Communication or Reality?

There are numerous analyses of the US midterm elections.

However there seems to be a confusion over “ideas” as opposed to “communication”.

The ancients reminded us that communication effectiveness (as highlighted in an earlier post) revolves around the trinity of  “Ethos” (the credibility and character of the communicator), “Pathos” (appeal to common human feelings and emotions) and “Logos” (logic).

President Obama will never win the Ethos argument with some who reflexively dislike him, or who fantasize about Kenyan thought viruses in his make-up, or his being a closet Muslim (with the implications that he must be a Manchurian Candidate on behalf of radical Muslim extremists), or who believe anyone left of center is a card-carrying Trotskyite.

The President excels in Logos…in fact he’s a little too good at it. He seems to be lecturing the nation from a rostrum rather than engaging with us in the heartland. He comes across at times as our “Lecturer-in-Chief”. There are human forces stronger than logic, and logic provides a scaffolding for persuasiveness in a crisis at best.

So given the above, where he needs to shine is Pathos. I’ve heard pundits proclaiming he needs to get better at sound-bites. But what all the sound bites they refer to have in common (“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” “Mr. Gorbachev, take down the wall,”  or even the Churchillian “We will never surrender!”), is that they engage, tap and appeal to common emotions, values, feelings, aspirations and pride. That’s where President Obama has to come through.

He’s an admirable, intelligent, genuine person…but he needs a broader team, and he needs to spend actual time with people not photo-ops where $15,000 a plate dinners, involve him arriving for 20 minutes to shake a few hands and then jet off, while people are left feeling like extras at a deserted movie set. His team seem detached, almost smug…their pulse needs to beat far more in tune and in time with the concerns of the larger populace. They need listening posts and relay stations back to the President.

President Obama’s ability to take on his own party, not submitting to Congressional fiat which made it seem that the White House was as inbred as Congress, would have been refreshing. Well, it’s a new day. And we have the “blessings” of divided Government that allowed Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill to tackle the Cold War, and Bill Clinton and the once ‘saner’ Newt Gingrich (chastened after the debacle of his government shutdown backfired) to balance the budget among other accomplishments.

So now the President should become “Connector-in-Chief” and not let himself be “handled” into being a pastel President. We need primary colors, and we need him to be his own man, and take on Republicans where necessary and to work with them where wise. And he needs to do the same with his own Party. The tidal wave that brought him into office was generated in part by a belief that he was more of an “outsider” than Hilary and would constitute a real change. Those who stayed away from voting in the mid-terms, even some who despise the alternatives who were voted in, were arguably conveying through their seeming apathy that they would not rush out to underwrite ‘business as usual’. If that’s all we have to look forward to, then indeed let’s make sure neither Party can move without consulting with and gaining consensus from the other. It’s a lot safer all around…

Something radical may well be needed. But let’s hope it’s not the radicalism of imbecility and blinkered extremism as some candidates seemed to exemplify, but real radicalsim, a return to roots. Perhaps we can be radical enough to to execute on glaring basics. Namely get money (1 trillion parked with banks and corporations) into the market, to rehabilitate education and fast-track job training so those out of work can fill the vacancies out there, to seek to lead the Green economy and get manufacturing back to key parts of the country, to continue to attract foreign investment but put it to good use (not to underwrite the next consumption binge), to crack the cul-de-sac of current immigration policy and do an across-the-board cut in spending (as we’ll never do it program by program, all of which have their own lobbyists and interest groups). Americans will get behind a regimen where they can see “means” hook up to “ends” and where someone asks them to sacrifice for ensuring our future is bigger certainly than our recent past. This will require real leadership not just management. The latter is about managing today (important), the former is about creating the future (essential).

If such a President didn’t get re-elected, shame on us. If someone who has the office, won’t aspire to be or become such a President, re-election or not, shame on them.