180 Days To Find The Next Big Idea

In another election year another First Lady said something that fits any election year. “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” [Eleanor Roosevelt]

But it’s a good bet the next 180 days will be all about the people and the events. As for the ideas, they will remain fuzzy in our minds. Spun and re-spun as they travel from their points-of-origin [ the candidates’ major speeches ] to those would-be thousand-points-of-light [ the networks’ major pundits ]. If ever we actually understood the big ideas in those speeches, chances are by now no one can actually explain them, including the speech writers.

Yet make no mistake. There are about 141 million very different voters scattered among 3,141 very different counties. Few presidents have succeeded without hoisting the banners of at least one big, unifying idea. For Washington it was preserving our new-won freedom. For Lincoln, preserving our now-challenged union. For FDR, preserving our now-broken economy. Surely today’s candidates have no shortage of issues to grapple with. Jobs, productivity, taxes, health, education, human rights, security, world peace. Not a single one much different than 100 years ago. A 1000 years ago. And yet each now more complex, because it is inextricably wedged inside a global economy which runs by a clock no longer set only in Washington. The campaigns’ task the next 180 days will be to seize and shape these conflicting issues into another of those single, unifying big ideas.

Think of each of the worried voters in each of these counties as intuitively searching for a banner to rally round. With their hearts as well as their heads, with their dreams as well as their fears. Both campaign camps are searching for that very banner! For that one big idea that encapsulates our worst fears then catapults them into our best dreams. Is there some word, some phrase, some vision that might electrify us again? After all, it takes only a majority in enough of these counties to do the job.

Whatever big ideas are being birthed now, each candidate understands it must somehow bind and bond as many of us as possible. A task made historically complicated in 2012 by the fact six of our seven national institutions can no longer be counted on to translate our differences into our destiny. Say like other big ideas once did: The New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society, Sunrise in America.

Of our seven national institutions, the government is now held in suspicion more than admiration…the law is seen as working for the rich more than the rest….marriage is lately a debate more than a decision…schools are using more money to produce poorer results…the media are slanted by whomever owns them…religion is no longer something we can all agree upon…only the military stands as an institution still commanding general and binding respect.

About 180 days are eft to give birth to the next big idea. What shall it be, gentlemen? Making your search all the harder, the national budget you will inherit will no longer permit you to woo us with the usual promises of More. For one of the few times in our history, you will have to motivate us with warnings of Less.

More-With-Less…! Well, yes, now there’s an idea. But is it big and bold and binding enough? I just mailed it in with my donation to the candidate of my choice.

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  • I hope you mailed it to Obama, the Real Deal.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:


  • Warnings of less take persons of greatness to deliver the message and to inspire the masses. We have in our presidential candidates little men. One wants to inspire by the increasingly evident false promise of "more". The other, wants to inspire by saying that we can have "more" -- but "more" what? The gold is helpful but it does not buy the pursuit of happiness and often derails greatness because it is so pretty and we want to keep what we have, no matter the cost.

    Great ideas win wars -- "blood, toil, sweat and tears" -- move mountains --"Love your enemies"-- and inspire against the darkest hours --"nothing to fear but fear itself".

    There will be no new great new big ideas in the next 180 days. The next time that happens will be on the other side of a fiscal and monumental and bloody disaster.

    Look for small, small and more small.

  • For all that appears, it won't happen this year. Obama only has "Forward," since I suppose that "Hope" and "Change" have run out of steam.

    Romney essentially has "Jobs" and the undertheme of "A venture capitalist can generate them."

    The only big idea in the Republican House is the "Nordquist pledge."

    None of the above is going to fire up anyone.

  • In reply to jack:

    True, Jack.

    If one leans too forward one soon meets the concrete. And jobs --or vocations-- are created in the pursuit of happiness and not with the submission of a P/E statement. And riches are promised to none.

    We are in the era of Small Ideas and Small Men and Women. This is because it has been easy to be small, but the times they are-a-changing. Fast.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Damned not being able to edit comments. That is a "P/L" statement.

  • what George replied I'm amazed that anyone able to earn $5349 in one month on the internet. did you see this site http://urlenco.de/iclb

  • It's my impression most of us fear there are NO big ideas big enough to rally a population that has grown so diverse. I hope I'm wrong, but....

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    1. In any election, it is only necessary to rally the marginal voters to win, unless a candidate is too weak to rally the base (such as assuming that the Republican base is future former Congressman Joe Walsh and his followers, who despite their hatred for Obama, might stay home).

    2. If someone really had a magic bullet to take care of the jobs and deficit problems, that would be a big enough idea. Apparently nobody does. Obama rallied the mayors (on Sunday TV) with "infrastructure," but ARRA lost its steam about 18 months ago.

  • In reply to jack:

    What I'm hearing here is what I'm fearing -- no big idea yet. We need one. Is it hard to envision something so "big" that it can even lure the Undecideds.

  • No big ideas will rise until the utter failure of the small ideas causes destruction and misery. This is when those on the margins will contribute, most likely out of desperation.

    From this can come the big ideas of increased freedom or further enslavement.

    Kind of depressing, that the fall must come before the rise, but this is the way of most history.

    The collective "we" are no different than our ancestors.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Probably true.

    Quinn got into proposing something about Medicaid and pensions only after it became abundantly clear that he couldn't borrow any more. However, it doesn't seem like he has enough testicular fortitude to get Madigan and Cullerton to listen to the latter.

    The was a story tonight about Ed Rendell's book "Nation of Wusses." At least his title nails it.

  • In reply to jack:

    I imagine everyone is a wus about something. Usually their most important self-interest they wish to remain untoucher

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    That may be true, but, as pointed out, politicians were put into office to take care of problems.

    Consider the contrast: JFK wrote "Profiles in Courage." 58 years later, Rendell writes "Nation of Wusses."

    'Nuff said.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack ~ I can't honestly argue with that opinion. Everyone has their own agenda these days and so it's harder for leaders to really lead.

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