Politicians -- Wrong People for Politics

04/03/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Deborah Plummer Psychologist, Author, Diversity Thought Leader, GrubStreet Board Member

A promising aspect for achieving the full benefits of diversity -- driving innovation, developing better citizens, and creating a better society -- is diversity of thought and expression. Diversity of thought and expression is the foundation of a democracy. It is from this platform that Congress could make a significant contribution to society and maybe even solve a few problems.

Ideally, Congress would be the perfect life laboratory for managing ways of knowing and trends beyond geographic and demographic boundaries and bipartisanship would be the method for obtaining the more perfect union. But, clearly we are not headed toward a more perfect union. Partisan gridlock rules.

If we did a root analysis for the gridlock, I would say it was because we are electing the wrong kind of people. We are electing politicians to do the work of politics. Politics, by basic definition, is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. Politicians are people who influence public decisions. For too long we have elected people who possess only one core competency (influence) to make collective decisions.

Thus, we need people who are not just politicians to do the political work for our society . We need people who can do more than just influence. We need people who can listen for understanding rather than those who listen simply to rebut. We need people who can release the need to be right in order to be effective. We need people who can confidently and publicly change their mind when presented with new information that enlightens their understanding of an issue. We need people who can acknowledge that my "truth" is my opinion informed by my experiences and my reality. We need people who can acknowledge that others may hold a different "truth."

As I watched and listened to the House Republicans session with President Obama I was struck, once again, by the limitations that result from electing politicians, particularly those who are really good at being politicians. I must say, I would have had this same observation had the session been with House Democrats for I believe the flaw is inherent in an outdated "hiring process." In the work world, we generally don't hire people to do a complex task who excel with only one skill set. Yet, we have not changed the job requirements for Congress, although the job description and responsibilities have drastically changed and have become increasingly complex.

Partisan gridlock will continue until we elect people who do not fit the prototype of our current definition of a politician or we require intense EQ training for those who are elected. As the saying goes, "You can't get blood from a turnip," and no matter how many Q & A sessions President Obama holds with Congress, gridlock will continue until we elect individuals who possess skills sets beyond those of influence that can make democracy work.