Real Leadership

I love my uncle. He’s got a lifetime of which he can be proud. A career devoted to teaching young adults how better to appreciate the world around them.

He still takes the time to try and improve my understanding of matters political. But on one thing he is just plain wrong – bless you, Norb. Drawing on all his conviction as a lifelong liberal, he declares that Bush is no leader.

I say my uncle is wrong.

Bush is every inch the leader. Full of strength and purpose. Sure of his direction. Filled with confidence. Never short of a word or gesture, with which to enroll others in his mission.

Now, he may be leading us all to heck in the wrong direction. But sure as there’s a burr in his saddle, George Bush is most definitely leading.

And I’m sad to say that the entire crop of declared Democratic Candidates for the White House, taken all together, have barely one-half of the leadership material in them that George Bush does. And that should frighten any true progressive.

The reason why Jonny Nascar and Wynette Walmart voted for George in two elections is that they saw a man who strapped on his spurs, set off in a particular direction – daring all others to follow him – and then brought home the oil.

Jonny and Wynette look at the Democrats – 2000, 2004 and now – and all they see are a bunch of preening pompadours, more concerned with whether or not they are perceived as being fauxthentic, than with actually being authentic.

Sure, you have to listen. Certainly, you have to ‘converse.’ And it would be nice – John, and the others – if you would, just for once, get off the podium, and do that ‘conversing’ with some real people in some real-life situations.

But there comes a time when, finally, you have to lead. When you have to leave the focus groups behind.

Leaders do not do the safe thing. They do what they believe to be the right thing – regardless of popularity. And George Bush, for all of his many faults, does that very thing.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time doing a fair bit of knocking in the early days of this blog. Frankly, there’s a lot to knock.

In coming weeks, I’m going to spend some time talking about me, and my own views as to how I would like to see our Democratic Candidates – and particularly John Edwards – doing their leading. It’s no good constantly asking John to reveal his ‘real’ persona, without giving at least a glimpse of mine.

Here’s something to chew on, in the meantime: we are all agreed (I hope) that 50 million people living in this country below the poverty line is an obscenity. It is a further obscenity that we are spending as much time and money as we are rebuilding a country the other side of the world, while we do so little about our own friends and neighbors.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day. It said: “The poor don’t have health care – please mug my neighbor for the funds.”

When did we stop being a nation of generous spirit and heart? When did we cease to be the country that asked the world to send us its poor and huddled masses?

When did we become a country that felt it deserved an economic policy based on greed; a social policy based on hatred; and a foreign policy based on revenge?

I don’t buy this narrow-minded meanness, and I don’t buy the narrow-minded people who are selling it to us. And I certainly won’t stand by quietly while the collective response of our Democratic Candidates is to answer narrow-mindedness with small-mindedness.

We have spent some $400 billion on Iraq. A one per cent tax raise across the board, personal and corporate, would raise about $200 billion.

I am no great lover of indiscriminate government spending – after all, I began my own political journey to progressivism at the feet of Margaret Thatcher in England. But there comes a time when a wrong is just that – a wrong. And when even Blind Bertie can see that money will be needed to right that wrong.

It would take a bold Democrat to come out and propose a one per cent tax increase. But boldness – in the right direction for a change – is what this country needs at the moment. It’s what ‘real’ people are crying out for.

The poor people that I know, and whom I am honored to call my friends, don’t want charity. They don’t want something for nothing. They want a helping hand; not a hand-out. A decent break; not a tax break. Is it really too much to ask? Is one per cent more really too much to ask?

If we learned anything from 2006, it is that the mood in this country has changed. More than half of Christian voters this time voted Democrat. Why? Because they finally got that American Family Values actually means taking care of all of America’s Families – particularly those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to take care of themselves.

Let us finally treat our fellow voters with respect, and credit them with the intelligence of knowing that with good intentions comes a bill – and let’s accept that a majority of the electorate is now ready to pay that bill.

Call it ‘investment.’ Call it ‘audacity of hope.’ Call it whatever you like. But we’ll be calling it a pipe-dream if our Democratic Candidates – you too, John – don’t start showing some sign of spine over the next two years.

Come 2008, mean spirit or no, Jonny and Wynette will vote Republican again if it’s the only ‘spirit’ on offer. Mark my words.

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Published in: on January 23, 2007 at 10:29 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. You hit the nail on the head as to why I usually vote Republican. Not that the GOP tends to be good leaders, but that they actually have some vague idea of where they’re headed. And a bad solution is better than no solution.

    Something to remember when discussing poverty, though: Poverty will always be here. Why? Because it’s *relative* poverty, not absolute poverty. Take an American living “below the poverty line” and compare them to someone who’s middle class in Europe 50 years ago and someone who’s rich in ancient Mesopotamia and someone who really does live in abject poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

    No, as long as your neighbor has something you want, you’re gonna see yourself as poorer. So excuse me for having little sympathy as long as you can feed yourself. It’s rough, yeah. We should do better, yeah. But it’s also not incumbent upon me to put myself out to the point of beggaring my own house if you’re not dying or starving.


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