Wait to discover what the new Democratic members in the House have in common. There are three unelected leaders working 24/7/365 to get more Democrats and Independents in the House and Senate. They are Nina Turner, the new president of Our Revolution, Maurice Mitchell, the new national director of the Working Families Party and Yvette Simpson, the new chief officer of Democracy for America. They share concerns for the dignity of the American worker and family, and they represent a unique political triumvirate. If they can protect one another, build an agenda for 2020 and start winning the future for the people left behind or pushed away it will be about more than politics. Whether conservative or progressive, that is all that matters.
The depth of their shared experience as dynamic African-American leaders will be measured by how well they inject the people’s intellect into movements for change, but one other thing they have in common is a little scary. They seem woefully inadequate to the task and appear slightly ineffectual in the scraps of video available. Perhaps, it is the lack the money essential for digging into the demography and mysteries of votes and power. This kind of analysis can be replaced by the analytical skills of a grassroots organizational structure but, do they have it? Some of the poor impression is theirs to own, but the main problem is with us. What do they need to prove? They can lift their organizations into positions of great power, but when will we know? Winning elections is no longer sufficient. What will be? What must we do?
Most of the poor and struggling families around the world are in the outlying urban areas both near and far from the dense core of economic forces that push and pull people from the land. Homelessness is a production function cities. The vast ability of dense urban areas cities to create demand also cause a maze of economic disruptions that displace and break families. In much of the world, the human byproduct of this displacement is evident in large informal settlements. The housing market is failing to provide housing to one-third of the world’s urban population. Why do they get pushed? Do they know? No, and no one is telling them, even in America.
“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.” J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”
One person knows a lot about the economics of this is Bruce Katz, Director of the Center on Urban Metropolitan Policy at Brookings, a century old, centrist purveyor of fact. There are five short presentations and one long video by Katz (HERE). It will take about 30 minutes to watch this selection. He may sound libertarian, but he is just the messenger. I recommend listening to him before reading further. If you’d rather not, here is the super short version and why a triumvirate, such as the three imagined here is essential.
Our metropolitan centers are by far, the vital economic engines of America, and as such will continue to produce unrelenting displacement pressure on low-and-moderate-income households. They are the engines of learning, full of universities, colleges, advocacy organizations and training centers fully capable of creating a next-generation citizen fully capable of breaking down and eliminating gender, racial and ethnic barriers. Details are here.
Skilled civic engagement in regional growth is a cultural phenomenon with specific strategies. First, retain the residence of threatened populations in the core. Second, draw down every opportunity to inject the reality of displacement pressure into the political heart of leaders. Third, this is a “no news is good” issue. Capable leadership will flee, equity holders will cash out, take their young and move far too soon into lower-cost environments (south and southwest). You need them. Encourage them to stay and fight.
“Raymond Vernon, the Regional Planning Association’s Director of the New York Metropolitan Region Study turned to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Public Administration to interpret and publish findings for a broad audience in 1960. Its publication not only marked the emergence of the “mega-region” it denoted the arrival of “big data” – a vast supply of social and economic information that would lend vital insight into the workings of 22 counties and three states of the New York Metropolitan Region.” Density Chapter VI by RLC
RPA was founded in 1922. The idea of a “core” is assumed to be the five boroughs of New York City. It is not, it is composed of four New York counties and one in New Jersey (Hudson). For the next half-century, the value of “a dense core” lost resilience and the physical deterioration of its neighborhoods tore through entire city blocks and ruined the lives of its most vulnerable families, but not its capacity to organize, adapt and fight back. During this period (1960-1985), the began to reinvent itself at every level of human interaction. Its institutions confronted complex questions of fairness and created positive results in social justice, economic and environmental equity. This was not a victory of national leadership in recognition of its urban future, this was a “peoples” battle and it was won hard and in blood.
