A primal scream
Q: What's a politician to do? Voters rejected the incumbents in this week's primaries in Pennsylvania and Kentucky (and Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln faces a runoff), shirking experience for new faces. What is so attractive about upstarts? In your experience, are you more likely to achieve success as a wise insider or a brash outsider?
Politicians are between a rock and a hard place. The spectrum for why a candidate might be rejected has widened: not supporting your party enough, being an insider, being an outsider, too much or too little bipartisanship, etc. Basically, voters seem disgusted with the status quo and seem to be reaching for straws. Unfortunately, their choices are not mindful but disjointed and unfocused, a primal scream of distrust.
A lot of our government issues are not just demonstrating difficulties (every age has its own difficulties) but are suffering from a turmoil that is demanding dramatic shifts. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift in terms of how we do business, go about healthcare, manage our money, confront climate changes, and interact internationally. So the times are a-changin' and the flip-flopping in voting is but one indication of the unease we are all feeling as the earth shifts.
When folks experience such turmoil (personal or world-wide), they begin to question how "things have always been done" and tend to look beyond the horizon for answers: the old "the grass is always greener on the other side" paradox.
Those of us in leadership consulting know this phenomenon very well. In fact, we base our consulting paychecks on such a paradigm. Good old Joe may have been telling the president for months that the time is right to switch markets. The president is not convinced. He hires a consultant. The consultant says, "the time is ripe to switch markets." The president hits the side of his head and says, "Geez, why didn't I realize that? Of course. Let's do it."
The outsider -- especially in times of confusion and uncertainly -- seems to have the answers. He/she presents a fresh look and a new perspective -- even when the answer has been in your own house the entire time.
My hope is that in about six months, it will all settle down. The economy should show some promising upturns and last year's initiatives will begin to bear fruit. This might create a space for more thoughtful candidates and voting -- or not. As I said, this is a dramatic time.
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