Off To The Races

Happy New Year, Lakewood! It’s now 2012, and despite the constant blathering last year from the networks and the monotonous deluge of debates hosted by everyone except the cooking channel, we’re in an election year. It might surprise several of you, but I’ve tried very hard NOT to watch any election coverage leading up to the Iowa Caucuses. As a proud independent, I want to watch the primary process about as much as I want to see hot dogs being made. There’s nothing messier than a primary election. It’s a ridiculous process that challenges candidates who don’t actually differ much on major issues to bend over backwards to find some extraneous point that might set them apart from the others, like when my wife asks my opinion on what color to paint the bedroom…they all look tan to me.

To me it’s as worthless as spending time trying to decide who your favorite Cleveland Browns football player is. Does it really even matter? Who cares, if the team still can’t beat the Steelers? Regardless of who wins the Republican primary, I’m fairly certain I already know how the Presidential race will go. It comes down to two arguments: President Obama is going to stick to his premise that without his policies, things would have been worse. And the Republican candidate will try to convince people that without Obama’s policies, it would have been much better.

I’ve also heard pundits from both sides try to pitch this election year as being more about Congress than the President, with the Democrats trying to portray the Republicans as do-nothing stalwarts, and the Republicans crying about the nanny-state spendaholic Democrats. Once again the country will get divided up between red states and blue states, fly-over states, Bible belt states, Reagan Democrats and Republicans-in-Name-Only (RINOs).

Once the candidates are set, there will be critical evaluation of every conceivable policy stance, whether it be about national security, immigration, healthcare, or even homogenized milk (go figure, I drink 1%). But lost in the process will be any meaningful debate about the real issues that, regardless of what the media will hype, are the key to restoring this country to the prosperity it desires. As far as I’m concerned, what a person thinks is secondary to what they believe. And what they believe can only be properly defined by evaluating what they have done.

In Christianity, we’re taught to judge a tree by its fruit. Why should politics be any different? We elect these people to represent us, to lead us, and to protect our freedoms. Just like the tree, we should judge them on their results as well. Real leadership requires strength of character; the ability to earn trust, harbor loyalty and build unity. Every candidate should be questioned repeatedly to prove their worth in these areas. After all, ideals and intent mean little without the ability to get things done.

The question is an easy one to ask incumbents: “Can you prove to me how we are better off now, than when you took office?” But that query is just as pertinent to even the first-time political challenger: “Show me how people are better off after you’ve led them.” Even with the nation struggling its way out of a recession, there is room for the occasional political novice, but we need to draw the line at those lacking true leadership experience.

But, like the Browns, we can no longer afford to be persuaded by those who merely talk a good game, we must put our votes in people who play a good game. No excuses. We must focus on the qualities that make good leaders, not the policies that make popular candidates.

A good leader always shares the credit but often hogs the blame. A good leader communicates, not just dictates. A strong leader will sacrifice their dignity but never their morals. A wise leader may change his mind, but rarely his principles. A true leader will show us what we need even if it’s not what we want. They’ll make the team stronger by showing us how to overcome our obstacles, not by helping us avoid them. They will stoke our pride, build our confidence, and support our self-reliance without stroking our egos, manufacturing scapegoats or relieving us of our responsibilities.

You’ll know a good leader because after you meet one, you’ll feel better about yourself, not just them. You’ll feel stronger, more empowered and positive that you can make a difference. And those are the people we need to elect. After all, if this city, if this state, and if this country are going to rebound, it will be by the actions of the electors, not the intentions of the elected.

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Volume 8, Issue 1, Posted 8:41 PM, 01.10.2012