The 535 people at the federal level of representative leadership are ignorant of this fact, or at least behave that way by deferring to state powers and urban leaders. The triumvirate(s) suggested here can be reorganized as a stateless organization, they are capable of creating policies, projects, and priorities that strengthen the multi-state regions and agencies of the urban core. The values born of these political aliances could build a useful federal response and end its failure to envision a new America.
The U.S. more than its 50 states; it’s a network of 363 economically integrated metropolitan areas (click map above). Regional development policies are thousands of times more relevant to the future economic an.d social health of working-class America than the set of lines drawn by cartographers to establish the Republic a couple of centuries ago.
The boundaries of the states were formed using an imaginary grid that stretches across the earth. The intent of this coordinate scheme is to locate or identify precise geographic positions. The idea dates to 190–120 BC, it was used to draw uniform boundaries of the American states, and today your phone knows where you are to within a meter. The states are arbitrary constructs of uniformity and similar size, the metro-regions are synonymous with the health of the nation and in a metaphorical sense they are “circles.” The circle looks inward. It is an object that shows its boundary to the world, the grid does not. This is the organizing principle upon which triumvirates will develop their power. The voters of these regions are majority blue, Democrats and Independents. The organizational realignment toward multi-state economic regions will take a while, in the meantime, several strategic components require special attention.
Is a “rainbow coalition” possible? The presumption that it exists is wrong; it does not exist. All the appetizers, entrees and fixings are laid out in the kitchen, but supper has yet to find the dining table, even the one that is in the kitchen. The foundation for celebrating this high quality of change within the American diversity spectrum is barely recognized or touched let alone stirred with any fondness. We have no language, no string of words for it and it dates to 1984.
Building a foundation for American diversity is developing in two places, universities with civic engagement policies for incorporation across their curriculum from STEM programs to the more traditional centers. The leaders are in law and political science who carry the strongest interest in a sustained discourse on democracy and its institutions. The second place occurs in the city where the language of diversity is improving followed by state and federal elections that exhibit serious divisions and therein lies the dark side of the social justice coin.
Counting over several years and multiple election cycles, the U.S ranks 27th out of 35 economically developed countries in voter turnout. Volunteerism in community service ranks low at 20 to 25% of households, and it is top heavy in the higher income ranges. More recently, threats to the well-being of working families have increased civic engagement activities, especially in urban areas. These facts were so widely apparent that it led to the creation of the American Democracy Project (ADP). It started with colleges and universities in 2003 and remains a nonpartisan initiative of AASCU in partnership with The New York Times. The knowledge resources on this subject are online and free for digital distribution (HERE). An author’s presentation on the 2017 edition is (HERE). As these efforts are failing, a viewpoint on why is outlined (HERE) for comment. American civic engagement practices for dealing with problems is the problem. The plug has yet to slip into the outlet, the power is there but the switch is missing and there appears to be no endurance limit on our knowledge of this fact of self-oppression.
Problems: Ships in the Night & The Lost Soul of the 60s
We have the radar for the existence of other ships in the Democracy, thousands of them but that is about all. Here is one example. To Kill a Mocking Bird (1960) is one of the most read books in America and widely assigned in schools. White people think the attorney Atticus Finch was a hero but to the African-American, he is a stone looser, yet Aaron Sorkin is willing to use his exquisite use of language and force that point into the debate of how we must “all rise,” the last two words in the play. The demand is to get to a better American place (read a PBS interview (here). Where is the language that makes it possible to call out or openly condemn people that tacitly support a culture of hate and malice? The American psyche is far too easily driven into little camps and throwing a “big tent” over it remains as unpalatable as always.
When thousands of people like the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi (first 5 min. only – on video here – 170K pop. 80%Black and a third Asian) enter your world the tent can get more interesting. Getting past platitudes and on to education and housing in Jackson will be his issue. New leadership like this will be watched and if possible assisted to see through the clouds that new leaders attract. After the 2016 election, many groups pulled big national lists together for study but they not useful. As the digital revolution began in the 1970s, the ability to study, think, act, and respond together became the more useful MOOC. The isolation remains and groups still struggle to form beyond encouraging references to Margaret Mead and her opinion on the subject.
