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Common Wisdom versus Greatness in the American Election

July 14th, 2012 // 2:49 pm @

The Thinker 300x225 Common Wisdom versus Greatness in the American ElectionThe common wisdom says that incumbent presidents run on their record, and that the state of the economy determines presidential elections.

According to the numbers, right now the common wisdom is wrong.

The economy is still sputtering, but 51% of voters in battleground states like President Obama’s handling of the economy while only 42% like Romney’s economic plans (CNN/ORC International Poll, June/July 2012).

Furthermore, 41% of national voters believe Obama has a clear plan for improving the economy while only 27% believe Mitt Romney has one (Fox News Poll, July 2012).

In short, President Obama’s numbers aren’t great, but Governor Romney’s are worse. And 68% of Americans blame George Bush, not Barack Obama, for the poor state of the economy (Gallup Poll, July 2012).

Why is the common wisdom failing?

Analyst Juan Williams had it right on Fox News Sunday when he said that a majority of Americans see Mitt Romney as “a rich guy.”

It’s a rich guy versus a cool guy, and cool will always win in the American electorate.

Many Republicans and conservatives have criticized Mitt Romney for not having an effective plan to fix the economy.

Leaders from the Right—as different as Rush Limbaugh, Bill Crystal, George Will, and The Wall Street Journal—are concerned that Romney is doing little to establish himself as a serious leader on the issues.

They argue that he seems caught up in responding to attacks by Barack Obama and alternatively attacking Obama.

To have any chance in November, Romney needs to make real gains by September.

He may have little chance of being seen as cool, but he has every opportunity to go all in: To use his strengths and provide real leadership and a vision of what America can be and how he’ll lead us in the direction of American greatness over the next four years.

The common wisdom says, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

For the entire post-World War II era the common man has selected the candidate who seemed the most cool, the most likely to lead.

But both of these actually boil down to leadership.

Candidates must have strong, effective plans to take us in a moving and positive direction in the future, and they must be able to articulate this.

In 2008, Barack Obama very effectively presented a vision of a better America, a nation of change, a new era of unified cooperation in Washington, and a citizenry acting on the chant of “Yes, we can!”

Critics say that after inauguration he failed to deliver on these promises, but nevertheless he projected a moving vision and rallied a majority of voters behind it.

So far, neither candidate has done this in 2012.

If neither candidate can effectively articulate a great vision of the future, the incumbent will most likely win the election­­.

For this reason, the Obama campaign may be waiting to promote any sweeping grand vision of American leadership.

Why risk it if they’re winning anyway?

Thus the ball is in Romney’s court.

If Romney rolls out a great, Reaganesque vision of America, the Obama team will have to do the same and we’ll have a great debate in 2012.

Right now the high vision of the campaigns is, “We can’t go back to the failed policies of Bush,” versus “We must repeal Obamacare and Barack Obama or our economy will fall off a cliff in the next four years.”

Neither of these reach the level of a high debate.

They effectively speak to the base of each party, but the base was always going to vote for its candidate.

The real issue is independents, and neither side has effectively spoken to them.

President Obama is ahead in this battle because he has reached out in petite visions to special interest groups from Latinos to same-sex groups to women.

As Jimmy Fallon said in a late night comedy sketch, “President Obama said Americans need someone who will wake up every single day and fight for their jobs. Then he said, ‘But until we find that guy, I’m still your best choice.’”

We are experiencing a mini-campaign, focused on negative bantering about the small things.

Even the one big topic of debate, health care, is being discussed in micro-terms: about pre-existing conditions, adult children on their parents’ insurance, etc.

No candidate has yet taken bold leadership on the grand scale, to capture the American mind and propel the nation on a powerful, compelling journey toward the future.

The hottest days of summer are still ahead, and the American voters deserve a real debate on the biggest questions.

The opportunity for real leadership is here, and the voters are watching, hoping, for someone to step up and show us what leadership really means in the 21st Century.

Americans sense that our challenges are going to increase, and that it’s time for another great American leader like Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan.

Note that neither FDR nor Reagan were the great leaders they became before they were elected, but they were both openly and clearly committed to a great vision of America’s future.

The election of 2012 will go to whichever candidate stands up and projects the image and agenda of greatness.

If neither candidate does this, voters will probably just stick with the incumbent.

In short, it’s common wisdom against common wisdom: cool versus the economy.

But Americans don’t want to follow the common wisdom, they want to be led by greatness toward a truly great vision of the future.

They want to be touched, moved and impressed.

They want to rally behind a great leader.

