Reading a New Yorker story (Dec. 10) on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer reminds me that the political right has no patent on sanctimonious certitude. And certitude and imperiousness don’t draw people to you or your point of view.
It’s a tough balance to strike, being a passionate believer and pushing for what you think is right without pushing away people who don’t agree with every word you say — we talk about that on this blog a lot. Sounds like Spitzer hasn’t found that balance. Although he won 69% of the vote when elected a year ago, a recent poll showed only 25% of New Yorkers would vote for him today. And he’s at loggerheads with the New York legislature.
As a communicator, he apparently uses a jackhammer. Spitzer had road tested the idea of giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses during his campaign and hadn’t heard much resistance. When, as governor, Spitzer proposed it as policy, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to the New Yorker, “raised questions about the plan, citing worries that it would diminish a license’s value. In a characteristic display of excessive rhetorical aggression, Spitzer responded, ‘He is wrong at every level — dead wrong, factually wrong, legally wrong, morally wrong, ethically wrong.'”
OK, then, Eliot, you just go off to your corner of the playground, I’m done playing with you.
Why not say, “I’m happy to listen to the mayor’s concerns. Here’s why I think this is good policy for all of us…”
Spitzer is a true Progressive, fighting the concentration of selfish power on behalf of the individual. I hate to see him lose his effectiveness because he’s so damned sure of himself and treats others like lower beings.
John Edwards is becoming increasingly strong and angry in his challenge of excessive corporate power, but I don’t hear from him the tone of “I know everything and if you don’t agree with me you’re an idiot and an ethical leper.” Edwards is sure of himself, but not closed. “Without vigilance and humility, righteousness can become self-righteousness,” Spitzer said of his own communication style in August. He’s still got a lot to learn.
We’ve had too many presidents who aren’t open to dissent or ideas other than theirs — LBJ on Vietnam, George W on everything. I’m listening for leaders who have strong convictions but can also listen and learn.