Americans need an intervention regarding addictions to racial ignorance. Where is the tough-love slap in the face that makes everything right and gives us back our senses? This intervention is possible. It will be done with superb care on the ground yet to be found for a foundation unlaid and a building we can barely envision. It will be done as if all the oppressed, unlucky or struggling rainbow of people in this nation could stand all at once and scream NO to pandering leaders, and yell in one sweet sound, “we are the change we seek, we are the change we seek!”
Nina Turner (Our Revolution) puts it this way. When “the hunter,” writes the story, there is no story of the lion. Political movements are similar. It can use filters that leave people out who think they are in. Like the term “hunter,” labels such as “neoliberal” or “self-reliant” simultaneously attracts people to power they cannot acquire. In tracking the lion, the hunter knows what the lion is willing to submit to and uses it to the exact amount needed to achieve the injustice of its death. The hunter’s brand is visible, control the narrative of bravery and therefore secure its benefits and power. The lion’s story is direct; death is food. Death is the gift of her pride’s survival.
If we are the lion, our revolution is underway but barely notice unless there are videos of a shooting. Being African-American and politically progressive should be a natural fit, “if” there is a family history of engagement in fights against social and economic systems that insist on a second-class citizenry defined by gender, income, color in the rainbow, one at a time or all at once. We do not forget the people who died in resistance to this condition. They are the builders; they own the long history of this change in the nation. We hold them as gifts and if we can, we will add chapters, do not accept the idea that we now live in unheroic times.
We do not speak of the blood horror, hopelessness and fear it took to get those moments that made the change. A great joy rests with its victories, each of them rings triumphantly in our nation’s history. Today we watch scrapings from historic speeches, we read books, listen to songs and examine pictures about the cost of resisting oppression. Today, over a half-century later it appears to many that there are those who take a black life are becoming unpunishable and at worst made legal actors in a much broader attack on all people facing the pain of a soft oppression, a sense that something was taken, an addiction and the threats of despair that each cause. of us have had “the talk” with the young about protests, lawful police orders, and standing ground. The hunter would have you fear the lion and drain you of compassion for her pride, yet all the while to the lion; death is a gift.
America’s history of death and pain rings painfully for each loss and because each bell we ring for them, tolls for us all and it is here and now. The bell rings if we resist the “lawful orders” of a cop, it rings loudest in friendly fire, and it rings until we cannot hear at all. Following difficult times, it is in our nature to bring out the good in ourselves and find reasons to celebrate our sacrifice but the movement today is very different. There are more ways to assure the story of the lion than I can count, and there are now thousands who can damn the old hunter’s lies. Is this not enough, what needs to be new, what needs to be different? Skip the ad and listen here for it from a collection called “Outskirts of the Deep City.”
The average, everyday person will talk about issues and events but often lack the will to act. Modern political analysts understand the events leading to changes that improve lives. Actions do not come easily without the experience of working for the prospects that succeed. Change politics can fool you. it will ask you to stare at the beak of the Eagle on America’s Seal and love your country. The new politics of change will put you in the grasp of her talons; make you the builder of her nest of arrows and hold you in her branches of peace and victory. What needs to be in the new politics?
A voice of unification for the working family that restates American values of fairness with justice. Better education for your kid? A wage scale that keeps up with costs? How about better protection from ill health, big pharma, and corporate greed? When we face threats to our well-being, who will be there? Look left, look right and say I will be there for you, I will be there. What needs to be different? We are the change we seek.
At this time in history, most Democrats and Republicans (save a few) can only equivocate and obstruct. If 2020 is going to be an opportunity, the “be there” time is now. Maurice Mitchel is now the National Director of the Working Families Party. (WFP). He is one of those “go” leaders with extensive experience in movements beyond, in front of and behind elections. He will continue to expand our understanding of what a democracy can do. He can see the irony when both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump say, “the system is rigged,” and it says one thing to him and me. We need very new politics.
