As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Crisis of Confidence, Our Growing Leadership

Absolutely nobody should be surprised by today's voting fiascos. This is what happens when you have a leadership vacuum. This is what happens when you have nominal leaders who are ruthless and vicious on one side, and cautious and nervous on the other. In short, THIS IS WHY THIS SITE EXISTS. Because America suffers from a crisis of confidence in our leaders.

And we're not the only ones who know it, the whole country is aware, and best of all they figured it out all by themselves, without help from a media that was busy paying attention to other things. This story in today's Washington Post is at once disturbing and completely uplifting, because while it paints a dour picture of the national mood it shows that Americans are fed up with things as they are and ready for someone, anyone, to step into that leadership role. It's a portrait of a country waiting for a movement.

Here's something to think about when you cast your vote today: A new study shows that Americans have lost faith in the people who lead their federal, state and local governments, and in businesses, churches and schools. And they are afraid to fly.

"America is in trouble," reads the introduction to the 2006 National Leadership Index, sponsored by U.S. News & World Report and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. According to the report, nearly three-quarters of Americans think that the nation faces a "leadership crisis."

This is the survey's second year, and it has been downhill all the way, said Todd Pittinsky, the center's research director. "Most groups are following the general trend of having low confidence and, if anything, having that confidence slip further."

I wrote a post months ago (cross-posted here) called "The Era of Low Expectations" which addresses these same feelings of unease and disenchantment. We know now, with the addition of this survey, that the country doesn't expect much out of government or their leaders. In that result is both despair and opportunity. For while the Republicans continue to capitalize on that fear and resentment, depressing turnout and turning the most vengeful and angry in society into a political weapon, the progressive movement is inspiring hope. When I see record turnout in Connecticut and Virginia, I see hundreds of thousands of hopeful people returning to a vision of society where they can be confident in the forthrightness of their leaders again. When I hear about the hundreds of thousands making millions of phone calls through MoveOn, many of them having never participated in that level of civic engagement, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because of the millions that come on these "series of tubes," a growing number by the day, to participate and inform and advocate and build a movement that knows no limit.

Here's part of what I wrote a few months back.

We don't assume that we have a monopoly on scientific advancement and technological achievement. We don't believe that we can pull off the big idea anymore. We don't demand anything of our citizenry except that some of them vote and the rest of them hit the mall to serve as engines propping up the global economy. We don't expect any domestic problem to be solved at the hands of government. And we don't expect any world problem to be solved without the use of bunker buster bombs and heavy artillery.

We have the lowest expectations from government, for civic duty, for our national character, than at any time in the history of the Republic.

At least some of us do.

The liberal blogosphere is a perfect example of the untapped potential of the American spirit. The settling for low expectations out of our population is nothing but a deliberate failure of imagination. When we despair, when we give up, when we start to believe the learned helplessness that the more nefarious elements in society try to ingraine into us, that is when Republicans win. As practiced today Republicanism makes a mockery of self-reliance. They want you to believe that nothing is possible. They want you to believe that war is the only answer to foreign policy, that private enterprise is the only answer to health care and education and Social Security, that tax cuts are the only answer to fiscal policy.

They want you to know that you can't change the world.

But you can.

The country is clearly starving for real leadership on the issues that face them. Today is the first day that we begin to provide it. This journey against an entire class of media and two political parties begins today with a single step. The country is ready. All we have to do is show the way.