Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Split Electorate is Not Extreme

... and 61 million votes is not a mandate

Over the course of my 2012 campaign for U.S. House, I heard it repeatedly from voters, poll workers, and politicians alike: we're all tired of polarized partisan politics. But the political ads we heard on radio, saw on television, and received in the mail did nothing but reinforce polarizing partisanship. Our self-anointed political "leaders"did little in the way of leading as they pushed voters toward alienation and disgust.

As the newcomer, I walked into the process and environment with eyes and ears wide open. By nature, I am an optimist but a realist – knowing that ideals must lead us but not blind us to practicality.

What I saw was an electorate eager for straight talk, intelligent discussion, and centrist leaders. What they got was fingerpointing, clich├ęs, and short shrift from polarizing politicians that seemed to have better things to do than bothering to lead or talk about issues at length with their potential voters.

In the 2012 election 121 million people voted for a presidential candidate, which equates to:
  • 81 percent of registered voters (150 million)
  • 58 percent of eligible voters (210 million)
  • 38 percent of all Americans (315 million)
In the end, only 19 percent of all Americans voted for the eventual winner (61 million) – that's as many as there are non-registered eligible Americans.

As a business consultant I work toward a 80/20 solution, that is, I plan for and execute a solution that solves 80 percent of the perceived problem. And the 20 percent that's not solved? I work on solving that while implementing the 80-percent solution. It's a process that keeps the client moving forward, satisfying their requirements and their customers while continually discovering ways to solve the remaining 20 percent. And since businesses and customers are ever-changing and dynamic, there will always be new hurdles to face that call for applying the 80/20 approach again and again.

Governing is no different. But politicians want to claim victories and imagine mandates or carte blanche where none is given; they long for legacy whereas the only rewards are morphing issues and more hard work.

The only mandate given in any election is to do the people's work. The Congresses in recent years have not done the people's work and our political leaders have not led. Does that make me cynical and disheartened? No, because the power for action is within us; I saw and heard that from voters entering the polls this fall. People voted for me – the unknown, inexperienced independent – because I am one of them and offer a clearheaded, intelligent alternative.

Winston Churchill said, "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." I see the opportunity for real change – not change from Politician Red to Politician Blue or vice versa, but change that serves us all. Positive change results in shared benefits; it's not a zero-sum game. I hope we share many conversations and that "we the people" share from the change that results.