What is exposed here? If we are to remain a democracy, we are challenged to do big things. First, increase the number of voters by 1,000%, crush all forms of voter suppression and stop playing short can-kicking games. There needs to be an ass where there is a can. Watch his mildly nervous presentation at NetRootsNation.org is here. All the right words are all in a row, but he needs the kind of heart that beats in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get the sound we need. He has the words, now give him the sound. Words are important, but how they sound is even more so.
There is a better sound in Maurice here as he defends the Working Family Party (WFP) from an attack by the three-term Governor of New York State because of WFP support for Cynthia Nixon in a primary. Challenging the governor happened for one important reason, it is time to say “No” to the oligarchs and those who say yes to them. At the heart of it, Maurice defines what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party in the nation as it is in NYS. Maurice would not be taking anything away from Alexandria if he repeated her reminder that New York leaders of the past had led the progressive movement with great courage. The entire WFP requires voices that do not speak of defenses against attacks to define injustice. The math is easy, the foolishness of the peacemakers exposes their failure as change makers. If you hear, “Five-hundred or so American billionaires are not the cause of America’s problems.” It is time to share everything, every strategy, and tactic. It is time to offend with relish and know all the actors who are firm in their purpose and who might face death in the anarchy we all detest.
After Yvette Simpson lost her bid for Mayor of Cincinnati, she acquired a new position as Chief Executive of Democracy Now (January 2019) as described in a news story interview (Here). Yvette Simpson’s membership of the Democratic establishment represents the party’s better self because individuals from diverse backgrounds who seek public service expect to be Democrats. The record is improving slowly, but the proof is the problem. The majority of every Congressmember’s senior staff is not diverse. This was not widely circulated news until the membership became more diverse.
Can a Democracy care for all people and meet unique needs without sowing division and discord? What I learned from Yvette was the calculus of a representative government requires a variety of navigation skills throughout a campaign without end. She knows no one on the progressive side of the equation is better at grassroots engagement. She notes that if you run you cannot knock on doors, you must walk the race. Winning is face to face, not face to the screen. She believes in the power of “we.” Her experience proved to her that the road made by walking is formed best with a bold and unapologetic agenda aimed at making changes that people want in their lives. It was once summed up as rights, first to the pursuit of life, second to liberty and third happiness. Winning a primary but losing a run for Mayor gave her insight into the challenges of 2020 hopefully aimed at the Senate as a priority. Will the triumvirate be up to speed and ready to respond?
The growing economic success of central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan is also the story of large, diverse cities in multi-state regions that hold with a significant share of the state population. For decades disinvestment in the infrastructure of dense urban regions presents hidden dangers. Not spending where spending is needed exposes failures of transit services to and from these centers. Auto congestion where and when it is hated the most. A rising cost of housing, including deteriorating conditions in the suburbs, the displacement of low- and moderate income people into suburban neighborhoods, and sporadic increases in urban homelessness. The more significant sources of stress are evident in the protests of working poor teachers in decaying schools alongside troubled police and fire services and other first responders racing into a long list of preventable social and environmental problems of life-threatening severity. Pick-up a copy International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection and all of this is documented.
Death, Taxes and Social Justice
Putting added reduced tax cash flow into the hands of wealthy people and corporations are not coming to the resolution of any of these problems. They are without accountability; the board members of the super large foundations are out of touch with the broad national dialogue needed to keep our democracy responsive, instead of their wallets. Yes, new partnerships are there, but the old lines of privilege remain unchallenged and taxing them is failing because loop-hole land will never go away without reinventing America. If the horrible truth is super high tax revenues collected by the government don’t work, what needs to change?