They want to believe that their vote will make all the difference, that the president in 2013 will take bold steps that put America on the path to greatness.

The nation is ripe for a candidate who exudes great plans, a great vision, and great leadership.

Right now either candidate could rise to this need, and the best-case scenario would be for both to step it up and embrace American greatness.

Whoever does this most effectively will win the election.

Both candidates are avoiding risk right now, but what we need is a leader who leads, who goes all in and stops thinking about winning the election and invites us to an America that wins the 21st Century.


odemille 133x195 custom Common Wisdom versus Greatness in the American ElectionOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Blog &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Featured &Government &Leadership &Politics

The Most Important Election in Modern Times

July 10th, 2012 // 10:01 am @

congress The Most Important Election in Modern TimesMost elections are called “the most important election” by those running for office—after all, if they can get more voters enthused and active, it improves their chances of victory.

But in 2012, the U.S. election truly may be the most important in our lifetimes.

We are at a crossroads, and November 6 will turn us in one direction or the other.

With the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare, the battle lines are clearly drawn.

And while many conservatives don’t want to admit it, President Obama is still the frontrunner.

As I’ve written in the past, most red states will vote for Governor Romney and most blue states for President Obama, but the election will be decided by independent voters in the battleground states.

Right now, Obama is 2-3 percentage points ahead with independents in these swing states.

That’s not a huge lead, and polls will almost certainly shift several times in the months ahead, but Romney isn’t ahead.

Conservatives also struggle with why President Obama is still popular.

But in every election since 1952 the candidate who seemed more like a leader has won.

And Obama is still popular with swing voters in battleground states.

Conservatives tend to determine popularity based on policy, as do liberals, but many independents decide who is popular on the basis of non-political factors.

Moreover, the President’s policies on education have impressed many independents.

He gave more schools increased local controls and took on the teacher’s unions (though not enough).

Where George Bush centralized control of education more to Washington, Obama went the other, better, direction.

Many independents also like President Obama’s belief in more open immigration.

Though critics are quick to point out that we’ve deported more people under Obama than under any other president, Obama’s announcement that we won’t deport those who came as children is very popular among independents—even more in most battleground states.

Because of the high numbers of Hispanics in swing states, this one issue may sway the election.

Typical Republican criticisms that Democratic Presidents are soft on foreign policy won’t sell to independents in the post-bin Laden era, which scores points for the President among swing voters.

With all this, the President’s biggest asset may still be his personality.

Though his opponents scoff at this, he really does come across as a guy everyone wants to like.

He sings well, dances well, plays basketball well—in short, he’s cool.

If you hate his politics, you think being cool is beside the point or even unpresidential, but a majority of independents in the contested states really like having a cool president.

Besides, Obama came across sincere and committed when he went to Washington to change things—like a Jimmy Stewart character.

A lot of people still hope that’s the real Obama, and they’re waiting for him to truly lead.

Unfortunately, they think, the partisan extremes of Washington D.C. don’t allow a president to really lead anymore, but if he doesn’t have to worry about another election he can just lead like he always wanted to.

Most conservatives underestimate how much swing voters really like Barack Obama.

On the other hand, the big challenge for Obama with swing voters is Obamacare, and this hits hard in three ways.

First, is it overwhelmingly unpopular with American voters.

Only 28% of Americans thought the Supreme Court decision to uphold the law was a good ruling.

And swing voters dislike it almost as much as conservatives.

Independents haven’t found the Obama Administration’s explanations of Obamacare credible, and its unpopularity is growing.

Second, Obamacare is the main Obama achievement of the last 4 years, and many independents see it as the only major Obama accomplishment.

The problem is that voters elected Barack Obama to fix the economy, and many feel that he put healthcare (and, as a result, government expansion) ahead of jobs and economic opportunity.

In both the 2008 and 2010 elections, swing voters strongly supported the candidates they perceived as best for job creation.

Now they wonder: Why hasn’t President Obama done anything major about jobs? Why did he put all his capital into Obamacare?

Third, the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare puts the debate in stark relief: Big Government vs. Jobs and the Economy.

The Obama Administration has become the poster boy for “Bigger Government, Fewer Jobs.”

The campaign is talking itself blue in the face trying to reverse this view, but swing voters aren’t listening.

Which brings us to the real consequence of the Court’s decision—the Congressional elections of 2012.

Regardless of who occupies the White House for the next four years, the future of the nation will be determined by whether Congress is for More Big Government or Drastically-Increased Economic Opportunity.

The problem, as independents know, is that neither Republicans nor Democrats are proven fiscal leaders.

Democrats spend on domestic programs, and Republicans often outdo them in international spending.

