The Need to Lead

07/19/2010 05:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lance Simmens Author, "Fracktured", "The Evolution of a Revolution", Political Activist, Commentator

Representative democracy is a good thing; I believe we could probably even get bipartisan agreement and even a majority to support the concept. The simplicity inherent in the concept is that we as a society agree upon the processes whereby we elect individuals to represent us on matters of complexity and importance. Either we do not possess the information upon which to make weighty decisions, do not have the time to devote to an exhaustive examination of the issues because we are too busy coping with our own weighty problems, or simply prefer to delegate the chore to those whom we pay to make decisions that affect us in hopes that they will make decisions in the best interest of our society, but we place our faith and fate in those to whom we have entrusted this solemn responsibility.

In a representative democratic government we the people make decisions about whether or not whom we have elected are collectively and individually doing a good job. If we are not satisfied we have the ultimate veto power to vote them out of office in hopes that their replacements will perform better. We expect our elected officials to protect us from harm, whether it is in the form of an unregulated private market whose duty is to protect its stockholders and maximize its profits or individuals who put us in danger or overzealous governmental bureaucracies who may from time to time overstep their bounds. Regardless, we have people who are responsible for taking care of these things.

We do not elect these people to simply do what they think will improve their chances of perpetuating their careers. If the decisions were left to us we would probably vote every time to do the impossible: namely, make decisions that produce benefits for us without costs. After all, if we all had our druthers we would want to avoid the unpleasantness of actually having to pay for the things we want. We all realize this, some unconsciously and others more directly, hence we pay our leaders decent salaries, stock them with brilliant staffers to help them sort through the issues, and afford them a position in society that places them high on a pedestal of influence and importance.

The need to lead has rarely been more needed than currently. We are in the throes of a seriously debilitating economic situation, unemployment and underemployment are tearing the fabric in our communities and in our households, and despite some truly monumental achievements over the past eighteen months to forestall an even worse economic catastrophe, reformulate an inadequate health care system, and come to grips with a financial services industry that defies either good business practices or common sense we find our political system hopelessly incapable of exhibiting the kind of leadership we all feel is necessary.

And although in general the Republican party has staked its hopes for retaking control of the levers of Congress on the pathetic platform of doing whatever it is the people, read their base, wants instead of what is needed, there are also some Democrats who have resorted to the bankrupt notion that we ought to let the people decide what is best for them. This is not leadership, it is cowardice. I am fully aware that in a strict political sense, leadership is not always rewarded and cowardice is not always punished, but it must be called what it is: cowering under pressure.

It begs the question as to why we need a representative democracy at all if we are simply to put our fingers in the air to discern which way the wind is blowing and what will make people happy. Hell, that is easy, give the people what they want and not what they need, and if you continue to do that long enough the very sense of entitlement that conservatives are always crowing about will most certainly become the norm instead of the exception.

People both want and need jobs. This foolishness about people remaining unemployed because they do not want to work is reminiscent of the argument that blacks really wanted to be slaves and not free. And the people who are brandishing these arguments do so not because they actually believe it, they just think it is what their political base wants to hear, shame on you, regardless of your party or ideology.

There is a need to lead in this country, regardless of your electoral prospects and a large part of the pervasive distrust of our political institutions and elected officials reflects the continuing inability of a system to do what we need and not what we want. Decisions that are based on no, no, no remind me of a small child screaming at their parents, "I don't wanna." This is not leadership. For those who continue to obstruct and obfuscate for their own personal aggrandizement I say there is a need to leave.