Ah, Sunday. A day when perfectly-powdered politicians take to the morning shows and speak directly to the American people.
Well, they speak. I see their lips moving, I see their faces get flushed as they utter their perfectly-framed buzzwords. But are they speaking directly to the American people?
Political discourse today, whether it takes place on the Senate floor or on Sunday talk, is slathered with slogans and tired catch-phrases. It's saturated with bullshit. It's bloated. It's fat. It's ineffective. Great ideas and practical solutions are buried under the avalanche of platitudes that inevitably pour of every politicians mouth, so that every politician regardless of his character ends up sounding the exact same.
Let's travel back in time to a real no-spin zone. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was handed the keys to the White House at a time of national peril, the Great Depression. In his inauguration speech, Roosevelt spoke plainly to the America people. He revealed the whole truth, "frankly and boldly":
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
"This Nation asks for action, and action now," he said, and proceeded to state his solution in beautifully simple terms: putting people to work. What strikes me most about his speech is how he knew at a time when the nation was starving for leadership, talking down to the American people or talking past them with platitudes was not the answer. Roosevelt followed his frank talk with an offering of hope:
We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it.
This formula is what leadership is about: speaking to people as a person, not a politician. It's about leveling with them and speaking to them with a recognition that they are capable of handling the unvarnished truth about the state of our nation. We need to speak with concrete clarity. The American people are grown-ups who can handle the unvarnished truth. They will be more willing to jump on board with practical solutions when they're invited to sit at the table with authentic people they can trust.
Everything else sounds like an empty campaign speech.
So put your Roosevelt hat on. When you speak to your fellow Americans about why they should get out and vote Democratic this fall, what will you say? Will you repeat tired talking points or will you connect with them on a personal level? How will you describe to them the state of our nation? And, above all, how will you convince them that voting Democratic is the most practical solution of all?