Virtually everyone I talk to is dissatisfied with the Federal government. Politics aside, in my opinion the primary problem is lack of leadership, including the President and the Congress. Any successful enterprise, business, sports teams or government requires strong, effective leadership to be successful. So, with apologoies, to “Peter, Paul and Mary,” “where have all the leaders gone?”
According to Real Clear Politics, President Obama’s average approval rating is 52%, not bad, but not great either. On the other hand, Congress’ approval rating stands at 14%. This is its lowest approval rating ever, and, if you want a laugh, it is lower than either Genghis Kahn or cockroaches. I believe these poor approval ratings can be traced, in large part, to a lack of leadership.
The position of Senate majority and minority leader is not mentioned in the Constitution. The respective roles developed gradually in the early 20th century and were officially promulgated in the 1920s. The House has elected majority and minority leaders since the 19th century. These individuals are elected by their peers at the beginning of each Congress. These leaders have significant power. For example, they schedule legislation, plan the daily agendas and serve as their respective parties’ primary spokespersons. They can also influence committee assignments. As a result, if another congressman wants to pass a bill or add an amendment, they are in a position to support it or block it, sometimes unilaterally.
With these extensive powers, one would think that these leaders could reign in the fringe elements of their respective parties and, therefore, enable Congress to operate effectively and efficiently. After all they could “persuade” a recalcitrant congressman by reminding him that they could bury his favorite bill in committee or re-assign him to a committee counting pencils. Some of the essential attributes of a leader, in any business, are the ability to accommodate, persuade and compromise. One has to convince everyone that they may not get everything they want in a bill, but they should be satisfied with what they do get.
These leaders have to not only control their own party, but also work with the leadership of the other party as well as the President, who may or may not be a political ally. That is the art of diplomacy. Spirited debate is healthy, even desirable. That is what democracy is all about, but, at the end of the day, the idea is to temper your political differences and accomplish something. That is your job. That is why you were elected. Lyndon Johnson once said that the greatest power of the Senate Majority Leader was “the power of persuasion.” Unfortunately, our modern-day leaders have been incapable of that.
Think of some of the great congressional leaders of the recent past – Robert Dole, Barry Goldwater, Everett Dirksen, Lyndon Johnson, Robert Byrd, Tip O’Neill, Ted Kennedy, Hubert Numprey – to name a few. Compare them to the most recent and current leadership – Tom Delay, Nancy Pelosi, Stony Hoyer, John Behner, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid. Enough said.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
The fringe elements are threatening to splinter the major political parties. Everyone is focusing on the GOP, because they lost the last Presidential election, but the Dems have their factions too. We need better leaders in the Congress. We also need better leadership from the Chief Executive. He has to realize that he is the President of ALL the people.
2013 will be a crucial year with many important issues to be decided – immigration reform, the economy, entitlements, the fiscal cliff to name a few. My sad prediction from the Federal government is more of the same. I say, surprise me. Accomplish something.