Two genuine Hoosier leaders shared some thoughts recently. Those who aspire to be elected leaders in 2016 would do well to learn from them.
Former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton and former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar spoke during the opening day of the National Lieutenant Governors Association annual conference, which was held in Indianapolis. They talked about their experiences working with members of the opposing party and the need to treat each other civilly.
Their remarks were reported by Amanda Creech, a reporter for thestatehousefile.com.
“Every person that you deal with, you have to show respect and dignity,” said Hamilton, a Democrat who represented Indiana’s 9th Congressional District for years.
“I think the test comes when you’re dealing with dissenters, or with people who you do not agree and maybe you do not agree with strongly. That’s the real test. I look at it terms of having respect and dignity of all people, not just friends and neighbors, but everybody. And sometimes they test you a little bit and to maintain your civility towards people that irritate you.”
Lugar, a Republican who also served as mayor of Indianapolis, talked about working with former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn on the now-famous legislation to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that had built up during the Cold War.
Interestingly, according to Creech’s report, Lugar said the true accomplishment came not from the U.S and the Soviet Union working together, but from the civility between a Republican and a Democrat.
“Some elected officials come into politics with the thought: My way or the highway,” Lugar said. “In other words, their whole purpose of winning an election is to establish a particular idea, principle, or objective.”
These days, it seems we have nothing but politicians who fit that description. It’s troublesome. They see their own elections as vindication of their views, and others’ elections as illegitimate. When they do that, they show disrespect not only to their fellow politicians, but also to the Americans who elected them and the ideas they hold dear.
In an era when many voters have been driven away from politics, that attitude might get you the few votes needed to be elected.
But it’s not leadership.
In fact, when Hamilton was in Congress, he used to stress that the skills needed to get elected aren’t necessarily the skills required to do the people’s business in government.
In fairness, much has changed in recent years. Now millions are spent on what Lugar called “negative intelligence research.” Hamilton added there are now a lot more interest groups, the media has a sharper edge to it, and politicians are appealing more to those interest groups to ensure re-elections.
“This leads to greater incivility,” Lugar said. “We are going to have to surmount it.”
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