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False Memories and Mandates

I rarely write about politics. Not just because the field is already overcrowded and filled with noise, but for a more important personal reason. Politics in our modern America has become a mere shadow of its intent. I don’t write about shadows, I write about the things that cast shadows.

To my point—this country is not being served by hearing about mandates. Unless this is one of those new mash-up words referring to guy’s night out, the concept has become vapid and useless, and is thrown out all too frequently by the reigning Party of the moment.

The last several elections weren’t about mandates, they were about changing the direction the politicians in power (from whatever party) were taking this country.  As I said in an interview from Rome two days prior to the election, this last election wasn’t a sea change as much as a toilet flush.

Firstly, you can’t have a mandate when the “bases” of both political parties (the tea party isn’t a party as much as a movement), represent ideas that most Americans don’t want to fully embrace.

Secondly, a mandate needs to last.  It needs to be resolute.  It needs to be relevant for more than a few news cycles.  Unfortunately, in today’s fast-moving, fire-hose flooding, sensationalistic and yet somehow still pedantic world of news, most Americans have learned to develop a form of ADHD when they consider political meaning and history.

As I traveled the country giving keynote speeches in 1999 (the year of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial), I asked my audiences to raise their hands if they believed that Bill Clinton was impeached. Though I began asking this question only months after the impeachment trials, I never saw more than 60% of my audiences raise their hands. As more time went by, the number of hands diminished. Just ten months after the impeachment trial, only 10-20 % of the hands were raised.

Not only are most Americans vulnerable and susceptible to spin, many can’t even remember what they know. For weeks, millions of Americans watched the television and read newspapers with the words, “The Impeachment Trial.”  They were bombarded with talking heads and editorials explaining that these trials take place only after a president has been impeached.  They talked about the impeachment trials at dinners and at work with friends, and yet…

Alas, mandates are not unlike memories.   They are subject to false interpretation to the point of total fabrication.  This is the way the memory works in the mind.  And unfortunately this has become the way politics works in America.  All this focus on false mandates combined with the false memories of most Americans leaves us niggling ourselves to death.

Unfortunately, those who are supposed to make their money focusing our collective attention on constructive solutions to the serious issues facing our country—the media and our elected officials—are the lead nigglers.  We would do well as a country to have less people interested in claiming false mandates and more people interested in true solutions to our very real problems.

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