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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Election 2012: "Boring" vs. "Daring"

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Photo by Roland Tanglao via Flickr

In a gym full of Feds watching the TV monitors. It's evening news time.

-One screen has a commentator talking about Mitt Romney, the word "robotic" flashing behind him.

-Another has coverage of the GSA scandal. It is unflattering.

-A third flashes the words "Secret Service" and then something like "20 prostitutes!"

-Fourth there is the President with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Images of oil barrels, of people at the gas pump.

-Fifth and finally there is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I feel sheer admiration.

(Disclaimer: not speaking for any organization or agency here. Not a political endorsement or non-endorsement. Etc.)

I am a fed standing among all these other feds, of different agencies. I feel shame at the government scandals. This isn't how I am, I remind myself, it isn't how most of my colleagues are. I wonder how we got here, that the people one should trust seem so out of control.

It occurs to me that we are paying the inevitable price for daring. Which is that sometimes it turns into hubris. The sense that you can do anything, even when it's against the rules.

I remember when President Obama took office. Oh how we Gov 2.0 types waved the Open Government memo around. The word "transparency" sounded so good. We repeated it like a mantra. So what if we were a little irreverent? The past was stodgy, immovable, unshakeable. And we were going to fix it.

Over time it seemed not so easy. There were all these complicated issues. It was tempting to sweep them aside and "just do it." It seemed a lot of agencies had to do just that, especially with social media. There simply was no precedent for Open Gov. Nobody could get a full handle on it before saying "go."

Those were heady times, when I look back at them. They were also scary. We were daring enough to break the rules in search of something greater. But we didn't know what the outcome of that experiment would be.

Now we are in election season, again. What do people want?

In 2008 it was hope and change. Do we still want that daring four years later, now that we've gotten a dose of what the attitude of "we can do anything" can bring?

I don't know.

Certainly some of the effects are refreshing, like a cool splash of water on a hot summer's day.

In other ways the impact is less favorable.

Americans desperately need to feel safe again, stable again, trust again. In a way it's great to have a leader who seems willing to take a stand and take chances.

But in another way it's sometimes good to know that the system is steady, reliable - yes, even stodgy and boring at times.

A little change is generally good. It keeps us on top of our game.

Too much disruption, though, send us reeling into chaos. And since that tears down the fabric of society, putting everyone at risk, it is something we ought to avoid if at all possible.

May G-d grant us wisdom, and good luck!