John McCain: No change Agent


John McCain’s message in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention:

I was transformed when I was a prisoner of war. Now, 40 years later, my party has failed in its stewardship of America. We didn’t change Washington; we were changed by Washington. We became corrupt, out of touch, and incompetent. I am again transformed. After being part of the problem for the past 25 years, I am now a change agent and will rise above party and change Washington. Trust me.

What’s wrong with this message?

McCain acknowledged in his acceptance speech that America is a nation in decline.

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This decline takes place in a larger context of global warming and other daunting environmental challenges that call us to change how we think and live on this planet.

Barack Obama says repeatedly that we face “the fierce urgency of now.” We need massive change—now. How does renewal happen?

In decline, change grows increasingly difficult as the decline deepens and downward momentum accelerates. Leaders, heroes in more successful times, lose credibility in failure (George Bush), energy is low, apathy and lowered motivation prevail (congressional gridlock and public cynicism), and resources may be exhausted (a national debt of $8.9 trillion in 2007). It takes great leadership and effort to lift a nation from decline and most fail and civilizations die or fade to a mere shadow of their more glorious days.

Today America’s future is unclear—at home and abroad. Old paradigms and new ideas collide; we are in a place of confusion, uncertainty, fear and anxiety; a place of no rules; and a place of conflict between the status quo (McCain) and the new, emerging vision for the future (Obama). We feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and we seek a quick-fix solutions–drill for more oil, Sarah Palin for vice president and gas tax holidays. We should be saying: invent, invent, invent. That would be real change.

Energy and commitment will be needed to renew our nation. Experience in the old ways is not helpful—often it is detrimental. What is needed is a leader with the vision and courage to step into the unknown and learn as he proceeds—just like Lewis and Clark and explorers throughout time have done.

The leader needed to guide a nation through such renewal will be an optimistic and hopeful visionary with a clear strategy for transformation, a reflective leader who engages the nation, adapts to new information and circumstances, and who involves and inspires citizens. Barack Obama is that leader.

The key insight to understand: McCain is a rebel—rebels react against something—they solve problems generally with the flip-side of “either/or.” Soon the solutions are new problems—the flip-side of the one fixed.

Good and great leaders share one characteristic: the continually evolve a vision to make life better. Obama is a leader–a person who leads towards a vision of a new future—a new creation that makes the best of the “either” AND the “or.” Creativity is the answer to today’s issues, not problem-solving.

John McCain’s effort to transform himself is disingenuous and too late. He is part of the problem and has lost credibility along with his president and party. His one chance to convince Americans that he is capable of changing the system he is a part of was to offer a compelling vision for America in his acceptance speech and show us that he can see beyond small fixes to the status-quo. He failed to do that.

Instead he focused on the past and offered a list of recycled Republican ideas. He offers reform which is the equivalent of putting a new façade on an old building—it looks and sounds good but underneath the wiring and plumbing are outdated.

John McCain would lead this nation deeper into decline.
(Heuerman, Ph.D. is a change consultant, former Secret Service agent, and Star Tribune executive. He lives in Moorhead, MN) and