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Warren Bennis
Scholar

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

Four questions to ask of Republicans

Q: Winning an election often involves taking a strong ideological position to energize a partisan base. Actually governing, however, usually requires compromise. Will today's Republican leaders be able or willing to pivot successfully from campaigning to governing? Are there lessons from other fields on how to do it?

Regardless of party, campaigning and governing are and will always be different. As Mario Cuomo famously said when he was running for the Democrat nominee for president, "Campaigning is poetry. Governing is prose." In next week's election, the contrast between campaigning and governing will be more pronounced than ever.

Predicting or generalizing about the Republicans, assuming they win their races, is outlandishly hazardous because each race will depend on the unique conditions--questions may be a more appropriate word--facing many Republican candidates. The first question is, how divided or unified is the Republican Party? Put differently: how powerful is the Tea Party in that district? The second is, is the candidate a non-incumbent facing an incumbent? The third question is, is the race in a swing district, shifting from Red to Blue in just about every electoral cycle? The fourth and final question is, what are the unique conditions of the race--including the candidates' experience and political leanings plus other local conditions? Unless the answers to those questions are known, it would be ridiculous to generalize or predict.

The prudent answer to the question is: "I'm passing this time." If I were a gambling man, which I'm not, I would put a modest amount of money (maybe a $2 bill) on the answers to the four questions. if the answer to all four questions is Yes, the elected Republican will be the Decider not the Compromiser.

By Warren Bennis

 |  October 26, 2010; 9:39 AM ET
Category:  Congressional leadership , Government leadership , Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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