Halloween Is Coming; Be Very Afraid

October 27, 2010 by Bill Bradley

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Winston Churchill


Title: The Scariest Day of Every (Other) Year

Competency: political leadership, decision-making

Who benefits: People who don’t believe in ghosts but know monsters sometimes wear coats and ties or pretty dresses

Consultant Usage: good background material for organizational development consultants, executive coaches and trainers in material related to decision-making and judgment.

What’s it about?  In the United States we have a celebration of sorts near the end of October.  It is called Halloween.  It is a relative of the Latin American (as well as other parts of the world) holiday of Dia de Morte or El Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead is a three day festival.  It culminates on November 2.  In Latin American that day is called “All Souls Day”. Every other year we call that day “National Elections.”  Many deceased souls come back that day to vote … especially in Chicago and New York.

Now what does that have to do with this Blog?  Well, the organization behind this Blog supports a competency called Political Leadership.  It is intended primarily for use inside of structured organizations, but in theory would apply to political parties and the election process.

Let’s look first at our definition of the competency: “Understands the dynamics of political systems and power relationships within the organization. Strategically asserts political power and influence to achieve organizational goals and objectives. Fosters a culture that minimizes the negative aspects of political infighting”.

Of course you and I will cast our vote with that definition in mind.  The more you and I see a politician favorably in this definition – especially that part about minimizing the negative aspects of political infighting – the more likely you and I are to vote for that person.

But here is the (Happy Halloween) scary part.  You and I are alone.  No one else votes that way.

People fill out their ballots with as much thinking with their heads as a teenage boy surrounded by teenage girls.

Voters don’t vote for the future, they vote for the past. 

If they are unhappy, they vote to send the rascal home.  The irony is the rascal they send home voted the way the voter wanted 98 times out of 100.  The new rascal will only vote in the voter’s favor 2 out of 100.  No matter, send the old rascal home.

Some people will vote against big government.  They “hate” big government and everything it stands for.  But they like their neighbor Henry who works at the local VA hospital and their aunt Sally who works at some environmental agency with strange initials.

Some people will vote because they don’t think the government does enough.  Why pay taxes if the government won’t do anything for you?  These people deposit their social security checks after driving down paved roads, past their old schools with a brief stop at the post office.

Okay, okay, you think I am a nutcase?  Hmmm.  Well, at least I am not alone.  You might be interested in what Drew Weston has to say in his book The Political Brain.  He says much the same thing only he is nicer about it.  “The central thesis of this book is that … a dispassionate mind that makes decisions by weighting the evidence and reasoning to the valid conclusions – bears no relation to how the mind and brain actually works.”

Or check out The Political Mind by George Lakoff.  His work reveals how it’s a world of “emotions over reason”.  “The theory of human reason has been shown to be false in every particular, but it persists.”  (Disclaimer, this book has partisan overtones.)

So don’t worry too much about Halloween’s spooky ghosts and goblins or those very frightening Talk Show Host masks.  But be very afraid of those monsters roaming the voting booths next Tuesday!

A word of caution.  Don’t share this post with anyone.  If you have ever worked with 360 degree feedback, you know that some recipients of data are in denial, deep denial.  All those other voters will call you crazy from the bottom of their (political) hearts.

Catch you later. 

[tags]political leadership, decision-making, the political brain, the political mind, human reason, emotional decision-making, bill bradley, william bradley, bradley[/tags]

Bill Bradley (mostly) retired after 35 years in organizational consulting, training and management development. During those years he worked internally with seven organizations and trained and consulted externally with more than 90 large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools.

Posted in Engagement

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