As serious as the fiscal cliff is, this specific crisis is tragically emblematic of an even greater problem: America is teetering on the "American Brand Cliff."
The American Brand was built on big ideas that were adopted as, and reflective of, our national purpose. Our swing toward the American Brand Cliff has been precipitated by political leaders who adhere to and propagate ideologues that confuse, muddle or simply dismiss the big ideas that captivated and motivated our nation at its founding -- big ideas that no American can afford to ignore any longer.
If we don't re-charge the American Brand, all future challenges; economic, social and political are destined to be driven to the brink -- further jeopardizing the strength and competitiveness of our country and its citizens.
Too many politicians are shifting the critical themes of our national conversations from a "big ideas" American Brand Platform -- to narrowly focused, polarizing sound bites that put party philosophy before what used to be heralded as the common good. These ideas, more often than not, divide us rather than serve to bind us. Politicians must be simple and clear about how their ideas will serve the national cause. We can no longer use the complexity of today's problems as an excuse for inaction, rhyme or rhetoric that does not meet the challenges before us.
Representative government demands an ongoing conversation between legislators and constituents. The electorate needs to stop waiting for leadership. The electorate must make their demands on government clear and they must be aggressive. All channels of communication must be used to guide the thinking of those who represent us. Savvy politicians, on the other hand, can take a page from President Regan's book: Establish the political will of the people behind a clear principle and others will follow.
2013 is the time to hit the Rest Button. It is time to reinvest in the American Brand. Our national purpose, not our party differences, must define the American Brand. We must change the conversation from one centered around what defines our differences to one that hangs a lantern on what binds us, supports our collective well being and makes us all stronger and more productive as a result.
If we don't rediscover what beliefs and values we share, every issue is left to become a "cliff" because we will have lost sight of the larger principles that underpin our personal and national well being.