Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pointing Fingers

This is a day for pointing fingers.

It’s Obama’s fault.

It’s because of the health care bill.

It’s a vote against Washington and big government.

She ran a poor campaign.

The Democrats aren’t listening.

The economy is hurting people and they are angry.

High unemployment is the culprit.

Congress is to blame.

Neither party is paying attention to independents.

They took Massachusetts for granted.

That’s ten – you’re out of fingers.

They’re all right and they’re all wrong. There is no one answer to why Americans feel the way they do these days. That there is unhappiness in the land is undeniable. That people want to take it out on someone is human nature. It’s easier to blame than to fix the problem.

Where does this leave us? There is no magic bullet. There is no deus ex machina that will come down from the heavens and rescue us. There is no single solution to our multiple problems. But we have to start somewhere.

I wouldn’t begin by blindly following what public opinion polls say people want. Health care reform is a good example. The polls say most people oppose what is being proposed. Not true. If I asked an average American whether it makes sense to insure 30 million people who aren’t now insured, to prevent insurance companies from denying health care because of preexisting conditions and to improve the system without raising the deficit, no way would most people be against it. Their opposition is based on misperceptions and an assumption that if big government is for it they should be against it.

So maybe your longest finger should be pointed at our current lack of accurate, effective communication. To use today’s jargon, we need a compelling narrative. Who should provide it? The knee jerk reaction will be, “Obama.” Yes, he has a role to play, but if he is in the game alone what he does will have about as much impact as a fart in a hurricane.

What’s going on in this country is our game as much as his. All of us. Let’s assume most people in and out of government would like to see a change for the better. Not an unreasonable assumption. If we sit in the stands complaining that the players on the field aren’t doing what we want them to do, nothing will change. Only when people take responsibility for making things better will real change occur.

The way it is now is exemplified by what happened in Massachusetts yesterday. People lashed out with their votes. They voted against the status quo, which was the only choice they felt they had. By itself, that won’t change anything. It’ll just replace one unsatisfactory status quo with another. More is needed.

When will you stop complaining and get on the team?


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