- “The thing that I truly believe is that the overwhelming majority of the country is not this conflict-driven group of ideologues. It just isn’t. And that ultimately always wins out. Because no matter what, the guy with the NRA bumper sticker and the Don’t Tread on Me flag is still going to pull over when he sees an accident and help out No Nukes guy, and vice-versa….So I’m always of the mindset that any asshole victory is short-lived. It just is. They lose. Assholes lose. They’re annoying. They cause momentary hardships. But they ultimately lose. And that’s a good thing.” —Jon Stewart in the Rolling Stone magazine on September 29, 2011.
Today’s politics are polarised by ‘being right’. The Republicans blame Obama (concocting a persona about his inability to negotiate and compromise) and the Democrats rightly retort by pointing out the GOP’s own intransigence. But I’m not sure that it is just an ‘American problem’.
Recently, the Conservative Party changed course on quite public initiatives to change secondary school curriculum and testing. The shift was the result of an earnest public hearing on the proposals. Instead of being applauded for (a) trying something new, and (b) backing down when deeper inquiry indicated it might not be the best course, the Labour Party has instinctively trotted out its knee jerk criticism. As an acolyte for the positive power of embracing failure, I advocate that such concerted changes of course and admission of error should be applauded not attacked.
I am a life-long Democrat whose left-leaning tendencies have been energized by President Obama’s inspiring leadership. But I must admit, that I have been more impressed with Conservative David Cameron’s work in office than any current Labour leader and in some cases more than Tony Blair.
Success in politics, as with most adversarial engagements, be they battlefield or chessboard, is all about staking out the middle ground. This means balance. The type of balance that the Leadership/Management duality underpins. Forays to the flank must be taken infrequently and with a concerted game plan to actually regain ground closer to the centre. This fundamental strategy weakness is the heart of the GOP’s erosion as they drift closer and closer to the outlying fringe.
Why have politics, in USA and UK and other countries, become so polarised? Perhaps it is because government plays a larger role than ever in our lives and as a result more is at stake. When government was more peripheral and less dominant, movers and shakers in the world did not throw themselves and their resources into win-at-all-costs battles. Now that the world is more intertwined with governments indelibly woven into fortunes and daily business, influential titans of industry and community play dirty if they have to for such a higher stakes game. Maybe the inflexibility is simply about the increase in transparency in the world. Maybe the movers and shakers were always lobbying and influencing government, but did so in smoke filled rooms with shady means. Now that the power jockeying is out in the open, tactics have had to adapt to techniques that appear more ‘acceptable’ at face value, but are just as geared to fostering special interests over community welfare than ever.
What is clear is that my father’s lesson of ‘when people invest more energy into ‘being right’ than in ‘solving problems’ relationships break down. And the relationship between political parties could hardly be more dysfunctional tan they are now.