I watched Tuesday night’s second presidential debate with great interest. Although I am conservative and will vote accordingly, I genuinely tried to listen to each exchange and hear it from the standpoint of an undecided voter in order to make my own judgment about the potential impact of the debate on that all-important segment of the voting population who will determine the winner of the election. I wasn’t listening in order to cheer on every punch my candidate threw or to combat every point made by the other side. I seriously wanted to sit with a notepad in hand and put a simple tick mark in a column for Romney, Obama or Draw after each question’s series of responses. While I won’t share the score in all three columns here, I will say that I put more tick marks in the Draw column than in either of the other two.
It was a challenge to try to listen to each speaker and imagine how the general population might respond to the debate. It is impossible, of course, to completely separate our biases from our ultimate judgments of who wins or loses arguments. It is, however, possible to try to do a far fairer job of it than we typically do in politics and other areas of life. It is not difficult at all (if we try) to be more unbiased than the spinmeisters who clutter the airwaves after a debate.
Our country is as polarized as I’ve ever seen it politically. No matter which side wins in November, about half the country will be disappointed. Many will hold grudges and be uncooperative until they get a chance to win again in 2016. That’s a shame.
Part of the leadership we need is to unite our people around common concerns and purposes. For someone to lead that way, he will have to do the very hard thing of being as unbiased as possible, listen to all, work across the aisle, and then make a decision and own it. Anything less will just perpetuate the division.
That is no small task. I wish the eventual winner well.
Leap year lesson #290 is Bringing people together takes real leadership.