New Political Skill

At risk of confusing “what I think” with “what I hope,” the political skill likely to be of greatest value in the coming years is the ability to say “no” nicely.

At present the skill does not exist and it hasn’t for some time.

Instead, candidates for office make promises to just enough groups to get to 51% even though the promises are both inconsistent and unaffordable.

If you are doing the promising it is called appealing to your base. If your opponent is doing it, the term of choice is flip-flopping.

Taken to extremes, the practice results in the Republican Party, a coalition of disparate interests that exists for no purpose other than providing a more or less equal number of votes as the opposing Democrats.

At present, the winners can deliver on at least some of what they promise because the United States is able to borrow almost 40 cents of every dollar we spend, but this might not always the case. In fact, it might not be the case now because much of the borrowing is coming from nothing more than a printing press. When this practice is seen to be devaluing the currency the real lenders will exit and the downward spiral will become more acute.

What is the political strategy when we can no longer kick the can down the road? Saying “no” nicely, perhaps without even losing the votes of the disappointed.

Voters are only part of the challenge. Contributors also receive full-court pandering that is often less than consistent or sound policy.

Tax breaks and foreign policy positions seem to be available to the highest bidder and, remarkably, the bids do not have to be that high to win the day. Imagine a board of directors deciding on a political influence strategy. The return on investment is virtually infinite. Go for it. What is the next item on the agenda?

Hurricane Sandy reminds that there are legitimate purposes for government. Drowning the entire thing in a bathtub might not work out too well. Before running out of money for the things we really need, we should begin saying “no” to the things we don’t.

The successful will learn to say it nicely.

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