Good policy makes good politics
Q: Although Washington D.C. residents give Mayor Adrian Fenty high marks for improving schools and other city services, he's fighting an uphill battle for reelection this week because he is seen as having ignored the traditional political process. Yet President Obama's popularity is also suffering precisely because his patient working of a broken Congressional process limited his accomplishments, diminished his stature and alienated his political base. How should leaders balance the often conflicting demands of achieving dramatic results and building consensus?
Any "leader" who strives to merit the title must operate from the premise that good policy makes good politics. He or she must then use the communicative skills that won office in the first place to persuade constituents that the controversial policies are, in fact, good. The challenge in a free society arises from the fact that there can be good faith disagreement over whether a given policy is in fact a good one, and people frequently change their minds on that subject. In the final analysis, a losing incumbent may be able to console himself over having lost if all along the way he championed what he was convinced was the right course, but can hardly do so if he loses even after compromising his principles. It now appears that an abnormally large number of incumbents will have that opportunity in November.
September 14, 2010; 9:38 AM ET
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