The pundits and media talking heads are putting the 2010 Mid-Term Congressional elections to rest. Their conclusion?
(a) A historic victory for the Republican party; or
(b) Not nearly as bad a shellacking as the Democrats could have taken considering the state of the U.S. economy.
So which is it? The truth, in this case, depends on your perspective.
I posted a link to a survey on my Facebook and Twitter pages on the day following the election. In the days that followed, a small group of people responded to five questions about what motivated their vote and what they believe it means.
This group of less than one hundred is not adequate to assure any statistical validity. That was never the purpose anyway. But, the sample was diverse and varied.
• 26% identified themselves Democrats.
• 38% were Republicans.
• 26% were Independents.
• 6% considered themselves Tea Party supporters.
• 4% were Libertarians or Green Party backers.
Here’s what we found:
• Twice as many (34%) voted against the current Democratic administration as for the Republican’s proposed policies (17%).
• Not even all of the Democrats voted for Democrats. They made up 26% of the respondent pool, but only 21% of respondents said they voted for the Democrat’s policies and promises.
• The media buzz about the impact of the Tea Party didn’t translate to reality with this group. Only 8.5% stated that they voted for the Tea Party and its proposed policies.
• No one expects the Federal government to do anything different as a result of the election. Seventy percent said that they expect either gridlock or business as usual with both parties blaming the other for why things aren’t getting better. Only 6% expected the two parties to work together to move the country forward. The remaining 23% believe that either the Democrats or the Republicans will push their agenda without compromise, which is just another way of saying not much will happen to make things better.
So what was the point?
• Fifty-one percent of respondents believe that the most important thing that happened was the President was sent a message to change course. Only 2% of the respondents believed that the Republicans showed that they have a plan to move America forward.
• Twenty-one percent believed that the Democrats held up pretty well in a tough election climate.
• Thirteen percent said that the Tea Party showed that they are and will be a force in American politics.
Here’s what I think it means:
1. This election was about sending a message that the way Washington has worked in the recent past is not what people want for our future. Fifty-one percent of respondents believe that the most important thing that happened was the President was sent a message to change course. Twenty percent of respondents said that they voted based on factors other than party affiliation or simply voting against incumbents. These individuals wrote about the basis of their vote and talked about character, honesty, and being the best qualified. They may have voted along party lines, but they based their decision on an honest attempt to identify the person best qualified to serve.
2. The Republicans may have won the battle, but the war is still undecided. They won this election based on what isn’t working. They have two years to articulate a platform that engages people or their gains may not be sustained much less extended.
3. People are tired of rhetoric. They will need to see results to change their perception of how Washington works. That only 6% believe the Republicans and Democrats will work together to move America forward is a sad statement about trust in our leaders to focus on what is right rather than who is right.
And now for the rest of the story
There are lessons to be learned from this election that apply to every leader in every organization.
1. Soaring words are no longer enough. People have heard them all before. You’ll need specific, actionable plans that are clearly explained to cut through the cynicism that exists in today’s society and organizations.
2. Goodwill has an expiration date. We live in a world where a 90-second story on the evening news is considered an in-depth analysis. New leaders will be given the benefit of the doubt for a while, but it is a short while. Even with big, hairy problems like the economy, followers need to see tangible progress to continue their support.
3. You can’t talk about things that are out of your control forever. The public has grown tired of the President’s continued discussion of the past administration and the problem he inherited. The Republicans will very quickly find out that being against whatever the President is doing will play for an even shorter period of time. You may not have created the problem, but you do have to own it.
I’ll be back next week with ideas on transforming your team and organization to achieve amazing results.
In the mean time, …
PS: To add your thoughts to the survey, please go to https://app.icontact.com/icp/sub/survey/take.