26 Sep / How We’re All Politicians

How We’re All Politicians


have an important message to share about my experience in politics. [Editor’s note: I worked for 2 years at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) during President Obama’s first term.]

One’s survival as a political appointee — Democrats and Republicans alike — largely depends on how brightly strategic you can be in whatever office you’re working. The very nature of our system is to incentivize behaviors that create a leading edge for whatever side you’re on. As such, the perverse outcomes that surface eventually start to look predictable and nonpartisan.

Speaking very generally, political corruption is less anyone’s “fault” than it is the fault of a system designed to invite cunningness over the best in people. It’s a system designed to abate personal responsibility and incite blame in its place. We deserve to be angry about corruption in politics. It’s how we harness our anger that counts. It’s how we harness our anger that could really change everything.

Take this example from The New York Times of a Republican lobbyist scheming — in a recently disclosed email — about a very close election in Wisconsin:

“Do we need to start [falsely] messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number?
I obviously think we should.”

This behavior is abhorrent no matter how we cut it. And yet, in the lobbyist’s view, he’s just doing his job and damn well at it. Gaming the system is only problematic when you’re caught — that’s part of the game, too.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” — Stanislaw Jerezy Lec

It’s time to stop pretending. Real change comes by shining light on our individual and collective shadow. As we internally take full responsibility for our external environment — seeing ourselves as a creator in this world and not its victim — suddenly our ideas about guilt become those of collaboration. And as we own our collusion with the current system, politicians will have no choice but to do the same. This is nothing short of a paradigm shift and it’s on the tip of our tongues if we’d only accept its reach.

I’ve worked in politics and conscious leadership and have begun to learn what it means to own my shadow myself. Through this work I’ve learned to find compassion for ALL those working within a system — because we’re all ultimately conspirators of the same game.

Having compassion doesn’t equate to letting anyone off the hook for their transgressions. In fact compassion lends itself to a greater understanding of their predicament so that justice can be served with clear eyes rather than a pointed finger. Paired with taking responsibility, compassion is bridging our old world to the new.

The hard part — beyond imparting this understanding for all who care to listen — is converting our impulse for blame to the co-creation of the *next* system: A system designed to feed the very best in people. A system incentivizing radical personal responsibility to the point that it becomes obvious. It’s the only way I see in transcending an everlasting blame-game.

It’s at once incremental and revolutionary.

Let’s do it together.

– Danny/TL&TW/September 26, 2016