After too many months of political posturing, divisive accusations and unabashed rancor, the citizens of this country will soon elect the 45th President of the United States. Whatever the result, we can expect about half of the country will be disappointed. What happens after that will define us as a nation.
We can choose to let the rift grow, and render any kind of meaningful action impossible, or we can focus on the common good. We can continue to scream at each other, to keep the “other side” from being heard, or we can listen to the very real needs of the people who are coping with the crumbling infrastructures in our cities. We can obsess about our own needs, or consider the plight of the people left behind in the recent economic recovery – people unemployed or underemployed who held good jobs ten years ago. We can call each other names, question each other’s family values, and spout vitriol on Facebook, or we can urge congress to support those who are actually good at creating job growth.
A few weeks ago, I hosted a breakfast meeting with industry leaders and invited Dick Gephardt to provide some insight into how the election fall-out might impact the business climate. As you no doubt recall, he served as a United States Representative for 28 years and twice ran for President. He also served as both House Majority Leader and Minority Leader. If anyone gets politics, it’s Dick Gephardt. I sought his perspective on the current polarization that we are seeing in Washington, D.C., and in the country at large. His response was refreshingly non-political, rational and even inspirational. Here’s my attempt to summarize his three key points:
- The United States of America has the best system of government in the world, because it relies on the insights and input of 535 individuals and not just one person. Our founders were careful to ensure a balance of power; they knew what they were doing.
- Yes, politics sometimes get ugly. But consider the plight of countries without a functioning representative government—those countries whose political or social unrest spills into tragic global headline news. The alternative to a political solution is violence.
- Neither Republican nor Democratic governments drive true growth. Individuals – and the large or small businesses they represent – who have a vision to make and sell products and services are the ones who drive growth and create jobs. A productive government is one that can set aside political divisions and work to support the true enablers of growth.
Whatever happens as a result of the national elections, we are charged as citizens to get on with rebuilding the economy and doing the things that America is so good at. We need to stand together on this. And by the way, the rest of the world needs us to pull it together, too. All eyes will be on our country, and the global economy will respond with confidence, or not, based on what it sees here. So please, be sure to vote—support the candidates and issues you feel are valid. Then, on November 9th, let’s agree to set aside the rhetoric, pick up our tools, and get back to work. That’s something we all know how to do. And it’s how we made America great in the first place.