace as an example, but I think his overall thought was correct. Not only can words hurt people, but they truly can — and have — led to violence and major conflicts in the past.

    Similarly, I can’t help but think about one of the best television series of all time, Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.” As those of you who watched that series may recall, in the concluding episode, someone asked, “When did the Civil War end”? The conclusion among most of those asked: The Civil War has NOT ended. And not just among black and white, because the Civil War literally saw family members splitting up on the opposite sides. Literally, Brother against Brother. (And I capitalize intentionally, because while it related to individuals, it also related to Mankind.) You may also know that at the end of the war, the Confederacy offered freedom to Blacks who chose to fight for the Southern cause, so it really had become a different issue than when the war began. Also, one can’t help but notice this theory … that the Civil War did not end … when looking at the blue states and the red states on the electoral map.

    We need a President who will represent all of us, regardless of where we live. We should object not only to those who call the East Coast states the “liberal elite,” but also to those who think Iowans, Kansans, Alaskans … and even Michiganians … are a bunch of backwoods bumpkins. We must truly hang together, or in this time of crisis, hang separately.

    • I feel compelled to comment on your post, as I was born in Detroit, am proud of my heritage, both as a Michigander as well as my Ottawa Indian and French lineage. I migrated to the south (if Florida can be considered such) in 1974, after high school, then moved to Virginia, in the Blue Ridge mountains, in the winter of ’88.
      Your “east coast liberal elites” made me laugh…..you obviously don’t know about the Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberston et al influence. At least in my “East Coast” state location, They’d prefer to hang liberals around the fence of the NASCAR tracks. The blind sheep followers of the GWB regime, and the outrageous infusuion of enthusiasm for that woman, the notorious Caribou Barbie, makes an intelligent person want to throw up. However, I will continue, with pride, to wear my Obama ’08 t-shirt, and place a lovely Obama/Biden poster in my front pasture…..yes, as in farm pasture. I probably will lose some respect from folks I genuinely like because of my staunch support of Obama, but I’ll let the chips fall where they may.

      Dan, please let your fellow potilical comrads know that the hard working AMERICANS, regardless of either party affiliation, are very concerned about the Socialism movement, and that the handouts, welfare programs for both corporations that do not need them, and the career welfare recipients (lazy/scamming Americans) who rely on welfare to support their unproductive lives need to be curtailed. FISCAL CONSERVATISM is what America is demanding, from Washington D.C. If Obama doesn’t adhere to this mindset, he needs to be impeached.

  • I have a couple things to say about this weeks blog.

    The events of Joe the Plumber have nothing to do with Joe the Plumber. The serious red flag is what Obama said. He wants to fix our ecomomy by redistributing the wealth through tax increases on individuals and corporations alike. This is socialistic rhetoric that we do not need and would be a horrible policy.

    You asked where they are going to cut? Well the only candidate that has promised cuts is McCain and the only candidate that has promised to increase spending especially in an Obama/Pelosi/Reid administration is Obama.

    The choice is very claer. We need real reform and change. Not justs words and more inefficient government programs.

    • Seems the Republicans have redistributed wealth over the past 8 years by making sure that Texas oilMEN and Exxon stockholders get lots of tax breaks while the working poor get poorer. Most of us in Michigan don’t need that kind of redistribution of wealth, exploiting the poor to make the rich richer.

      Seems like it’s the initiative of this Republican administration that has socialistically bought up bank stocks.

      As for McCain’s promises, they’re a fairy tale! If he wanted reform and change, why did he vote for George Bush’s initiatives 90% of the time?

      As for what we can do? Continue to seek out the truth, iterate the truth, ask questions, inform ourselves of the facts at the local, state, and national levels, and then vote responsibly. Most importantly, we need to set aside fear. Brains don’t operate well on fear. They go into fight, flight, or freeze mode–the equivalent of a lizard brain. It’s only when we set aside fears that higher functions are available because the reticular activating system is not in charge. Vote intelligently, please! Not out of fear. No matter how much fearmongering there is and has been since 9/11. We threw away our civil rights out of fear and now we’re mortgaging our grandchildren’s future out of fear. It’s not helpful

      • It is amazing that Gov Granholm is able to stand by for 7 years and not attract any meaningful business into MI while other states in the country have brought business in. You can try to blame bush for MI troubles but Granholm has been asleep at the wheel.

        She has raised taxes further punishing an already beaten citizenry which has plunged us further in the whole like taxes always do. Her redistribution of wealth has not worked and either will Obama’s.