We live in a society where the most important things go unsaid. For example, the question on the table in a substantial foundation’s boardroom is “Are we failing in our quest for social stability?”. What is known but never said aloud is, “Well, if large groups of the society get upset and start causing trouble with disruptions of the economy and endangering their own lives and the lives of others, we have fully equipped our police forces with enough riot gear and other tools that could conquer a country.” Can you hear that lungful exhalation flow across that confident conference table? Look again out of the conference room’s vast windows overlooking a landscape of terror that could be unleashed, then turn to the doorway as it opens. Meet your new master, the authoritarian who can only keep this crowd at bay with your foundation’s loyalty. Impossible you say? Not according to world history.
It’s Their Fault
If you hear, “Several hundred multi-billionaires are not America’s problem.” An economist in a rabbit hole is baiting you. Don’t go there. Of course, high taxes don’t work, government (city, state, federal) have never been able to get much above 20% of America’s GDP from the very beginning of this measure. Using the 20% rubric, the GDP in 2018 will top $21 trillion to yield on average $6 trillion in annual revenue. The interest paid on the national debt is $364 billion. (10/1/18, through 9/30/19). The total public debt is around $17 trillion. Individuals, businesses, and foreign central banks are its owners with 90 percent of it in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. (Details here.) The five wealthiest counties in the Northeast surround Washington, D.C. Wealth attracts wealth in this case. Four of them are in VA (Loudoun, Fairfax, Falls Church, Arlington) and one is in MD (Howard). For more, see the U.S. Census press release, 12.6.18 (CB-18-18).
America’s “good faith and credit” is highly respected, 30-year “treasuries” sell with ease. Credit is another word for trust so, bottom line, the money is there to do what we want. Therefore, we must ask, what is the alternative to income taxes? The first answer, spend what you have on the right stuff. This allows the right questions. Issue: they get asked but never answered. What is the right stuff? Where the U.S. puts its political brain requires is not helping it to find out.
Putting Money in the Wrong Pockets
In 2012, Jim Sorenson put $13 million into a business school in Utah and created the Sorenson Impact Foundation where they quietly work on a long list of projects that would make every candidate for sainthood happy. Other things like program-related investments (PRIs) vetted by the business school, “select and develop business models for high-impact, early-stage social enterprises capable of reaching underserved populations.” I love mouthfuls like that, but what is wrong with it, what is missing in philanthropy? According to Forbes, not a thing (Here).
If you read that Forbes article, then you know the objective of all foundations is to “go to scale,” and that means two things, the more obvious is to spread money all over the globe with a goodwill website to prove it. The other is to make wise social impact business investments and get universities to establish a methodology for measurements and publish the results. Highly respected multi-billionaires like Jim Sorenson and all the other billionaires in his moral class think they know what the right stuff is or needs to be, so he like many others create these hopeful puppy dog foundations. I can look up all the billionaires and foundation staff; I can know where they live, play and work nationally and internationally. They are the wealthy residents of a tiny planet.
Bottom line, what is wrong, what is missing? The hundreds of multi-billionaires are missing in the vapor of their wealth. A wrong-headed street-intellect assumption is they have formed an oligarchy and now vie to rule the world, distracting us with their wonderfulness. The truth is far dire; they have tucked themselves away in their boardrooms happily overlooking their private empires of goodness, adapting and maneuvering to sustain themselves among one another, while all the while the world is burning, slowly almost imperceptibly into ash and dust. So, bottom line, yes, it is their fault, and this is important, except for a few they didn’t mean it.
What is missing, I want you to join in this practice. Below is what I have so far. You can give advice or list wrongs, make rights, just click here.
- Pay close attention to the big picture, I hear a staffer saying “It’s just so impolite to be alarmist,” They are wrong, rude is important right now.
- Step on another charity’s toes, stop being so nice. One word, “Unjust.”
- Spending fortunes on accountants, tax attorneys, and lobbyist only assure private capital will sustain the line that reads “goodwill,” on income statements and balance sheets. Think again, goodwill is insufficient.
