This week President Obama laid out his vision for America and his rationale as to why he should be re-elected. In a nearly hour-long speech, he sought to firmly establish himself as the defender of the middle class. While the ideals underpinning his rhetoric are laudable, the approach of demonizing various segments of society is not the way to creating solutions we so desperately need.
One need not get into the details put forth in the President’s speech, or those of his potential Republican opponents, to know that by staking a position as a “defender” of one group, you automatically put those on the “other” side into an adversarial position.
Do we really need any more arguments? Are entrenched positions the way to create consensus? Has anyone in Washington paid attention to the depressing dynamics the Super Committee laid bare?
While the automatic Republican criticisms of his speech were assumed, they point out that if all these issues mattered so much to this administration, why wasn’t he doing more about it? Well, perhaps because every attempt to move forward on policy is met by hostile Republicans dead set on stopping any hint of progress lest Obama and the Democrats get any credit for actually doing anything. (So noted, that the same dynamic exists in the reverse.)
If we are going to address these issues, then it will take at least one leader who is willing to put aside the allure of reelection in favor of actual leadership. Governance is not about the art of conquering the opposing side; it is about the opportunity to create real change. And if America wants to change what we see on the front page and out our front doors then perhaps we need to start looking for leaders intent on solutions and not adulation.
So, my advice Mr. President is to stop running now and start leading today. You may be surprised to find that in letting go of the “prize” you will actually accomplish something even greater – real change and a country who is truly excited to see you lead during a second term.
Kathleen Schafer is founding principal of Leadership Connection and author of Living the Leadership Choice (release December 2011). Connect with Kathleen on Twitter and read her blog at leadershipconnection.net.