RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., September 22, 2014 – Whether the Common Core State Standards Initiative is a success or failure, it was spawned by the plummeting performance of the public education system in the United States. Given the plummeting performance of our political leaders, perhaps it is time to consider establishing a set of expectations for those who aspire to provide leadership but seem to consistently fall short of the mark. Allow me to reintroduce The FREEDOM Process™.
I designed The FREEDOM Process to provide a framework within which to build and test national-level political solutions during the 2012 Presidential campaign. It offered a stark contrast to the political pablum offered by traditional Party platforms that promise everything to their core constituencies while ultimately delivering upon few of those promises.
It also strayed from the campaign practices that major Party candidates have become all too willing to adopt, which is to say:
- Use your Party’s infrastructure to raise over $1 billion by pandering to the Seven Deadly Sins of Pride, Greed, Envy, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth (as I described in my 2010 book, The National Platform of Common Sense);
- Spend money on image consultants who will tell you how to look, dress, and act;
- Spend more money on pollsters, political strategists, and speech writers to craft carefully scripted speeches that can be thoughtlessly read from a TelePrompTer as well as sound bites that can be memorized by candidates who otherwise might not be able to remember the names of the Federal agencies they intend to dissolve;
Deliver those meaningless messages in an endless chain of sycophantic media interviews, “meet-and-greet” photo ops, and grossly over-orchestrated debates;
- Spend even more money on marketing gurus whose sole purpose is to create emotional advertising messages (devoid of any serious content) coupled with often unfounded personal attacks on the “opposition” in the belief that the American voters are either too dumb or disinterested to question them; and
- Mobilize a “ground game” to get the most zealous and easily manipulated voters to the polls to cast Party-conforming votes.
If I sound angry about how our political system has degenerated, it is because I am angry about it. But as former President Kennedy was fond of saying, “Don’t get mad. Get even.”
The FREEDOM Process is a way for each of us to “get even” with those who have trampled upon the Republic we were given. It is our chance to respond to the challenge Benjamin Franklin issued in answering a question posed by a certain Mrs. Powel at the conclusion of the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787: “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” (Emphasis added.)
Today, we are faced with “leaders” who favor sound bites over solutions; “leaders” who can profess to have “no strategy” without suffering any consequence; “leaders” who are absolved of any culpability for favoring campaign fund-raising and vacations over doing the People’s work during times of crisis; “leaders” who portray past laws or practices as horrific yet use the same to defend the choices they make today; and even aspiring “leaders” who cannot find the courage to admit they are running for office yet can suggest that such decision hinges upon building a definitive plan they have, in fact, had six years to author. When this passes for leadership, I admit that it makes me angry.
In The FREEDOM Process, FREEDOM is an acronym. It originally stood for the following policies: Foreign, Resources, Economic, Education, Defense, Operations, and Medical (with the latter extending to any quality of life initiatives including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other “entitlement” programs). While others may not have made progress on their platform positions since 2008, I am hereby offering a modest revision to mine to improve its use among potential candidates and members of the general electorate.
I have chosen to move Economic Policy to the middle of the acronym because every other policy has an economic component that is central to its success. Secondly, I have changed the word Medical to Ministerial to more broadly describe the policy decisions that are related to that final category. Henceforth, The FREEDOM Process will provide a road map for building and testing:
- How we consistently interact with the rest of the world
- How we intelligently balance the interests of energy and the environment
- How we offer the true basis for equal opportunity and remain globally competitive
- How we continue to pursue “a more perfect Union” in a fiscally responsible way
- How we diligently “provide for the common Defense” of our Nation
- How we establish and maintain the most effective and efficient Government possible
- How we thoughtfully “provide for … the general Welfare of the United States”
The FREEDOM Process approaches policy formulation from a different perspective. It is meant to develop strategic solutions rather than political ones.
There is a meaningful difference between those two approaches.
A strategic approach:
- Defines a problem;
- Identifies its root cause(s);
- Assesses all viable solutions (i.e., those that can achieve the desired objective within the constraints of time and resources that are available as well as in recognition of what elements are controllable, or at least subject to influence, versus those that are non-controllable); and
- Vets the potential adverse consequences of each alternative (i.e., what happens if any associated assumptions prove to be incorrect; does life on Earth as we know it cease to exist, or can we just say “oops” and move forward over a relatively unlimited time frame?);
- Before executing, monitoring, and adjusting the selected solution.
A political approach:
- Only defines a problem in a way that conforms to the political objectives of a particular Party in power;
- Applies a similar restriction to how it can identify the problem’s root cause(s);
- Considers only half of the alternatives (or whatever percentage is offered by the Party);
- Adverse consequences to the Party’s alternatives are assumed to be non-existent; and
- The only time frame within which proposed Party alternatives are tested must coincide with the next two-year election cycle (since nothing matters to the Party beyond that period).
If this raw assessment strikes a partisan nerve, do me one favor: Before you attack the premise in the Comment Section that follows this article, please succinctly articulate the Foreign, Resource, Education, Economic, Defense, Operations, and Ministerial Policies of the most recent partisan Administration of your choice (i.e., the Obama Administration or the Bush Administration). There may be a Cabinet position in your future since the current and past residents of those esteemed offices seem challenged to communicate coherently in that regard.
In the following weeks, I will revisit the Foreign, Resource, Education, Economic, Defense, Operations, and Ministerial Policies I presented in 2012 and the impact they may have had on the direction of our country had they been implemented. I will offer them to stimulate a civil discussion of the issues (which seems to be otherwise woefully lacking in our Country), to openly share them with those who presently serve in positions of leadership or who intend to pursue such positions in hopes that they will either embrace them, improve them, or reject them with a rational argument rather than political one.
Additionally, I will expose some of the interdependencies of the policies in hopes that you will discover others. Each has an obvious economic impact either in cost or savings. Many policy decisions also influence other policies either favorably or unfavorably, and these influences should be taken into consideration in the formulation of any associated strategic decisions.
If we apply an intelligent approach to the formulation of our FREEDOM policies, we can learn to do significantly more with less; not only with fewer resources, less money, and in a shorter time… but with far fewer adverse consequences.
We need to learn to anticipate possibilities and have plans in place to respond to them when we choose to take actions that can have far-reaching consequences. There is no excuse for the plummeting performance our Nation has exhibited on a global level.
Benjamin Franklin warned us during the very infancy of our newly formed Government that it is our responsibility to preserve the Republic we were given. The Constitution’s Preamble suggests that it is an ongoing project: “…in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (sic), promote the general Welfare, and provide the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” (Emphasis added.) These words do not suggest that the Republic was perfect in its inception nor that justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, or the blessings of Liberty were already in place. They suggest that we have an obligation to work toward those objectives, and we cannot honor that obligation without a full range of policies, intelligently assessed, impartially selected, and clearly articulated.
While dividing people into opposing political camps and fomenting fear among them may be an effective way to solicit political contributions and win elections, it will not help us make progress toward forming “a more perfect Union.” Neither will an ad hoc approach to crises. It is time to put partisan politics aside and begin taking our responsibilities seriously. It is time to focus on FREEDOM.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A Civil Assessment, in the Communities Digital News (CDN).
The FREEDOM Process™ is the trademark of T.J. O’Hara. The Freedom Process™ and its acronym components are made available for public use subject only to proper attribution. All rights are otherwise reserved.