Thanks to Tom Reid, who has built his 30+ year career consulting on government contracts.
Debates are pointless.
We’ve been told, you and I, that debating is the best way to understand an issue, because you get to hear both sides in an informed sort of way.
Except … at the end of a formal debate, what do the judges do (or, at the end of a presidential or vice-presidential debate, pundits (or polls) do?
They decide who won. Not which position was right. Quite the opposite — the entire premise of the debate format is that both positions are always equally right. All debates do is determine who is the better arguer. It’s intellectual relativism at its finest.
At the end of the presidential and vice-presidential debates, what have we learned? Nothing more about the issues or which of the two debaters would be better in office, unless the office they’re running for is Debater In Chief.
Welcome to my once-every-four years pre-election diatribe, built on the thin pretext that this relates to the business challenge of how you decide who to hire and retain. As with past diatribes I won’t suggest who you should vote for, just how each of us might go about deciding who to vote for.
Thought #1: Be happy. Yes, I think one of the two presidential tickets would be better for this country than the other. But. Whichever ticket is elected, we’ll end up with very smart, very qualified individuals as both president and vice president.
Like him or not, Barack Obama is very smart, and has demonstrated that he reviews evidence and listens to smart, well-informed individuals before making his decisions.
And, like him or not, Mitt Romney has demonstrated throughout his career that whatever else he might be, he’s also a very smart guy who knows how to listen, learn, and get things done.
Also, unlike many past elections, where one or both of the vice-presidential candidates were bad jokes, Joe Biden, for all his gaffes, is intensely knowledgeable, especially about foreign policy; while Paul Ryan is better known for his wonkiness than his charisma.
We have four highly qualified candidates. We should always be so lucky.
Thought #2: From a policy perspective, the election matters little. Whoever is elected, so long as either party holds more than 40% of the seats in the Senate it can block just about everything related to implementing presidential policy. Never mind which party started it. No matter who is elected president, and whichever party has a majority in the House and Senate, we can expect this dynamic to continue.
The only cure I see for this is instant run-off (aka Ranked Choice Voting). Here’s why: Instant run-off allows citizens to vote for the candidate they think is best qualified rather than the major-party candidate they think is best qualified.
In case this point isn’t clear: Voting for the third-party candidate you like best counts as a half vote against whichever major party candidate you’d prefer if your preferred third-party candidate loses.
So instant run-off is what’s needed for third-party candidates to get elected. We’d only need a few of them in the House and Senate for the third party to be the tie-breaker for every vote (and cloture vote). A viable third party might actually break the gridlock.
And no, gridlock isn’t desirable. Change is constant. We need to adapt, our government just as much as businesses and ourselves. Gridlock prevents that.
Thought #3: This time, perhaps party affiliation should be a deciding factor. I’ve never taken this position in the past. I hope I never take it in the future. But given the gridlock issue, and given that the two major parties have behaved very differently in the recent past … not that one or the other is better or worse, but that they have very different flaws … it might make sense to evaluate the candidates based on which of the two parties they’ve decided to lead and be constrained by, and why you think they made that choice.
That, in fact, is how I made my decision this time. I find one of the two parties to be far more consistently detestable than the other, far more than I feel strongly about either presidential candidate. And as the winner’s party, by directing the executive branch, gets much more power, that in itself is a major issue this year.
Thought #4: Vote. Remember, please, that as citizens we aren’t government’s customers, nor are we disinterested spectators. We’re our government’s owners, and as owners we’re responsible for it. Vote.
Enough. Thanks for indulging me. Next week it’s back to business.