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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

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.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  October 14, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Government leadership , Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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What going on here is that Americans aren't looking for a politician that is willing to stick their necks out, they are looking for a politician that wants to roll back as many liberal and moderate policies as they can.

When Obama was sticking his neck out, Republicans were horrified and are now doing whatevr they can to push that back.

To many progressives, it feels like that movie Groundhog Day, where the same discredited policies keep coming back over and over. The Bush conservatism didn't work, let's double-down this time, we didn't push it far enough.

Outside of our American bubble, many of Obama's policies are the sanest and most effective solution to many of our policies. Unfortunately, Americans are profoundly uncomfortable with these solutions, so they are busy telling themselves that there are solutions which don't need the sacrfices and re-prioritizing required by everybody else. Last time they tried these "American" solutions, we got two wars, an economic meltdown and massive unemployment.

I imagine this time, the goals is to get to a happy place, only this time to make it work, will will throw the most vulnerable members of society overboard (telling each other, they deserved it anyway), then turn the radio up really high so we can hear their cries for help.

The final part of this solution will be to re-set the rules of debate so that bug business-speak can drown out or silence any opposing or question POV. If this happens and if Democrats are demonized and marginalized as being dangerous and untrustworthy, then there will be no counterbalance. Any lack, abuse of power or position, any failure of policy will be covered up, explained away and anyone bold enough to point it out will be cast inot the wilderness.

Posted by: chuck2 | October 18, 2010 9:59 AM
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As private industry has been forced to change, improve, become "leaner" and do more with less --in order to compete in our global economy, its highlighted the ineffectiveness and bureaucracy in our government and political process.
Instead of problem-solvers, we have power-hungry politicians looking out for their own jobs and massive bureaucracy preventing anything from changing.
With Obama campaigning on "CHANGE", and, here we are 2 years later -- with anything BUT change, its clear Obama doesn't even get it.
Obama's/Democrat's "redistributing the wealth" and socialist agenda is bizarre to most Americans, and the furthest from what anyone thought "Change" was.

Posted by: ohioan | October 14, 2010 1:29 PM
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