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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/8/12

Assault on Democracy

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Assault on Democracy

Given global competition, scarcity and the overt necessity driving world leaders home to protect and preserve their own indigenous economies, what can, or should, American institutions--namely, education, work, social and political--do to protect America's solvency, while simultaneously preparing future generations for vital leadership roles in local, state, federal, private, political and global marketplaces?

Americans have become too complacent, lazy and overtly comfortable. Arguably, if people work at it long and hard enough, anyone can destroy anybody or anything.  Citizens have acquired an onerous appetite for 24/7 news, reality shows, and the newly crowned crà me de la crà me modern day Robin Hoods: the "US Congress and Occupiers."  It's not just Congress; globally democracy is being challenged for Truth and Transparency in government, pitting citizens against public leadership.

Robert Reich, a UC Berkeley Professor and former Labor Secretary for President Clinton, said:  "We all know the economy is broken and no longer works for people." (, 12/12/11) Surely America's founding fathers in creating a constitution for "We-the-People', envisioned more than economics, or creating one "Me-the-Guru', supreme leader.  By design, democracy is a delicate union and balance between government and people.  Somehow this relationship is on the rocks, resulting in open bickering and wrangling among public leaders.  It's almost as if some leaders still used pacifiers, road tricycles and, even worst, still believed in the boogieman. Sadly, citizens are equally at fault.  

Allowing any rogue group, Anonymous, Congress, 99%'er,,, to masquerade representing most citizens is dangerous: here and abroad.  Becoming amused by such antics, playing out on CATV, national dailies and the movies is equally hideous and troubling.  Folly aside, citizen's overt apathy has liberated public leaders to freely run amuck.  No one doubts their passion; it's their wisdom that's questionable. None of the parties or government branches seems willing to blink, make crucial decisions, compromise, or take any responsibility for the "job and oath' they allegedly took freely. This core fiduciary duty, delegated by citizens to public leaders, has become America's Achilles heel, leaving some citizens no other choice than to act-up and show-out to secure representative government.

Between Isaiah and a Hard Place

Aspiring self-acclaimed prophetic leaders, posing as public servants, are gradually destroying faith in government--and leadership. Back in 1980, I recall several of my evening organization theory and management students openly criticizing supervisors, and bureaucracy generally. They took direct aim at day supervisors, managers and anyone else in authority.  After allowing them time to vent and settle in, I asked two simple questions. First, name the supervisor? And second, their names?  Rhetorically, this inquiry caught them off guard.  Yet, as they causally allowed the questions to marinate, beyond alluding to my temporary insanity, truth replaced frustration giving way to dialogue.  Almost predictably, a lively discussion around democracy, trust and transparency in governance ensued.  After explaining that leadership was a compound word, dependent upon mutually-dependent outcomes for success, they began to own the concept.  No doubt this frank, yet juvenile dialogue, has evaded the US Congress thus far.  Indeed, from direct observations of other local/state/municipal governing boards for 2-years, I've found this waning lack of trust in public leadership not unique to Congress. What is rare, however, is the fact that only about one-third of Congressional members have college degrees.  Not that a college degree lends itself to enhanced civility or wisdom, but only suggesting a few evening classes in higher education, mixed with a little street-wise-common-sense, might improve member's relations and decrease chaos and grandstanding in the Halls of Congress.  At a minimum, it may improve governance for "all the people'.

Presumably, all political parties--Democrats, Republicans, Independents--strive to represent voters.  However, almost four years after President Obama ran a successful election campaign on, "Yes We Can', some in congress and even his own party, have trump him by declaring--"No You Won't'!  As national polls plummet for politicians, Washington and citizens are hurting by this dysfunctional drama played out in prime time. Both executive and legislative branches have this fatal affliction.  

The problem is threefold.  First, this satire is costing democracy and America's stock globally! Second, "John Q. Public' is an equally responsible for being AWOL.  Third, recall how quickly US banks reversed those dreaded ATM fees as Occupiers organized their message, and ranks, via the Internet?   Conceivably taking cues from Egypt, Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen, some assert this rogue movement took off as the Internet went viral.  Others claim it began as America took prayer out of schools, simultaneously as a host of other nations put Him back in.  Origins aside, it's time for all citizens to wake-up, rise-up and hold up American democracy.  

Leadership is Global, not a Mom-and-Pop Store   

Unquestionably, Americans are anxious over losing jobs, homes, a lean economy, and keeping (so-called) aliens outside US boarders.  Still, as citizens are ostensibly blinded and mesmerized by a few misfits impersonating public leaders, they've given many public bodies a blank check to abandon their fiduciary duty of service, for personal gain funding by taxpayers.  Issues of civility, decency, ethics and honesty are lost in this arrangement.  America can ill-afford to sustain this status quo. 

As Robert J. Sternberg, Dean and Professor of Psychology at Tufts University, brilliantly argued in "Assessing What Matters", citizens must rethink how leaders are identified, prepared, trained, evaluated and rewarded. (Ed Leadership, Vol. 65, No. 4, 2008)  For Congress, this definitely couldn't hurt. 

In the aftermath of America's victory in WWII, do you recall how the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and others began migrating to North America shortly after the war?  They came with cameras in hand, heads graciously bowed, taking thousands of photos of factories and, yes, US citizens blissfully eager for those rare photo-opts.  Fast-forward to today.  Even though American productivity is at all time highs, we're literally paying those nations to build our cars, make our clothes, refine natural resources, and awarding liberal tax-breaks for foreign-owned plants to be built on American soil: all under the guise of hiring American workers.  Adding insult to injury, America's opportunity costs for economic apathy is citizen unrest and higher interest rates on money borrowed resulting in an escalating national debt.  This flawed strategy has produced a "perfect storm' for public leaders where taxpayers currently borrows more money, at higher interest rates, than those 24 hour check cashing stores. 

This is not a separatist argument.  In fact, American democracy was built by immigrants--and slaves--imported during England's initial occupation of the Homeland.  But, rolling over to the whims of a few anarchists or legislative bullies, doesn't enhance freedom for most, but certainly mandates "Responsibility' from all Americans.

In summary, Americans often take the path of least resistance: unless we're attacked or at war.  And while Congress passed a few tax compromises before the holidays (likely to get for personal reasons), American democracy needs a tune-up to remain puissant.  Hence, as voters prepare for the 2012 elections, each citizen, public leader and political pundit alike might consider Robert Green's advice: "To succeed in the game of power, you must master your emotions." (The 48 Laws of Power, 1998)  Thus, the next time a politician draws a line-in-the-sand, expect voters to bring shovels in droves digging holes for each of them. 

Finally , citizens are urged to screen, vote and routinely elect leaders trained to pledge allegiance to "truth', honesty and transparency': this alone shall assure America's legacy of hegemony beyond the 21st century.

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Ronald Arrington, MBA, MPA: a Consultant, Trainer, Coach, directs a group of training professionals who recognize the grave need to nurture human capital assuring the effective operation of vital boards, leaders, managers and public (more...)

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