Most of the time pundits are full of garbage. I know, because I have been a pundit. You are asked to comment on the fly on what you think other people who are making real decisions might be thinking—and you really don’t have a clue. It’s a crap shoot at best.
That said, I think the analysis and punditry of what happened in this, the most expensive election ever, is really important. We have much to learn by examining what just happened. I am not talking about what the Republican Party needs to do, or whether Obama should really try to reach across the aisle. I want to focus on what this election tells us about our democratic process and the American people.
Reality Check #1: Save Your Money
The New York Times reports that Sheldon Adelson, a casino billionaire, poured tens of millions of dollars into Super PACS to support eight candidates; none of whom won election. Hey Mr. Casino, that was a bad bet. Karl Rove’s comforting words to his donors after Romney’s loss suggested that without the support of his 300 million dollar Super PACs, the race “would not have been as close as it was.” Hmmm…I don’t think that is the correct lesson from this experiment.
Overspending was epidemic on both sides. This election cost more than 6 Billion dollars. That is a lot of money. A billion is one thousand million. Can you think of better ways to spend that much money than systematically polarizing and pissing off most of the people in the country? I bet you can!
The American electorate was voting in alignment with basic core principles, the usual suspects; fiscal conservatism; support for veterans; support for the middle class; women’s rights; immigration; health care etc. As such all of the messaging that didn’t hit the bulls-eye of your particular political bedrock issue was simply noise. And if it did hit the bulls-eye all it did was confirm your original thinking. So you liked the ads that supported your point of view—and everything else was like fingernails on a chalk-board.
Reality Check #2: We are on a Mission
If you are in business, you know that change is not an option. Our economy is transforming fundamentally. The hottest jobs in 2012 (and yes people are hiring) simply didn’t exist in 2004. How about Global Digital Media Analytics Consultant? How about Privacy and Security Compliance Management? How about Carbon Fiber and Laminate Manufacturing? These are real jobs that pay great money and demand a fruit basket of skills including industry experience, computer experience, database management, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and management skills.
Those of us who are over 50 must take heed and recognize that we need to make bets on the capabilities of the next generations. The fundamental economic architecture of the global economy is shifting. Banking will look very different in 2020; current health care practices will seem like the wild-west as genetic and molecular levels of testing completely change our protocols for diagnosis and treatment; the military will be a function a of extremely high tech and sophisticated systems for defense and the projection of power around the world; education is already transforming rapidly as traditional classroom models fall by the wayside.
This doesn’t mean gray haired folks need to get out of the way. It means that we need to look beyond our immediate self-interest when we make decisions. It means that we need to be open to continuous learning. It means that while it may have been right in 1985, it doesn’t make sense now.
The electorate seems to know that the future is a big part of the equation for a winning candidate. Let’s encourage our future politicians to be far more articulate about their visions for the future rather than rewarding them for being tenacious judges of the past.
Reality Check #3: The Audience is Wicked Smart
The media is very good at finding individual people that offer extreme perspectives, offensive opinions, and ideas that are just bat-#@%& -crazy. We watch them and get worked up and make the incorrect leap that the YouTube video clip is in any way actually representative—of anything other than a single voice (even if that voice is trying to run for Congress).
All of the information available on crowd-sourcing confirms that collectively we are pretty dang smart. And that is the beauty of democracy; it is a system that taps into the wisdom of crowds; it sands down the rough edges on the extremes; it rewards moderate planning; it is a shock absorber for temporary fads and fashionable positions.
The big lesson in this election is that the collective media and the Super PAC fueled vitriol made the mistake of thinking the electorate is gullible, uninformed, selfish, and motivated by fear. The very first thing we drill into our consultants and speakers is to deeply and honestly respect your audience. When you work with an audience as if they are smart, engaged, and optimistic—amazing things can happen. If you approach your audience from the point of view that you are smug, or somehow you have the magic solution, you are doomed. We simply must wake up to the reality that over the past fifty years Americans have crafted power bull-#@%& detectors.
So now we need to begin delivering candidates that are Evolutionary. If you are not sure what that means, check out our book, Evolutionaries: Transformational Leadership – The Missing Link in Your Organizational Chart. Buy it on Amazon. Buy it for your e-reader. Buy the audio version of it on Audible or iTunes…For this writing, I mean pick people for office who are living in the future. Make sure they are able to articulate a compelling, detailed, and logical view of a great future. Then, spend time honoring the electorate by communicating the plans in substance. Expect people to push back, but also expect people to “get it.” Yes it is a “campaign” but it is also a dialogue. Let’s honor events like the debates—over events like the endless preaching-to-the-choir rallies that pass for political discourse these days. Finally, let’s just say “Basta!” to the negative, vitriolic, insulting political screed that comes from the Super Pacs and entities like them. There are far, far better ways to spend your money.