Buck political pragmatism
Q: New Jersey's new Republican governor, Chris Christie, has forced cutbacks in pay for teachers and superintendents, capped local property taxes, cut pension benefits for state workers, canceled popular public works projects and closed a $11 billion state budget deficit. Yet in spite of these highly controversial initiatives and a blunt speaking style, his popularity in a heavily Democratic state is rising. What is the lesson here for other political leaders?
The lesson, simply put, is that the public has grown tired of politics as usual. Too often, our elected leaders shy away from hard choices for fear of political retribution. But as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and others across the nation are demonstrating every day, being unafraid to make the hard choices is what effective political leadership is really about.
While some controversial decisions may alienate certain special interests, the "silent majority" is becoming increasingly appreciative of leaders that are willing to stick their necks out for what they believe to be the correct course of action. And most Americans who have seen their pay, benefits and savings erode are frustrated with the lack of belt-tightening in governmental salaries, benefits and budgets.
It may be that Americans are finally ready to make sacrifices similar to those that have driven past greatness. Or, it may just be the breath of fresh air that politicians who seemingly don't play politics represent. But whatever the reason, the time has come for our elected leaders to recognize in their constituencies both the ability to see real problems for what they are and the willingness to do what must be done to solve them.
Are we on the cusp of a political environment in which Congress actually does something besides naming post offices during a midterm-election year? Probably not. But let's hope that the next Congress learns from current failings. In today's environment, it appears possible to make hard choices that buck political pragmatism and actually gain popularity. That is good news for our country, and even better news for those who lead it.
October 14, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Category: Accomplishing Goals , Government leadership , Political leadership Save & Share:
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