Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Real Leaders Sometimes Lose

This post is going to veer away from the usual education focus and slightly into politics, but I think it's related.

The Denver Post ran an editorial today titled, Repeal TABOR? It's not happening, where they said,
Gov. John Hickenlooper told an assembly of school administrators last week what some of them clearly didn't want to hear: that any effort to repeal the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights would be "doomed." But Hickenlooper is very likely right about the odds, and education leaders shouldn't waste their time urging political leaders to undertake the electoral equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Remember the thrashing that Amendment 66, which would have raised the income tax for education, sustained two years ago? Any attempt to repeal TABOR outright could easily face an even worse drubbing.

Hickenlooper was responding to a request by Boulder Superintendent Bruce Messinger that the governor lead a campaign to repeal TABOR, according to Chalkbeat Colorado. "We will need the governor to lead that charge," Messinger said.

To which Hickenlooper replied: "To take on that battle ... right now, that would be a doomed effort."

Indeed it would. Opponents of a repeal effort would have a field day portraying the campaign as contemptuous of popular opinion and bent on huge tax hikes. 
The Denver Post, like many media outlets, pundits, and politicians themselves, has succumbed to the viewpoint that governing (and politics) is always (and only) about winning. It's not.

I find it interesting that nowhere in that article does the Post's editorial board actually discuss the merits of repealing TABOR, it's only about whether it's a winning issue or not. And, to be clear, they are probably right, it would be a long shot to pass. But that's not the point.

What we need is real leadership, from Governor Hickenlooper, the state legislature, and even the Denver Post. Real leadership would realize that TABOR, Gallagher and Amendment 23 all hamstring our elected leaders from actually governing. That they are a horrible way to govern in a representative democracy, and they effectively make it impossible for our state government to operate efficiently and effectively, and to plan and implement policy.

Real leadership would look at the polls, realize it's most likely a losing issue, and take it on anyway. Real leadership would realize that this is so important that it's worth spending a lot of time and effort educating the public on it, even if it loses. Real leadership would propose repealing all three amendments and ask the voters to let their elected leaders actually govern.

It's not "contemptuous of popular opinion" to see a serious problem and then try to educate voters on why it's a problem and propose a solution. How many times in history has "popular opinion" been absolutely, utterly wrong and immoral? Would the Post suggest that Abraham Lincoln, Susan Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr. (to name just a few) were "wasting their time?"

It may indeed be a doomed effort, but that doesn't mean it's not worth fighting. And sometimes even doomed efforts succeed. After all, I'm sure the Post thought that when a little known junior Senator from Illinois announced his candidacy for President in 2007, it was a "doomed effort." In fact, I bet when a little known bar owner, who was a failed geologist, decided to run for Denver mayor, that was a "doomed effort" as well. I wonder whatever happened to him?

The basic problems with TABOR/Gallagher/Amendment 23 can be easily explained in less than five minutes. What if Governor Hickenlooper spent five minutes explaining those problems each and every day at each and every event he was at? And what if other like-minded leaders in Colorado - on both sides of the aisle - also took five minutes at each and every stop in their day and described the problem? And what if the Denver Post, instead of focusing on winning and losing and the horserace aspects of politics, actually tried advocating for a solution?

So many of our problems today can be traced back to a lack of leadership. Whether it's education policy, the dysfunctional United States Congress, or the Colorado State Government being unwilling to have an honest conversation with the voters of Colorado about how TABOR, Gallagher, and Amendment 23 are crippling their ability to govern, our problems come down to folks being more concerned about political "victories" than actually trying to find solutions and solve problems.

What we need is leadership. Real leaders sometimes lose, but they choose to fight the battle anyway, because they know it's the right thing to do. And because they know that leading sometime means being out in front of the crowd and that, over time, you can bring the crowd along with you. That's not being contemptuous of public opinion, that's leadership.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the author and I also believe that good leaders should take chances and keep the people they are serving in mind at all times. Politics have become such a beauty contest that the true integrity and merit we need in our representative has become non existent. This was an extremely well written article. Very rarely do I agree with every view point made in an article but this one really stood out. This was a great read. Please feel free to check out my blog with the University of South Alabama EDM 310 class at http://thomleymercediedm310.blogspot.com/