I can’t speak for other states, since I’ve lived in New Jersey all my life. However, I can speak about a very disturbing trend that seems to have taken over the Garden State: lack of leadership.
When shared ideals just aren’t good enough
Living in one of the most conservative districts in New Jersey, it is not unusual for me to agree with our Republican legislators on a variety of issues. To a very large extent I admire some of the legislation they have proposed. The problem is that our point of view is in the minority in New Jersey’s blue culture.
An argument can be made that these representatives have walked the walk as well talked the talk. After all, just look at the bulk of the “good” legislation they have proposed. They have also valiantly fought for a myriad of things I would fight for and have fought for. No doubt they are decent people with decent intentions. What they lack is leadership – and that makes everything else they do as a legislator inconsequential.
Leadership in New Jersey and nationwide
3D Team Leadership Concept, courtesy of Scott Maxwell (LumaxArt), CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License
This isn’t only a New Jersey problem. It is a national problem. Just look at decent men like John Boehner and George W. Bush. Chances are you would enjoy spending an evening with them over some good food and some good conversation. But I can assure you, they are no Ronald Reagans. Reagan was known as a great communicator, but in fact, he was a great leader. Great leaders understand what is right and what needs to be done, but they also understand how to persuade others and lead them in the right direction.
Unfortunately, our Jersey representatives don’t have a corner on the market of good intentions that go nowhere. During campaign season they will be sure to tell you about all the good legislation they have proposed over the years. What they won’t tell you is how much of that legislation was passed – or even made it to the floor of our Assembly. They drank the Kool-Aid that seems to be America’s favorite flavor – the Kool-Aid of “playing along to get along.” This philosophy has persuaded them that they must play the game and get along with others with whom they fundamentally disagree. It prevents them from taking strong stands and inhibits their passion about persuading others to follow their lead. It makes them more than willing to compromise good legislation until it’s so watered down that it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. They will repeatedly tell you that you just don’t understand how things are done in government. It is unfortunate that they are the ones that don’t understand that doing things they way they have always been done has been disastrous and has just about killed the once noble party of Lincoln.
Leadership, good intentions, and results
Good people may have good intentions but they are not necessarily good leaders. And when we elect good people who aren’t good leaders, our representation is government is compromised. It’s hard to find candidates you agree with, but electing a candidate that you agree with is only half of the solution. In New Jersey, as well as the rest of the nation, we need to find candidates we agree with and then we need to make sure that they are leaders. Granted, you won’t necessarily be able to tell that if they are running for office for the very first time. However, if they are incumbents, I urge you to not only look at the legislation they have proposed and voted on, but also on their success rate of passing legislation they have proposed. I believe our nation is in bitter straits, so I urge you to examine the result records of incumbents as well as their rhetoric.
If the status quo in America was satisfactory, this issue wouldn’t be important. Reagan said it best when he quipped: “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” Status quo is the basis of “play-along-to-get-along” philosophies in government and it is the preferred drug of many legislators who have been lulled into the cesspool of compromise.
You’ve probably heard the old saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Well, it’s time to change the road we’re on, and therefore it’s time to not only examine the intentions of candidates, but to also evaluate their ability to lead. It’s time for America to change direction, and in order to do that, we need representatives who can lead the way.
If your representative hasn’t achieved anything worthwhile, regardless of their positions, perhaps it’s time they step aside and give someone else a chance to make a difference. If they don’t want to do this on their own, Election Day can be all the persuasion you need to exert. On Election Day, you can be the leader. You can lead them out of their ivory towers and back into the real world that they have corrupted.