As we get deeper into the upcoming presidential election, one can only wonder, where have all the leaders gone? I borrowed that title from Lee Iacocca’s last book, but it applies to so many things we are dealing with today. With the Democrats squarely behind the incumbent president, the Republicans scramble to field a candidate to challenge him. Mr. Obama’s election is historic in many ways, and his first term will go down in history as one charged with pulling the country back from the brink of total economic collapse.
If you speak to Joe the Plumber and others on Main Street, they will tell you we are already in the midst of the economic meltdown. It seems like the worse the problem gets, the more money the government attempts to throw at it. To add insult to injury, I just read that AIG is suing the government for bailing out the ailing insurer, claiming it was unconstitutional in doing so! Thomas Jefferson must be turning in his grave on a daily basis these days.
While few Washington insiders claim to have any business experience, the leading Republican candidate, Mitt Romney makes a compelling argument that his business acumen is just what this country needs. Romney does hold the distinction of having both a law degree and a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard University. Honestly, while few seem to be head-over-heels for Mitt, his challengers cannot claim similar experience and can only take pot shots at his hatchet man image while running Bain Capital.
At least two candidates exited the race in the past few weeks. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former Texas Governor Rick Perry both decided their candidacies were more figments of their imaginations and egos then anything else. Huntsman has jumped on the Romney bandwagon, while Perry now supports Newt Gingrich, another polarizing candidate to say the least. Gingrich has seen his appeal seesaw from initial euphoria to tanking to a recent resurrection in South Carolina. Former Senator Rick Santorum is now claiming victory in Iowa and holding himself out as the true party and conservative favorite. And then we have Ron Paul, a candidate who stirs excitement in both young and old, with some radical, long-held ideas that strike a chord with those tired of both a country and an economy struggling to find their ways. Sadly for the Paul camp, he stands no real chance of being elected but has publicly committed to staying in the race. His only hope could be to influence change within the party and create a platform for the minority few who follow him.
The other Republican candidates have attempted to paint him as somewhat of a kook with radical ideas, like eliminating much of the federal government and dramatically cutting the defense budget. Paul simply does not have the national appeal it takes to mount a presidential campaign. Dare I say he does not “look” presidential enough – a sad but accurate comment, as we live in an era of sound bytes and photo ops, neither of which favor Ron Paul. Quite frankly I’m more than a little disgusted with both sides. More of the same partisan politics and less of any sense of reality of what Americans deal with on a daily basis. Here in Maryland, we are knee-deep in a Democratic stronghold and facing the possibility of more tax increases. You do reach a point of diminishing return where there is truly just no more to give.
For most Americans, it’s all rather sad and short on optimism. The pulse of the country tells us we have lost faith in the best and brightest. We have lost faith in their ability to guide us out this mess, restore our reputation around the world, and set us on a course of economic balance, if not true prosperity. Where have all the leaders gone?
It’s hard to get excited about an election that seems more and more to be defined by who can spin the most convincing story and deflect negative attention. Feeling helpless, we take it to the street in the forms of Occupy Wall Street and other grassroots organizations, and blooming political groups like the Tea Party.
As always, the answers lie in the true incomparable American spirit and our own willingness and ability to make things happen. Since the pain is felt so heavily on Main Street, it has to be Main Street that turns it around. Small business is truly the backbone of the economy, and with few to no politicians having any sense of the risk involved in being a small business owner, is it realistic for us to expect them to have the answers? Hell, they don’t even know the questions!
Did anyone see the January 13th article in the Business section of the Baltimore Sun, where several high-level government officials were bullish on the housing market and saw no problems on the horizon? “We are unlikely to see growth being derailed by the housing market,” said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. And Federal Governor Kevin Warsh said, “I consider the debt capital markets to be incredibly robust.” All of this was said in December 2006. Hard to believe? Not when you consider the bubble most of these bureaucrats live in. Take it to the streets America, it’s truly the only solution.
My foggy crystal ball tells me that we will re-elect Mr. Obama, if for no other reason than he’s the devil we know versus the devil we don’t. Romney looks too patrician, almost too presidential, and the Democrats will effectively paint him as a silver-spoon son of great wealth and influence who is clearly out of touch with everyday America. You certainly can’t make the argument that Romney knows what it’s like to struggle! So, with Obama being safely elected to serve his second and final term, the process will start all over again, and the partisan politics will continue until things eventually start to turn around and they all jockey to take credit. The answers, my friends, lie on Main Street, not Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue. Look for new ways to reinvent yourself and discover your own solutions for a way out. Maybe, just maybe, Washington can take a page from your book.