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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

James Madison was right

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?

In Federalist X, James Madison states that there will always be opposing factions in society based on different interests and passions. He writes, "A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting as to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good." And so it is today.

Scrape away the personal attacks, lies and distortions, and we are faced with different interests, passions and theories about what is best for America. Madison was hopeful that an enlightened electorate (and this only included white males with property) would select leaders "whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations." But given human nature, he wanted to construct a government that protected Americans from "corrupt" or "sinister" leaders.

Democrats and Republicans have thrown millions of dollars into this election, provided by different factions. Will they be able to collaborate for the common good? Only if their leaders are willing to discern the true interests of their country and find areas--national security, economic growth, fiscal responsibility, education, the safety net of social security and health care--where there is room for agreement.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  October 27, 2010; 1:04 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Government leadership , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Today's pundits inflame the rhetoric and make it extremely difficult to have a serious discussion. The issues we face as a nation will cause serious harm to our economy, security, and system of justice if can't address them rationally and keep our passions in check. Our "political brains" are wired with a bias that parties take advantage of as they seek to get power. I would like to see bias kept out of the governing process by not allowing proposed legislation to be titled with such names as "Defense of Marriage Act", "Patriot Act", etc.

Posted by: mikefenton | October 28, 2010 2:13 PM
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On the contrary, the ability to compromise has been a great strength. If not for compromise there would have been no Constitution and the republic would have fallen apart by its 25th anniversary.

What will destroy us - what is destroying us right now - is the delusion that our own side in any controversy holds a monopoly on patriotism, intelligence and wisdom.

Posted by: jimwalters1 | October 28, 2010 12:29 PM
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"Compromise" has permanently compromised our republic.

Posted by: toddhathaway | October 27, 2010 2:17 PM
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