I’m in SC today speaking to the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association Women Lawyers and Leadership Conference. Everyone is looking for leadership, but we need to remember that a leader is somebody who gets something done. And then go do it. Same advice I have for members of Congress in my Arena commentary today. Read on and let me know what you would tell the complainers:
Arena Asks: President Obama’s sagging poll numbers have many Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2012 running for cover. And discontent with the president is growing on the House side, too: In his retirement statement Thursday Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) ripped the Obama White House for what he called inaction on the housing foreclosure crisis. Will President Obama be a political albatross for Democratic congressional candidates in 2012?
My Answer: As a lawyer, President Obama should know the first rule of debate: whoever defines the terms is most likely to win it. His failure or perhaps intentional reluctance to do that is the real albatross weighing down members of Congress and causing him to lose the extraordinary voter enthusiasm that swept him into office.
But it’s really up to the members of Congress themselves to decide whether to send the bird on its way or allow it to define the terms of their leadership–both the policy terms and whether they will win additional terms in office. Nothing but Washington political roles as usual keep them from asserting leadership initiatives themselves. We haven’t seen a lot of that either, now have we?
Sometimes it’s up to the followers to show the leader where the parade is going so he can get in front of it.
A strategy of trying to distance themselves from the president will in the end drag Congressional candidates down much more surely than if they instead worked to lift him up with the power of defining and vigorously fighting for the very policy solutions they charge Obama with ignoring. All Democrats are going to be called birds of a feather anyway, so they might as well flock together rather than allow themselves to be picked off separately by attacking one another.