- Contributing to all 535 members of the legislative government (retirees and agency staff) enough to keep their campaigns afloat (or not) or to point them in other directions is the best way to control citizens, not unite them.
- Not paying any damn attention to the small picture. Take a long walk through your community, and then to a place designated as underserved and in need of charity. Ask why? Get back to me.
- Realize that despite amassing of billions of dollars in a personal fortune, no one person on this fragile earth could be that productive in any sense other than god-like.
I have no interest in tracking them down, although there is a project aimed at doing so. (here). Our charity must believe they will find the “right stuff,” otherwise they face incurable insanity. Our job is to be persuasive regarding the need to make course corrections essential to the survival of next generations. I know about the hideaways in the mountains and the means to get there. I do not know who is worse off, those without sanctuary or those forced to say, “Mine is full, you are not selected?” Want to add to the list? Click here.
The USA is not the America Tonight Show. The adjective (above) describes giving your name to something. It is also called identity politics, so you get people who are Trump Republicans. Identity is much bigger than a person, a color, religion, political philosophy or favorite late-nite TV show host. A claim of leadership in the name of dignity for all life produces a replaceable leader. Arguments are won (or should be) on the facts of the day, week, year and decade, not charismatic leadership, bullies or the learned helplessness of their constituents. For example, we win the war of words when we describe the death of young minds and the heart lost in persons beaten low by hate. We win when we force all to hear the frightened whispers from the mouth of hunger. We win when we describe the violence embedded in climate change or assault rifles and how randomly either can take anyone’s home or life at any time or place, one of them used to be in God’s hands, today, both in are ours. We win if all these voices are unified not by fear but in a single call to defend the dignity of the human person. Stand on this path and you will know methods that move all of us forward and away from the confusion that divides us.
The three organizations and leaders briefly mentioned here know these methods. In listening to them I know this is Our Revolution, we are the Working Families of this nation, and the demand for Democracy for America is now. We win when our unity is theirs and theirs ours. Calling for an accord does not create unity. The phrase, “the people united will never be defeated” begs the question. What is causing our downfall, our defeat? To keep our democracy, we must be the change we seek and to begin, form triads. Triangles form the strongest structures, tripartite coalitions are a step forward. So if our revolution is to be composed of working families working to assure our democracy remains useful nationally, these three among many others need to find and build local triads.
The voting record from any combination of election districts for offices in cities, states, and Congress by voter and candidate reveal a set of cultural signifiers useful to the practice of removing identity politics toward a healthier method of governance. If the triumvirate’s network is true, if the depth is there, it can conduct this analysis across state lines and recognize the issues of working people step across all the other lines used to divide Americans.
The traditional roots of the old identity way are made sustainable by the quiet assurance of a 98% retention rate among incumbent candidates all the way up and down the political spectrum. So, I am not talking about politics. This is about change. Being conservative or progressive comes naturally to people from low to high income for two reasons. Households are “conservative” because every change tends to be loudest when it is for the worse, and progressive because it is a way to seek out useful and if not, virtuous change that will protect the family. One of the more complex examples of change follows:
The retention of wealth by the wealthy began in 2016, it was legislated in 2017 and became law on January 1, 2018. The expectation of tax reductions for corporations an increase in wages, they have not. The bet is that a few extra dollars in the working families tax return suffice. That it is billions among the super wealthy remains an abstraction. The national revenue is increasing, but the federal budget is still ripping holes in the safety net that helps a growing number of households protect family health, old age, and their financial security. Why? Uncontrolled congressional spending.
The subtle implementations of the attack on so-called entitlements is unclear, but the lion’s strategy, in this case, is easy to spot, go for the slow and weak ones in the herd. The human problem with this kind of attack is the lack of fairness in compliance and the complicity of the herd. In these transactions, this failure should not be lost. Nevertheless, do not allow the debate to move away from the cap held by the hunter regarding issues. Taxes are not paid for social security from incomes over $138,000. Where is the security in that equation? If the answer remains, the revenue is still insufficient. What is missing?
