Saturday, March 27, 2010

A battle against time.

I generally like Charles Blow's op-eds in the NY Times, particularly his most recent which had this gem (about the frustration of the tea-partiers):
"Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy."
His point is that more-or-less the tea partiers don't represent the direction the country is headed in. Politics aside, this group, still does represent a number of individuals and their opinions have a right to be heard. However, they should be doing it in a civil manner. The same can be said for the far-left groups, though their popularity has waned in recent decades as the demographic shift of the boomers shifted America's politics more towards the right (the older we get, the more conservative, etc.).

It reminds me of some of the exercises we used to do at Deloitte with generational issues. A topic would be posed (e.g. remote working) and invariably the older workers would say it should never happen and the younger workers would say they should be allowed whenever they wanted to. Clearly (as with most solutions) the answer was in the middle, but the important thing was making sure that the older workers didn't feel marginalized. Even if a company is shifting, it is important to give some token points to the older generations. Bottom line, the younger people will be there to change policies when they get in power, while the older generations feel completely powerless if they do not get a bit of deference. This is, I think, how many of the tea partiers feel right now. They feel like their voice is not being listened to at all, so their only option is to become louder and more virulent. Strategically, not brilliant, but one can understand where they're coming from. It's the politics of frustration. Yell and scream until someone does something you like (or you fall apart).

It would seem that the best strategy Obama, as "CEO," could take right now is to divide and conquer, similar to how you would in an company setting. Figure out which workers (voters) have issues that can be addressed and those that you will never get back. I would bet that if someone were to look at the various blogs, conferences, and rallies out there, they could find a few token policies that could be given into to siphon off some of the more marginal tea partiers. Bottom line, it's not a coherent group (organizationally or ideologically) , it shouldn't be that hard.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure what this type of policy would be. But, it would ideally be something that says, look, we value your opinions, but you also have to work within the context of the what's going on right now. The thing the tea partiers fail to understand (and which I have yet to see pointed out by the MSM) is that voting Republicans into power isn't going to make America some magical tea party state. People in power want to stay in power. A representative swept in on a tea party platform still probably only garnered about 50-60% of the vote. There are a lot of other people that they have to serve, otherwise they face a one-term-and-your-done legacy.

Bottom line, America is changing a lot--demographically, economically, and socially. Those who feel marginalized by those changes are going to be upset, frustrated, and start to yell. But, the real problem they feel is not the political stances, it's the loss of a voice. By giving them back a (civilized) voice within a different context, we can, and will, begin to move forward again. It all reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Pleasantville. The people start turning from black and white into color and the response of those who haven't changed yet and feel their power is being usurped is to turn to violence and persecution. In the end, the world keeps on changing, because it has to change. Trying to preserve the status quo is a losing battle with time and history.

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