While many Republicans are loudly decrying Obama’s massive domestic spending and increasing debt, few independents have forgotten that Bush tripled spending over the Clinton years and that big-spending Republicanism came when Republicans held the White House and both Houses of Congress before 2006.

Though Obama has overused the point, it remains true that Republicans gave us the Great Recession.

We need to elect Free Enterprise candidates, since big-spending Republicans are as bad for our economic future as big-spending Democrats.

Still, if Congress remains split (Republican House vs. Democratic Senate), or goes all Democrat, we are headed for bigger government with more socialist tendencies.

If Republicans control both houses, there is a chance for our freedoms and economy—and this time the people will send a clear mandate that they want smaller government and a growing free economy.

This really is the most important election yet in modern times.


odemille 133x195 custom The Most Important Election in Modern TimesOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership and co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Blog &Current Events &Featured &Government &Independents &Leadership &Politics

Robert’s Rules of Chess

July 5th, 2012 // 4:53 pm @

robertsjohn 214x300 Robert’s Rules of ChessWhen Chief Justice Roberts sided with the liberals to uphold Obamacare, it sent a shock wave through conservatism.

After all, Mitt Romney had lauded Roberts as the example of the kind of Justices he’d select if elected president, and Roberts was seen as a clear conservative by most Republicans.

With one vote, he angered half the nation and left many feeling betrayed.

But was Roberts playing chess while the rest of the nation engaged in checkers? Was his decision on Obamacare a Fork, a Pin or a Sac?*

Here are a few reasons why his decision may be an Exchange Advantage* in a long game, a strategic risk that could pay significant positive gains for conservatives in the years ahead:

  1. It put the Obamacare law front and center in the 2012 election, and since Obamacare is overwhelmingly unpopular—even among swing voters who will determine the election—this is a huge potential boost for Romney.
  2. It allows Republican candidates for the House and Senate to make a wildly unpopular law, Obamacare, a key reason to elect them in November. It creates a much stronger possibility of a Republican sweep (House, Senate, and White House).
  3. Few Americans pay attention to Supreme Court cases, so the few that get wide notice like Obamacare are a chance for the Court to make a splash. Roberts used this to boost the status of the Court. The White House, Congress, the states and the people now take the Court more seriously than ever before, and Roberts himself is a real player in Washington and the whole nation—no longer a minor player, but a central figure in everything Washington does.
  4. Roberts is now respected and feared by opponents in a way he never was before, and in a Marshall-like way that few Chief Justices have enjoyed. He can use this in the future by letting it be known how he might feel about a certain law or policy before it is enacted.
  5. Roberts has struck a blow to the view that the Court is all political, all of the time. Liberals can only attack cases by saying they hate a given case (e.g. Citizens United), not the conservatively-dominated Court. This creates significant opportunity for the Court to make conservative rulings more free from charges of politics.
  6. By siding with the Left in this decision, Roberts insulated himself for decades (maybe for the rest of his career) from criticism by the Left. Just as Obama can say, “Osama bin Laden” and shut down any suggestions of being soft on national security, Roberts can say “Affordable Health Care Act” and insulate himself and the Court against any criticism that the Court is just a branch of the Republican party.
  7. By siding with the liberals, Roberts got to write the Majority Opinion in a way that ruled the individual mandate a “tax.” This is very significant because:
    • * This makes it likely that Republicans in Congress can repeal parts of Obamacare using reconciliation, which would only take 51 Senators rather than 60.
    • * It also makes Obamacare a massive tax, the biggest tax hike in American history. This reality isn’t lost on the American people or on the Obama Administration. It immediately put the Obama campaign on the defensive: President Obama said it wasn’t a tax, but his lawyers argued at the Court that it was a tax. Taxes aren’t popular, and such a massive tax will likely become increasingly unpopular over time.
  8. Roberts used the opinion to decrease the power of Washington over the states by arguing that Obamacare would have been unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause. This is one of the few rulings since the Great Depression that actually reduces the power of the federal government. Roberts may use the precedent of this case to strike down many federal programs in the future that cannot be considered a tax. If this happens, this case will be seen as the time where the era of big government was legally reversed.
    • * On one hand, this is a strange way to put a legal end to big government. But this is not unprecedented. The Court has used various cases to rule on things that aren’t the direct focus of the case (see, for example, the United States v. Butler, 1936).
    • * On the other hand, Roberts will probably never again have a case so publicized and likely to be considered by most Americans—which makes this the perfect case to create such a precedent and announce such an intention.
    • * By announcing such a direction of the Court—to begin sizing down government—in this case, he made it very unlikely that President Obama or other liberal leaders would attack this change even though it strikes directly at their goals.
  9. This decision, more than any other event in 2012, increased the likelihood of Romney winning in November and nominating 1-3 Republican Justices to the Court during his presidency, and of electing more Republican Senators who confirm Justices that are nominated. This, above all, may be a long-term Roberts strategy. The question may have been: Is it worth the risk of upsetting conservatives in order to help get a strongly conservative court for the next two decades or more?
  10. Roberts appears to really believe that the individual mandate in Obamacare was unconstitutional under the Commerce and/or Necessary and Proper Clauses but constitutional as a tax. He called President Obama’s bluff, and this precedent will force any future law with a mandate to openly call it a tax. This is a blow to liberalism and a victory for conservatism.
  11. The Court can still rule on Obamacare in the Virginia case in 2015 or other cases that arise after Obamacare is implemented in 2014 and after. Indeed, the Court can use the precedent of a more narrow view of the commerce clause from the recent Obamacare case to strike down excesses of Obamacare in the years ahead. If Obama wins in 2012, the Court can re-rule and strike down various provisions on new grounds.

