Politics and Perceptions: Why Openness and Civility Matter

I expect that Prez O and others in the administration would rather have celebrated their first anniversary in the White House yesterday talking about matters other than the outcome of the Massachusetts Senate race. Hey, I would have rather marked the occasion somewhere else than spending the bulk of the morning at the dentist’s office. Life ain’t fair.

Anyway, as I was being poked and prodded yesterday, I had plenty of time and incentive to listen to radio reports about Scott Brown’s upset win — and what it means to the future of our Democracy. Or not. Time will tell. And there are plenty of pundits out there trying to explain what happened and why. Here’s an interesting view from David S. Broder in The Washington Post, “In Massachusetts Senate race, a vote of no confidence.

I’ve spent many years working in public relations — and in some ways that involves managing expectations and perceptions.

And my sense is that people are disappointed — angry? — that the Obama administration has not changed how Washington works. That’s my perception — and I expect that many share that view.

The expectation was that beginning a year ago we were going to see a new era in government — and in politics.

We were going to see more openness and less of the usual Inside the Beltway maneuvering, with lobbyists and insiders taking more of a back seat instead of driving policy. And we were going to approach issues with civility in Congress and elsewhere — where people of different views and viewpoints could disagree but still come together in the national interest.

Hey. That was change I could believe in.

But the perception — at least for me and I believe for many voters in Massachusetts and soon elsewhere — is that hasn’t happened.

A lesson from the Massachusetts Senate race. How about this?

Openness and civility matter. It’s what we expect now from our elected officials and leaders in Washington and elsewhere.


One response to “Politics and Perceptions: Why Openness and Civility Matter

  1. If you’ve worked for years in public relations, it would be interesting to hear your take on how Democrats can fix what they have broken. I don’t think Brown’s election was a no-confidence vote on Obama failing to change how Washington works. I think it revealed a side of Mass. politics in place all along, but obscured for outsiders by the Kennedy mystique (remember the ugliness in Boston exposed by busing?). If anger fueled some of Brown’s victory, it was anger over Democrats dragging out health-care insurance reform much too long. You can’t take months to finally realize the futility in seeking bipartisanship with an opposition hard-wired to oppose whatever you attempt. Especially you can’t do this when the news cycle is constantly full of bad news about unemployment.
    But what the five conservative “activist jurors” in the Supreme Court did yesterday could, in the short run, turn out to be what Democrats can use to regain support. If they can’t figure out how to show people that this decision turns every future electon into a strictly retail transaction, they really are hopeless.

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