Roots, Roots and More Roots
In my small part of the world, I have organized a tool to implement one of our best methods. I have one or more persons in every election district able to build or join a canvas team and be on the ground for a candidate. You can see an early version here. Security is a growing issue. Sign up here if you are in the district. Instructions follow.
This canvas method is easy to implement, more so in a blue majority city and state and it grows exponentially through a natural network of friends and family. It reveals the enormous power of democracy with personal decisions to work for a specific candidate (city, state or federal) on a routine basis for a limited period every two, four and six years. If tools like these are deployed in the metro-regions, with a clear understanding of the unique economies of each, the ability to produce change people need and want. If not, the answer is clear, try again, and again, and again because we are the change we seek.
The deep concerns of people are not articulated well by most current leaders, especially those who are dependent on identity politics and tenure in office. We should ask why but do not. Leaders acknowledge our concerns but we still allow them to remain fuzzy about accountability to benchmarks or criteria from year to year. There are no triggers or penalties in exclusive political alliances based on religion, race or social background. This tendency allows leaders who see a lack of basic employment with a living wage only pushing a few into desperation. The lack of health insurance protection bankrupts “only a few” families. Our safety in the community, the affordability of our housing, and the failure to educate our young, only hurts “a few families.”
The promise to sustain the two largest safety nets American’s ever fought to acquire serves everyone even but even the vast “we” of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is under attack. The subtlety of the attack, even the logic of it will read to divide not unite. I want to be able to say it all began in 2018. This is when just enough people realized the rise of opposition politics and the resistance found ways to diagnose all the reasons for a lack of movement on working family concerns and the honest needs of ordinary people. The first pronouncement is to put a number on “only a few.” We are now that few, there of millions of us and we vote. The second is to learn how not turn against “the other” in this movement, fight for scraps or fail to fight for the few. Those of us who can create moments and events, year after year will rip the mantle off the shoulders of the tenured leaders if needed. It all began in 2018. As it goes for the few, so it goes for us all.
At a political rally, I overheard a leader say, “We need more facts to make that decision.” It was the response that got my attention. “You’re a damn fool, we don’t need any more damn facts, just walk out that door and look around. There are your damn facts. We have got to get to work and it starts now. Do you hear me? If you walk out that door you can smell it. Tsunami’s don’t come with a warning until it’s too late.” The third benchmark for the growth of a progressive movement is swift decision making. Do not wait another day, rush to the defense of neighbors and all those struck down, stand in the light of MLK and seek his justice.
Reflections on Success and Failure
Some professionals study organizational development in such depth they have become almost impossible to understand. But I did come across one article in the reasonably accessible Harvard Business Review that gives me hope. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman use of massive amounts of business data. On the question of diversity, they compared leaders’ self-ratings with their ratings by bosses, peers, and subordinates. These ratings reveal leaders assume they are better at valuing diversity than they are. Take that to heart, the social change movement is never doing as good a job as its leaders want, and there are good reasons to be aware. Defending the movement demands your failures.
To understand the cause of poor decision making, Zinger and Folkman used data on leaders and compared the behavior of those who were perceived as making poor decisions with those perceived as making very good decisions. Whether leading a major international corporation or a scrappy nonprofit organizing committee, pressing for these traits tend to hold true. Here is a description of the common paths that led to poor decision making from the most to least significant. Laziness tops the list, some of the signs are not checking facts or confirming assumptions. Next, not anticipating negative events reduces the ability to defend. When a leader is indecisive it tends to be costly to an organization due to missed opportunities. Leaders that remain locked in the past will make decisions with assumptions that are no longer true. Lesson: Always look forward.