Chess1 Robert’s Rules of ChessSome of us really like checkers, and if the 2012 election goes poorly for conservatives and the government continues to spend, regulate, borrow and socialize, many will look back on the Obamacare ruling as a mile marker in the loss of freedom.

I, for one, think the mandate was never meant to be a tax and as such is clearly unconstitutional.

In the parlance of another popular game, I think we should call a spade a spade.

But I do understand the idea that strategic risk is sometimes necessary to get a big win instead of a small one.

A case that creates as much passion as Obamacare only comes along rarely, and Roberts seems to have seen this as an opportunity to strike a powerful blow at the opposition.

Big government has been gaining momentum for a long time, and Robert’s risk may yet prove a brilliant maneuver that begins the reversal of bad Court decisions starting with Marbury v. Madison (1803).

I’m not holding my breath, but the optimist in me says that maybe, just maybe, this was a game-changer for freedom. Roberts may well have put his opponents en prise.*

At the very least, this is possible, and after so many decades of going in the wrong direction, I’m excited with the mere possibility of an effective freedom warrior among our top leaders.

Often one move is the difference between black queen or white queen to checkmate.

Time will tell.


* Chess Glossary

A Fork is an attack on two or more pieces simultaneously.

A Pin is where a piece may not be moved because another piece would be subject to capture.

A Sac is a voluntary offer of material for compensation in space, time, Pawn structure, or even force. A Sac can lead to an advantage in a particular part of the board. Note that a Sac is not always calculable and often entails an element of uncertainty (Also known as a Sacrifice).

In an Exchange Advantage, a player trades a piece for an enemy piece of greater value.

A chess piece is ‘En Prise‘ if it is left or moved to a square where it can be captured without loss to the capturing player.


(By the way, the best article I’ve seen on the Obamacare discussion is “We’re Having the Wrong Debate about Health Care” by Stephen Palmer)


odemille 133x195 custom Robert’s Rules of ChessOliver DeMille is the chairman of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Blog &Constitution &Current Events &Featured

A Vital Leadership Trend that Isn’t Yet a Thing

June 27th, 2012 // 5:42 pm @

We neseal presidential 298x300 A Vital Leadership Trend that Isn’t Yet a Thinged a whole new level of leadership. And we need it soon. Just consider some of our pressing national challenges:

  1. 75% of current Americans worry that another recession is coming.
  2. U.S. consumer confidence in June is at a six-month low.
  3. The average price of a gallon of gas in the United States was $3.88 at the beginning of the year and it is $3.48 halfway through the year. Most experts predict that it will be below $3 a gallon by the end of 2012. A few say it will be above $4. Either way, we have a problem. Lower prices look like a positive trend, but they keep us addicted to foreign oil. The pattern is to jack up prices until they hurt so bad that we begin seriously seeking alternative energy sources, then ease back on prices a little until we give up on finding a better way. Then, when we’ve stopped weaning ourselves from our addiction, jack the prices up again. Only the right kind of leadership will solve this for the long term.
  4. President Obama’s support is down since 2008 in almost every voting demographic, but it is up 2 points among Hispanics. Few election experts believe Mitt Romney can win the election—especially in the battleground states—without a significant uptick in Hispanic support. And Romney came across to many as sharply anti-immigrant during the 2012 Republican primaries. Neither 2012 presidential candidate has yet shown the will to establish a truly effective national immigration policy.
  5. The July 2, 2012 cover story of Time Magazine reads: “The History of the American Dream: Is it Still Real?” The Asian, European and South Pacific versions for the same date held an alternative cover story: “Made in China: Why Apple’s Future Depends on the World’s Largest Market.”
  6. A June column in Newsweek calls this year’s graduates “The Not-So-Special Generation.”
  7. Over two-thirds of Americans want the government to use unmanned drones to hunt down criminals, but two-thirds do not want the same technology used to patrol highways and issue speeding tickets. We want more government oversight of others, less of ourselves.
  8. A majority of Americans want the government to decrease spending, but there is little agreement on cutting any specific program.

