20 November 2017

Note from Norm: A Leader Without a Follower is Just a Guy Out for a Walk

In a life of politics and government that has been filled with the opportunity to work with, alongside and for remarkable people throughout the world.

I’ve had the privilege to know people who have made great sacrifice to serve others and humbled to represent the hopes and dreams of my fellow Minnesotans as their U.S. Senator and, in St. Paul, as their Mayor.

Through it all I have come to know that there’s nothing particularly complex about getting things done in politics and government.

It simply requires people who have a common interest making the effort to get it done.

Being people of common interest does not mean people who share the same value system, ideology or, for that matter, political party.

In fact, we have long lived in a nation where the most remarkable things that take place in government happen exactly because people of different ideology and political party come together to get things done.

For generations that reality defined our nation’s approach to foreign policy.

America could, time and time again, count on our nation’s political leaders to correctly surmise that a united voice in foreign policy was the most potent deterrent against those who would seek to harm us and our allies.

While we do see cracks, from time to time, in that national unity of purpose we can still largely recognize that historical commitment from our nation’s leaders.

Domestically, however, it has been a different story of late.

So much so that finding any common ground is like finding a needle in a haystack.

It has gone beyond just the conflict between the nation’s two political parties.

It has seeped deeply into the fabric and function of both of our country’s political parties.

So much so that the dysfunction of political parties has found its way into the dysfunction of our political system.

Democrats, shaken by revelations that its party may have rigged its own internal processes to benefit the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, are finding it difficult to find their footing after a difficult 2016 election cycle.

The clear lack of any single political leader in the party has not seen its party leaders in Congress find a way to bridge the gap, either.

Both the Senate and House Minority Leader have become backbenchers to their own members at a time when visible and strong leadership is required and demanded.

Republicans have their own challenges, as well.

With a governing majority in both bodies of Congress, and the White House, Republicans have been making progress.

Yet, that progress has been hampered by the destructive and divisive voices standing outside of Congress and the party throwing rhetorical rocks that are not only failing to be useful but threaten the very existence of those governing majorities.

Voices of opposition and dissent that don’t offer alternatives or solutions but demand to be heard because they can be heard.

Some, like Steve Bannon, have made it clear they will run candidates against GOP incumbents who don’t toe the line they have drawn.

A vainglorious line that represents little in the way of moving America forward but underscores everything about their personal motivations and intentions.

Tearing down institutions for the sake of its destruction is not something that serves the greater good of America.

Which, of course, is the objective of those who have declared themselves to be the voice of the voiceless and the standard bearer of the disaffected.

Yet, like an Emperor with no clothes they find themselves leading a movement of one.

I’ve often said that a leader without followers is simply a guy out for a walk.

We have too many people in American politics and government out for a walk.

Unfortunately, the media in America gives more credence and attention to walkers than they do leaders today.

A walker doesn’t have to have a purpose, a goal or a responsibility to anyone along the way.

Where they go, and how they get there, is secondary to anything about the journey.

Which is why more of the leaders in Congress, and those outside of it, are walking away from those who proclaim themselves the leader of nothing.

They have made it clear that the path they are on does not go the same way as the one that Steve Bannon and the handful of others like him have chosen to take.

Their path moves America forward into the future into a place where we find common ground and, believe it or not, compromise on issues that will make America greater, again, for more generations of Americans.

It’s a path forward, where walkers and leaders gather together, in a common goal of getting things done.

Those just talking a walk are coming to the dead end of their path to nowhere.