09/20/2011 03:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Change Making

Many Americans fear that we are at a tipping point and our best days are behind us. I believe that the fundamental strength of our country is undiminished. It is our political leadership that is failing us.

The political class has devolved into a self-serving, self-perpetuating aristocracy devoid of a positive sense of public purpose that has set our country on an unsustainable course that will undermine our economic security, destroy our way of life, and endanger the entire community of nations.

American politics has been reduced to an ideological scrum where extreme left and right seek to out-muscle each other in furious competition intent on "taking America back" -- to places few of us want to go.

Our leadership has ignored our interests and nullified the fundamental premise of democracy -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- and unless checked, will leave us with the greatest political, economic, and social division since the Civil War.

The American people have little confidence in the way we are being represented. For the first time in history, in a fruitless search for responsible and responsive leadership among two extremes, voters have changed the party control of Congress during three consecutive presidencies.

Republicans prefer an unregulated society indifferent to the interests of the less fortunate where solutions to problems are largely limited to cutting taxes, shrinking government, and opposing nearly all public sector endeavors.

They provide neither positive vision of what government should do nor appreciation that, as society becomes more complex, our mutual dependence increases. Where the model of the rugged individual capable of sustaining himself might have once been appropriate for a frontier society, today mere survival is a social process involving a complex series of relationships. If we ever were, we are no longer islands unto ourselves.

Democrats counter with an equally extreme vision: a collective welfare state adverse to the requirements for economic growth, where income redistribution, indiscriminate government expansion, and absolution from personal responsibility seem the operative solutions. This is individualism without the individual. It is an economic and social model that has failed every historical test of practicality or desirability. And it runs entirely counter to our history and culture.

Most Americans agree that we need a return to leadership that is competent, embraces its fiduciary responsibilities, and is committed to making government again our servant. We want to see the executive and legislative branches function honestly, efficiently, and effectively, giving fair value to taxpayers and equal consideration and representation to all people.

We want to see government pursue common sense policies and redirect resources toward those essential functions that the public sector should perform -- those that the private sector can't do, won't do, or we wouldn't trust it to do.

We want to reclaim government from the legions of political camp followers who feed off the spoils of victory, and replace them with people with the requisite character, professional skills, and experience to analyze our complex problems and design and implement pragmatic, nonpartisan solutions.

And we want leaders who can seek and inspire broad participation from citizens not directly employed in formal public service and restore the shared sense of opportunity, privilege, and responsibility underlying civic participation in a democratic society.

America cannot be governed by extremes, nor reformed by bipartisan division of the spoils.

Only leadership independent of special interests and ideological extremism can fashion the policies and programs necessary to restructure and redirect our government.

Only nonpartisan common-sense policies aimed at creating the greatest good for the greatest number and involving shared investment can elicit that level of public support required to institute sustainable positive change in our democracy.

And only an actively engaged, informed, vigilant, and independent citizenry can provide that animating force necessary to assure that government of, by, and for the people fulfills its manifest promise.

In my new book, The Change Maker, as well as in future posts, I hope to offer perspective on leadership and the creation of institutional change, and present a common sense public policy agenda. I am confident that we can overcome our current challenges, return our country to prosperity, and expand individual opportunity.