Many other serious national concerns could be cited, but one thing is certain: We are a nation deeply in need of more, and better, leadership.

Sadly, it appears increasingly evident that our political leaders may no longer be able to fulfill this role.

The story of Barack Obama is instructive on this point.

As a lifetime liberal with long experience and connections in the progressive community, President-Elect Obama took over the White House with big intentions of reframing our national politics into a less divisive, more cooperative endeavor.

He seems to have been surprised at the vehemence of the two-party system, and how quickly the opposing party lined up to get him out of office—regardless of what he did, or didn’t do, as a leader.

President George W. Bush, who came into office with big goals of creating a more compassionate conservatism, faced the same reality—the opposition lined up against him before he proposed a single policy.

Whether you are a supporter of President Obama, a critic, or more neutral, the reality of our new politics is frustrating.

The next president, either in 2012 or 2016, will likely face the same problem.

Welcome to the new system in Washington: A president isn’t judged for what he does as much as for which party he belongs to.

We are a nation with major struggles and we desperately need great leadership, but our political system has reached the point where our top elected officials have little chance of providing such leadership.

The system simply won’t allow it.

The next campaign starts the morning after Election Day, with no break between elections and no sense of a U.S. president we’ll all follow for four years.

Today’s system is more divided: the chief executive is now widely perceived as only as the president of the Republicans or the president of the Democrats.

We are at a crossroads in America.

We need great leadership as much as at any time in our history, but our political system no longer allows it to come from Washington.

We may have reached the point where only an Independent President will be able to get anything done.

Or, another solution may be a revolution of leadership, with leaders rising from other—non-political—arenas.

This may be one of the most important trends of the 21st Century, but it is not yet a trend.

Needed: A generation of non-political leaders to help America get back on track!



odemille 133x195 custom A Vital Leadership Trend that Isn’t Yet a ThingOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Blog &Current Events &Featured &Government &Independents &Leadership &Liberty &Politics &Statesmanship

A Third Power

June 25th, 2012 // 9:33 pm @

Michael Strong wrote, in his excellent book Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems:

“A short history of twentieth-century economic and political thought might be summarized as:

“Market Failure! Markets don’t work as well as the classical economists thought and therefore we must control them (1900-1960).

“Government Failure! Governments don’t work as well as democratic theorists thought, and therefore we can’t depend on them to do the right thing either (1960-2000).”

magic three A Third PowerMarkets are excellent for what they are for! Free markets create more wealth and distribute it more widely than any other economic model.

Under free markets we always witness a large middle class.

But the market doesn’t solve all problems in society.

Nor does government.

Neither markets nor governments solve everything.

Markets create more affluence and involve more people in prosperity than any other system, and governments are the most effective entity in protecting inalienable rights and maintaining laws that allow markets to flourish.

But there are a number of things governments should not do and markets will not naturally do, and these tend to be precisely the major challenges our society faces (and seldom solves).

If we are to effectively address society’s main ills (beyond a quality standard of living for most people and the protection of our rights and freedoms), people need to voluntarily take on the world’s ills and find ways to address them.

Charity, philanthropy, volunteer service, service project and social entrepreneurship (the creation of companies or projects with the specific goal of addressing societal problems) is vital.

Government is great for what it is for, but it becomes dangerous to all when it goes beyond its proper role.

Markets are fabulous for creating affluence and helping spread it to a large middle class, but they are not focused on fixing the various societal ills.

It is up to people to improve our world beyond the natural roles of government and markets.

The discussion nearly always centers around how government should do everything versus how government should do less and leave more to markets.

But those arguing for markets too seldom go out and really implement needed solutions in our communities and nation.

It’s time to get past the old Cold War argument.

Of course government should be limited, of course markets can do many things better than government, and of course markets depend on good government policy for safety and the rule of law.

But there is another piece to fixing the world: the non-governmental, non-market driven action of individuals who see a need and set out to make a difference.


odemille 133x195 custom A Third PowerOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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