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  • Is this leadership?

    Published on Thursday, October 10, 2013

    As I struggle to accept that the House of Representatives is fundamentally flawed in its ability to provide collective leadership to this country, i am struck by the disastrous impact of their ineffectiveness. I like many people have been stunned by the government shutdown and the apparent bubble in which Representatives go about their daily lives while others - hard working people trying to get by - suffer the consequences of Washington DC grandstanding, posturing and bloat.

    This evening i listened to an articulate woman, working a part-time job at Walgreens, and looking forward to her first apartment, explain the impact that the shutdown has had on her. She 'lives' here in San Francisco, where I also live. I put her 'live' in quotes because right now she's staying in a homeless shelter. She could have been in her own apartment but for the lack of collective leadership in Washington DC.

    You may notice that I identify the lack of leadership in Washington as a lack of 'collective' leadership, not a lack of leadership in general. Many members of the House of Representatives have true followers in their home districts. Some of them appear to believe that that is all they have been elected to do - serve the people in their home district who believe exactly what they believe (or what politicking requires them to share publicly). Yet I believe that every elected member of the House of Representatives (and Senate) is elected for a dual purpose.

    First, these people are elected to represent the people within their district and/or state - to provide leadership so that others may follow them. And, in following these elected leaders, people's lives should become better, they will feel well represented, as if their own voices are heard in the halls of Congress. Even though not every member of a district has elected each particular representative, because of differences of politics and values, the person elected is put in a position of needing to represent EVERYONE in their district. So if someone wins an election with 51% of the vote - they are still supposed to represent the entire district. That's the job.

    There is a second responsibility that comes with being a member of the House of Representatives or Senate - and I think many people forget about this second requirement. That is, elected officials are also tasked with the responsibility of figuring out how to work well with others to pass legislation that promotes the best interests of all people in this country - they have a collective responsibility to figure out how to work WITH EACH OTHER!

    Can you imagine a CEO, division president or plant manager who decides to only serve the majority of people who agree with him or her - be that 51% or 76% or 82.5% or whatever number you come up with. How long would that person last? And how successful would that company be? It would fall apart very quickly with that kind of behavior. Oh, that's right, that's exactly what's happening - our government is shut down right now because certain people in the House of Representatives have decided that their narrow views are the only thing that matter. They have decided that they can ignore the laws of the land -  the Affordable Care Act has been passed and is supported by the Supreme Court - and say that they know better.

    I'll answer my own question now. No - what we are seeing in the behavior of some people in the House of Representatives is not leadership. It is narcissism gone wild. I hope that everyone listens to the articulate young woman featured in the PBS Newshour clip as she talks about the impact of this shutdown on her. She's working hard to do the right thing in her life - as an individual, an employee and a community member. She speaks clearly and directly.  Perhaps members of the House should learn from her.

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