Invoking Reagan

Ronald Reagan Library

Yesterday marked the end of the Ted Cruz presidential campaign. Colleagues and peers did like Cruz, a self branded Constitutional conservative who liked to compare himself to Ronald Reagan (President #40). What a misnomer.

In fact, almost every one of the Republican candidates has invoked Ronald Reagan’s name in attempt to shine some luster on their campaign. It kind of makes sense. After all, Reagan was the last successful two-term Republican president to leave office on good terms.

George W. Bush (#43) did not fare so well, no matter what Marco Rubio would have the public believe. No, Reagan represents the most recent Golden Age of the Republican Party, not only healing the wounds of the Nixon presidency (#37, another two-term GOP president), but also ushering in the Bush presidencies with his Vice President and next President George H. W. Bush (#41).

But the reality of yesteryear does not match the off-putting tea party citing of the Reagan presidency. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner said it best this past weekend, “I love all these knuckleheads talking about the party of Reagan. He would be the most moderate Republican elected today.”

The Tea Party’s Moderation Problem

Ronald Reagan Library

Therein lies the problem with today’s Tea Party party. You have conservatives comparing themselves to a successful moderate Republican, but they refuse to tolerate or compromise to achieve any kind of policy movement.

If there was anyone who understood the art of the deal, it was Reagan. As has been oft-documented Reagan — like Obama — had an opposing Congress, a Democratic one. But unlike today’s hardline Tea-Party driven conservative Republican Congress, the Democrats under the stewardship of House Speaker Tip O’Neill would often work out a deal with Reagan.

That very essence of working together is something Ted Cruz could never get. We’re talking about the guy who shut down the government to make a point about ObamaCare, one he knew he could never win.

Yet, Cruz is not alone. Shunning moderates has become the normal course of action for the conservative Republican movement. Anyone who hangs their hat on being a moderate finds themselves cajoled as a liberal, and so you have moderate Republicans hiding in the hallways, losing influence, or simply turning their coats.

No, the coalition building of today’s Republican Party is one of fear, and there is very little about it that reminds one of Reagan. John Kasich remains the one traditional Republican moderate in the race, but he didn’t and still doesn’t have a snowball chance in hell when you consider Donald Trump’s growing strength.

Trump and Clinton

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Unfortunately for the Republicans, the promise of Reagan didn’t meet the reality of the conservative movement’s absolutism. That’s why Trump has won the ticket, and that’s why many Republicans stand to lose power this coming election.

The Republican party failure hurts America, in my opinion. The alternatives are not great. When you look at the Democrats you have Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. In the case of Sanders, we have a delusional old man pandering to young people with unachievable campaign promises. The Vermont Senator is an impractical idealist who has little understanding of baseline economics, nor does he understand the damage he is doing to his own party.

The presumptive nominee for the Democrats Hillary Clinton may be as unlikeable as Ted Cruz. Her politics have become increasing liberal, and that may be moderate a moving to the left to secure her nomination. Certainly, that would be a career politician’s move, but you can’t deny that Hillary Clinton has serious flaws, some with a certain air of corruption to them.

The moderate voter now faces a Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, unless something miraculous happens that benefits either Bernie Sanders or John Kasich. That’s too bad. Trump is wild and violent, and Clinton is uninspiring and shady.

P.S. My Politics

Because of the tendency to brand anyone who criticizes the Republican party as a liberal, I would like to state my politics here. I am a former Republican who voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and am now registered as a Democrat. I intend to re-register as an Independent for this presidential election, because it is clear to me that neither party represents my moderate values.

Winning Political Battles and Losing the Economic War

Abe Lincoln's Hand

Marketers can learn from the horrible debt debate and the resulting downgrade of U.S. credit. The pursuit of personal and partisan agendas by all parties — but most notably Tea Party extremists and to a lesser extent liberal Democrats — cost the nation and to some extent global investors alike. All parties came out looking worse for the wear. While posturing to be idealogically right, the utter loss of respect in the eyes of their customers — the American citizen local and national, as well as global investors– cannot justify hardline stances.

As a result of this gamesmanship, Congress now enjoys record low disapproval ratings. While making “We passed our bill, they won’t compromise” statements, Congress failed to enact the deep cuts envisioned by the likes of the Gang of Six or President Obama’s Grand Bargain.

And now rather than buckle down and resolve the crisis, both political parties increased the rhetoric this weekend blaming each other for the lowered credit rating. So what is the price of continuing to be right?

At risk is more than the country’s Standard & Poor rating. Moody’s and Fitch — the remaining two primary credit firms — stand ready to downgrade U.S. credit, too. A combination of all three firms downgrading U.S. credit could create shockwaves throughout the economy. Further, global investors are now putting pressure on Washington to clean up its debt.

Tarnishing your country in the name of partisanship and reelections is not an act of leadership. It is likely that 2012 will be the fourth straight Congressional election with major volatility and turnover. This time it may have little to do with platform, and everything to do with an incumbent status. The American customer is very, very unhappy.

Marketers can see short term wins at the expense of long term customer satisfaction yields poor results. It never pays to cut off your nose to spite your face.

What do you think of the PR blame game in Washington right now?