  • Dan, the answer to your two questions, “What does John McCain have to do to turn around this election? What does Obama need to do to hold on to his lead?” is convince Boomer Women to vote for them on Nov. 5th.

    White women age 45 to 64 are one of this year’s most hotly contested voting blocs, evenly divided between Barack Obama and John McCain, and wide open to being pulled either way, according to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll.

    A sizable 44 percent of them remain persuadable–that is, either completely undecided or favoring one candidate while conceding they may change their minds. That’s bigger than the 33 percent of all voters still persuadable!

    About one is six voters in the 2004 presidential election was a white woman in that age range, exit polls showed. These are the Boomer women–middle-aged children of the post-World War II generation. Many are veterans of balancing jobs with running households, and often acutely aware of their families’ economic pressures because they write the checks, buy the groceries and fill the tank with gas.

    These Boomer women are valued and needed to exercise their responsibility, serious work ethic, “can do” attitude and competitiveness in stopping the bankruptcy of their country. They need to exercise their leadership capabilities in finding, promoting and voting for the best political candidate in 2008 who is for sound money, reasonable tax policies, and ready, willing and able to fight terrorism the way Canada, Sweden and Switzerland do.

    They are feisty, used to demanding answers and making choices. With a worldwide economy that’s lurching toward recession, they’re demanding that the presidential candidates show them concrete solutions to the financial crisis and other problems.

    As a group, these middle-aged white women have not yet been swayed by either contender in contrast to black and Hispanic women, who back Obama by the same heavy proportions that minority-group men do. They’re split between McCain and Obama, and identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans in about equal numbers, the AP-GfK poll showed.

    While voters overall trust Obama more than McCain on the economy, Boomer women in the AP-GfK poll are about equally split over which candidate they prefer on the issue, though they narrowly say Obama better understands how the financial crisis affects them.

  • I absolutely agree with Dr. Riggs: yes, it appears that critical thinking has taken a back seat to the politics of intimidation. As usual, the Republicans are using scare tactics to influence voters rather than concentrating on the issues, thereby forcing Sen. Obama to decry the “politics of division” (although I will give credit to Sen. McCain for taking the microphone away from the lady who called Obama an “Arab” & noting that he (Obama) was a decent family man). This reminds me of the Willie Horton ads in the 1988 campaign.

  • Two thoughts from today’s important Reading.
    – As a Democrat and supporter of Sen. Obama, I have been dismayed by how hard it is to have a reasonable conversation with other Democrats about the candidates. Many people I have talked to about the difficulties facing our country have responded with stereotypes about Republicans that are as one-sided and narrow-minded as the comments being made by many Republicans about Sen. Obama. It’s great that people on each side are enthusiastic supporters of their candidate. However, people on both sides are prone to exaggeration and blindered thinking.
    – Dan’s call to lead with our best selves is the only cure. As frustrated as I am with “them” (whoever they may be) the message I will take today is to continue to try to have thoughtful conversations, to listen, to express my views clearly and respectfully. It’s advice worth taking in any complicated situation too, not only politics.

    So thanks to everyone for the comments here.

  • Dan, it is ironic to address the current state of our political process in the framework of your Web site, so devoted to leadership. What I have seen and heard from both sides in this election causes me to despair that even the ghost of leadership remains. If either candidate actually was able to implement the policies and programs described in their speeches, debates, and literature, an additional 3 to 5 trillion dollars would be added to the national debt. Obviously, neither man believes the goodies will be delivered, yet so many Americans believe with an almost religious fervor. Is it any wonder we become so jaded and disappointed with our incumbent politicians? They promise the moon and deliver less than a flicker of starlight.
    One may have to look back as far as Harry Truman to find a career politician willing to state an obvious (and politically dangerous) fact and to stick to it despite the consequences. Senators McCain and Obama have shown us their shiny new cars, and touted the wonderfully low monthly payments. Why won’t they talk about that balloon payment looming ahead (hopefully coming due during the NEXT administration)? Why won’t they talk about the common sense idea of larger payments now to save the future? Because in the current marketing-driven political reality of our system, it would be career suicide.
    This is campaigning with a credit card, purchasing our votes with pie-crust promises and borrowed pie filling. Our current financial crisis is the ugly morning after the wonderful credit party in the housing market. Imagine the rude awakening following an election based on vapor, innuendo, and empty promises!
    Dan, I apologize for the rant, but I grow tired of the mixture of LA Confidential and Fantasy Island. Send them your book and hope somebody read it!

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