So it has been a while since I have written a blog post. Sorry for that. Things have been a bit crazy with Dare2Lead and responding to the tremendous reaction we have had since our profile started to increase in July. We have in the last 3 months alone worked in four countries, recruited 3 new staff, been nominated for an award, won an award and provided leadership services for over 2000 emerging leaders and professionals. Thanks to all who has been part the journey so far!
ANYHOW. The thing that has mobilised me to pen this piece, is the imminent US Presidential Election. And to be honest I have mixed feelings. I will reveal my cards immediately and say I am in team Obama.-Biden. But this blog shares why actually I am not as enthused as last time. A globally-profiled election to choose the leader of the free world is a massive deal, and one that commands the highest quality of debate, discourse and democracy. I don’t believe we are getting that. In the next few paragraphs I want to tell you why a young lad from Scotland thinks we as citizens should demand a higher calibre of engagement; why youth have went from invisible political cohort to visible political football; and the damage I see these elections creating in a way we don’t even realise. I might also mention why Obama is still thee only progressive choice on the card (except Rosanne Barr of course 😉
In 2008, the way Barack Obama swept the headlines across the world and inspired a generation – my generation – to believe YES WE CAN, and symbolised a more inclusive, socially mobile political system was awe-inspiring. He represented the end to the controversial Bush administration and surfed the wave of hope and change. But 2012 is a completely different era.
Americans have a huge decision to make though. But are they really getting the information they need and deserve? What I think many see is over-orchestrated and well-rehearsed “stunts” to somehow attempt to seduce or fool people into giving their vote. Obama’s endless use of celebrity endorsement and Romney’s shallow hijacking of ‘love of country’ patriotism I suspect many find crass and patronising. Are we all really content for billions of dollars to be pumped into a power-seeking election in a time of huge youth unemployment, SME companies collapsing and hard working families unable to make ends meet? I suspect not. Do we support the ethics behind the sensationalised and attacking endless TV advertisements? I suspect not. I don’t blame people for finding this duel negative, confusing and uninspiring. The way both camps are using circumstantial statistics, blatantly not stating their true opinion at risk of upsetting someone or slinging insults at one another is discrediting to them, their country and democracy.
The parties seem to be avoiding doing the wrong things so much, that actually they have lost any sense of innovation and modernity. As Einstein said, “a person who never makes a mistake, never tries anything new.” I’m not surprised many people think the big concerts, slogans, door knocking to simply ask who people will vote for, TV ads and discrediting the competition isn’t really democracy. We deserve better. Where is the real in-depth discussion about serious issues that people care about? Where is the leadership and involvement of civil society? How can we better facilitate the voices of the American majority? And where are the platforms to discuss and demand a new form of politics?
What we need is realistic and people-centred narratives. We see two men behaving like managers, when what the world needs is leadership. Rather than celebrate or count who has killed or locked up the most people, why aren’t we witnessing behaviours and actions that live up to the values, ethos and positivity we hear so much about. Great leaders don’t inspire people to believe in them, they inspire people to believe in themselves. I worry this election has lacked the compassion, humility, self-awareness and creative thinking that the world desperately needs. This eye for an eye culture ultimately leaves everyone blind. We need new ideas and we need leadership of thought. If this political entrepreneurship and values-based leadership was able to shine more, I believe that we would be setting a much more positive and solution focused example to our emerging generation, and the rest of the world.
And I particularly fear the terms of engagement in this election offers a backdoor acceptance of negative, expensive and aggressive politics. What example is this to set to young people? I don’t believe either camp is truly embracing young people’s issues as a central driver to the social and economic issues the USA faces. I think there is also an argument that both parties have failed to see youth as a positive resource in the world, and seem to speak about youth as something that has to be “helped” or “managed” for the future, rather thank talking about the role they play to regenerate economies, lead businesses, run families or develop radical solutions to modern day dilemmas.
All that said though, the way Obama is going out there and putting women at the heart of his policy package, risking political unpopularity to support heart-felt policies such as gay marriage, fairer access to decent health care or economic stimulus are all moves that should be respected. Obama has clearly gained the progressive centre in this election, and that’s why I think he will win. I could be totally wrong, but my hunch is he will galvanise the vote of women, youth, the LGBT community and growing populations such as the Hispanics. Behind the tactics his camp are forced to engage in, I do genuinely believe there is a man driven by experience, governed by heart and fuelled by raw passion, who does want to serve the majority and not minority interest.
In short, regardless of who wins, its time to redefine the paradigms of modern day western elections. People are sick of predictable, tribal, negative and expensive politics. Its time for honesty, trust, multi-lateralism and passion that stems from values and principles – reflected as much in a candidates’ actions, as it does in their words.