Julien Assange: Criminal, Journalist or Both?

There are many questions that have arisen about Julien Assange, primarily debates about whether or not Assange is a full-on criminal, a Fifth Estate journalist exposing a corrupt power’s broken methods of imperial influence, or both. With Asange’s arrest has come the vigilante cyberwar waged by international hackers against U.S. commercial web sites.

One thing has become clear in the past week about the entire Wikileaks situation, the United States reaction to the leaked State Department cables was swift and severe. Rape charges that were once dismissed by Swedish authorities suddenly became the cause for an Interpol arrest of Assange. As to the U.S.’s severe reaction — particularly statements from right wingers like Sarah Palin that he should be hung — have exposed the U.S. as a reactionary power. Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet, Act III, scene II, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Support for WikiLeaks has also been voiced by several world leaders, including Brazil’s outgoing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “I show my solidarity with WikiLeaks,” Lula said during a press conference Friday. “The fault is not with …the one who divulged the information but with the ones who wrote such stupidity,” he said. Russia went so far as to say Assange should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Regardless of whether history writes Assange as a fighter of imperial ills or a terrorist (surely a question of which country tells the story), numerous questions still remain abut the role of media at the crossroads traditional and new citizen driven self-appointed journalists. The impact will be far reaching, forever changing the role of media in the new world.

Criminal Intent or Journalist?

Parsing criminal versus journalist is a troubling question. Certainly, getting secure documents and leaking them is a criminal offense. Whether it was the right thing to do, an act of exposing corruption versus terrorism clearly depends on a political views.

Many journalists go to jail in the name of exposing corruption and wrong doing. Most recently in the U.S., a national case that caused jail time was the Barry Bonds steroids scandal, which caused Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada an 18 month sentence (waived).

Critics have said that Assange has a political agenda with the United States. So does Wall Street Journal Owner Rupert Murdoch, in case you haven’t noticed the political leanings of Fox News and his contributions to the Tea Party.

Assange and Wikileaks is the ultimate expression of the Fifth Estate. Full of shocking power, Assange has arisen to hold the U.S. Government and its partners accountable (right or wrong) because they will not act responsibly. Further, the media has failed to hold the government responsible creating the need for Wikileaks. When one sees the abuses exposed in Nigeria for example, it’s hard to turn a blind eye and say that Assange is completely off his rocker about U.S. corruption. Further, Wikileaks has demonstrated that the war in Afghanistan is not going well contrary to continuing White House protests that the conflict is winnable… 10 years after it began.

Consider Jay Rosen’s words at the PDF Forum this weekend on Wikileaks: “In my mind, Wikileaks is the world’s first stateless news organization,” said Jay Rosen, media critic and professor at the New York University School of Journalism. “You’ve heard of voting with you feet? The sources are voting with their leaks. If they trusted the newspapers more, they would be going to the newspapers.”

The only thing that could disqualify Assange’s status as a new 21st century journalist would be funding. If Wikileaks is backed by a foreign power (for example, Iran or China) or a terrorist organization (Al Qaeda) then one would have to write Assange off as a political puppet that needs to be treated like a spy or terrorist. Otherwise, America got caught with its pants down by a new jack that showed just how powerful digital media really can be in the modern age.

As to the vigilantes defending Assange, anonymous criminal activity is just that. People die in real wars. Cyberwar has its price, too, and while many of these young digital fighters will never see a courtroom, the romantic aura of their actions shouldn’t fool anyone. If one plays adult games, they should be ready to pay adult prices.

Advice, Politics and Parenting

Soleil Sleeps

I thought about writing a post mortem election post on what the Democrats could have done better with their online communications campaign (starting with their relentless spamming of my email address in spite of several opt-out requests). Then I decided not to. After my Mashable post on the two party’s approaches, did I really need to offer this unsolicited criticism? No one at the Democrats is asking for my advice.

As a new parent, I am getting quite a bit of advice right now. Some of it is paid (pediatrician, lactatian, etc.), some of it is requested advice from friends who have been there, and most of it is unsolicited from family, friends, and online community members.

Don’t get me wrong. I generally hear people out. It’s important for people to share their experiences, and really, parenting is such a great life journey, it’s hard not to… I understand that.

That doesn’t mean listening to everyone makes sense. There are no absolutes. Especially when someone has no experience in a situation — like me and politics. I have never run a political campaign, I only get online communications as a generalist. While I certainly have some experiences to share (and I kept it to SM experience only in my Mashable post), who am I to tell Tim Kaine and company how to run an election? Opinions like this are a dime a dozen on Twitter.

Experience-based advice is better. But, it’s important to note, no singular experience is 100% right. For example, everyone told me a baby couldn’t turn itself sleeping on its back until it was roughly three months old; that babies enjoyed sleeping on their backs. Soleil turned herself on day two and hasn’t stopped since (no arm swaddling for her). Like her daddy, she likes sleeping on her side.

Point being, advice — particularly when it is an unsolicited unexperienced absolutism — rarely has value, nor is it usually welcome. Further, when we do have experience, isn’t it best to couch it as just that? Something like, “Hey, this is just my experience.”