Among the lesser causes of poor decisions are in failures to align “dots” in an organization’s membership. The overall strategy of the organization often referred to as a lack of strategic alignment deals with the leader’s isolation breaking down important interpersonal relationships and dependencies. Similarly, over-dependence on one person who is waiting for another, who in turn is waiting for someone else leads to poor decisions. A leader’s lack of technical depth will reduce the use of high-level expertise within an organization, and if it is there, people need to know. It’s always the coverup. Statistically, the least named cause of poor decisions was found to be a failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. I wish Nina, Maurice, and Yvette all the success in the world as they head into 2020 with the capacity to produce swift and effective decisions for their organizations.
Next, I think it will be fun to have a good look at those that have shattered glass ceilings in their hometowns. They are inside the beltway for the next two years. Ordinary observers can find out what they have in common other than the obvious and if they can lay the ground and build the foundation for a significant change in the culture by the means necessary.
Social Impact Measures
The following three paragraphs are lecture-like. Nevertheless, they represent the standard by which I believe our glass breaking, culture changing, the newest members of Congress should be evaluated. I’m open to other ways, but I will fight for the following as I share in the spirit by which you now hold office.
- The purpose of leadership is assurance that change is manageable.
You have entered Congress with a personal theory of change. We all use it to adapt to our environment according to need and want, as well as, evaluation of performance. Results are measures to indicate the quality of adaptation in one of three ways, positive, neutral or negative. Change through experiments reinforce the positive and reduce the negative. We are cognizant of the trial and error world in which we and our family, friends and coworkers’ function. From child play to professional practice we learn that we control what we can make recur. I can get Sally to laugh and Bill to chase me every time, and that’s as a grown up. I also know the reverse of that is impossible. The information gathered through experience is routine and enough. You can work through personal skill sets on this question by recalling past actions in getting (or not) a date with a person of interest back in your school days or a “contract” more recently. Knowing how to lead yourself is the prerequisite for leadership of others.
2. A business or government agency must measure complex social impacts
The number of people and dollars involved in business and government require confidence to take action. There are consequences at every step. Seeking to alter negatives in society or to improve positive elements requires careful thought and experimentation. In this setting, dialogue gets to the capacity of individuals in business or government to collect reliable information, review methods of data acquisition, analyze and predict results. Confirmation of concrete benefits from people with these skill sets leads to investment decisions as mere possibilities. At this point, choice and timeliness come into play involving the number of options made available.
3. Confidence in research and planning allows trials and testing to proceed
The changes sought are thereby proven to the satisfaction of the decision makers and it becomes their legacy all the way through implementation. Comparison with alternative trials within or in opposition will minimize risk or advance the position of competitors. Given the period of work, in weeks or decades, the institutional response is to claim an impact and advocate for its continuation with confidence.
To reduce the abstractions of these three components, two recent events will illustrate the human problem inherent in the science of this practice. Science obscures additional motives by building silos. As 2018 ended, the incarceration practices of the federal government were reformed. In practical street intellect, this meant the 30+ year enforcement of harsh drug laws that achieved the re-enslavement (imprisonment) of African-Americans (mostly men) for nonviolent crimes would end (Watch 13th again).
The public investment in a huge federal prison system has consequences, however, accountability for this practice as a racial strategy is practically nil. Creating a big door through which cops and prosecutors could quietly push young men into federal prison (and still do in city/states) was easy to ignore due to a tacit agreement on both sides of the issue. Here it is in one sentence over the procession of two ounces of Marijuana. “We have 15 to 25 mandatory years on you that can go to seven maybe five with the name/location of your boss.” A generation of lives lost and for what, “El Chapo?”
The second event involves the language code that embeds a similar level of bigotry and racism. As the close of 2018, the word was “wall.” Create a wall to protect our borders from the demons to the south. Street-intellect reads that as keep out the Spanish speakers, the Mexicans, Hondurans and everyone else. The super short-term political trend exhibited here reveals consequences without the accountability to reason and practical solutions. An orderly process for dealing with immigration is consumed by the rhetoric of violence and a symbol upon which the 45th president can lean.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
“Let America Be America” Langston Hughes