This is what’s wrong with online communications today, the amount of pontificators offering absolutist advice. That’s why I wrote last week’s punk social media post, which pointed out a general groundswell of discontent with social media “rules” today. We have a lot to add when it’s a shared knowledge, it goes off the rails when it becomes an enforced dictate.

What if we are right? This seems like an obvious question at this point. The answer: “You can lead the horse to the water…” Some people learn by their own experiences. After we offer our experiences, isn’t it best to let them do just that? And cheer them on if they find a different way? Or allow them to fail gracefully without rubbing it in?

Just some thoughts on advice. And until someone at the DNC asks me, I’ll let the Democrats judge their own results (but I would be delighted not to be included in their email lists anymore).

Blog Action Day: American Apathy and Compassion

This October 15 more than 8,000 blogs wrote to support the environment. Here’s my entry (cross-posted on Live Earth’s blog)…

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Twenty three percent. That’s the percentage of global energy consumed by U.S. citizens, which only has 5% of the world’s population (source: World Resource Institute). If the rest of the world consumed as we Americans do, it would take 5.4 earths to meet our resource needs (source: Global Footprint Network). Better hope those moon and Mars programs get funding!

In all seriousness, we as Americans have become incredible consumers of the world’s resources. In addition to energy, we eat more meat than any other society. American meat consumption accounts for 59% – that’s right, 59% – of the country’s agricultural products (feed). Think about that. Of all the crops we grow, 59% to raise beef, chicken and other meat stocks, while only 33% is used for actual food (source: World Resource Institute). The carbon emissions resulting from all of the extra grains grown to feed animals astounds me.

Forget about gas guzzlers. What if we only ate meat once a day, or even every other day? Can you imagine the positive impact on our national carbon footprint (not to mention our waistlines)?

Yet, when we find ourselves faced with every day decisions about changing our ways — from walking vs driving, from a spinach omelette vs. a pastrami sandwich — we as a country seem to turn our back on the world. The American Dream of fulfillment (anything we want, anytime) has turned into a vicious boomerang punishing the world. We turn a blind eye on our habits.

With a major climate bill stalled in the Senate, and the world’s most important environmental conference since Kyoto looming, the country seems poised to continue our national environmental irreverence. Is there compassion for the world we live in?

Four Great American Barriers to Change: Apathy, Hopelessness, Cost and Politics

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What would George Washington say if faced with our environmental crisis?

Legitimate or not, one always finds a rationale behind the American anti-green pathos. Here are the four that seem to occur most frequently…

1) Despite the obviously accelerating climate crisis and the very real and terrible consequences climate change represents, we find ourselves constantly distracted, from healthcare and economic issues to poverty and war. All of these are meaningful issues, but because the environment is moving towards cataclysmic crisis over a period of decades rather than an immediate state of danger, it’s easy to set it aside. Besides, that NY Strip sure looks good right about now!

2) Further, one can feel powerless to affect change with such a massive issue. How can one person do anything to turn this around (here are five changes I’ve enacted to reduce my carbon footprint)? When hope is not apparent, when you feel your actions are inconsequential, why bother doing anything? As a society, we must do a better job encouraging individuals and their positive impact on the climate.

3) The high cost of buying more sustainable goods seems to be a deterrent. The good news here is that we are looking at a short-term problem. More and more companies view green and sustainability approaches as a means to boost their social responsibility programs. As time continues to pass, we now see sustainability actually driving new innovation and profits (source: Harvard Business Review)!

4) Finally, we have conservative and sometimes religious politicians that want to deny or minimize the impact of climate change. One could lament for years about bipartisan politics and theological ills. Whatever the motive, our earth has become politicized instead of nurtured. As a result, we see the environment as a battle ground to fight about liberal vs. conservative, long term planning vs. free economy, and science vs. religion.

Politicians know they can avoid supporting the climate because their constituents get distracted by short-term issues. Yet do any of these conflicting philosophies actually run counter to caring for the environment? Can’t you be conservative, love free economies, believe devoutly in God, and love the Earth with caring actions, too?

In all of these four reasons, one can see a travesty of justice: The only loser remains our immediate future.

In the Woods…

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Regardless of reason, one must look into their hearts and ask themselves, do I want this? Do we really want to continue consuming voraciously in this mindless fashion?

Sometimes, it takes a simple walk in outside. That’s my recommendation for those who don’t know what to do today.

Putting one foot in front of the other, we move through our gorgeous world. As we walk in our local parks and forests, a sense of peace seems to inevitably rise within. The great American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith.” In that sense, walking in our natural world we arrive.

It is in such a meditative moment that I ask you, dear reader, to think about this issue. Do you love your life and this world? If so, are you doing everything you personally can?

Do not minimize the power of your actions. Consider Care2’s rendition of the Butterfly effect:

The “Butterfly Effect” reference is to a story about the flap of a butterfly’s wings in the Brazilian rain forest, that moves the air, that redirects the breeze, that alters the wind, and eventually leads to a hurricane moving up the east coast of America. A small change that results in an incredible outcome.

Will you become one of the growing body of Americans whose compassion will turn the tide of apathy and inaction? Will you take just one action today to preserve our climate?