As of May, 2003, I have decided to no longer run for this office. I am maintaining the website for several reasons, not the least of which is that the effort expended in developing the ideas was clearly worthy, and the work produced should therefore be preserved. My further reasons for no longer seeking elective office can be found in this essay - Saving America from Ourselves.
from the 2004 Presidential Campaign of Joel A. Wendt: working paper # 12
Re-imagining the Conduct of the Presidency
- a Presidential Campaign as an Act of Statecraft,
the Presidency as the Art and Craft of Statesmanship -
The People of the United States of America can no longer afford to have their government run by professional politicians. The People of the World can no longer afford the conditions of internal corruption into which the United States government has fallen. The cost, in terms of the unnecessary pain and suffering of ordinary people everywhere, is too high.
It remains for the People of the United States, in cooperation with others throughout the World, to realize that the 2004 Presidential Election in the United States is the business of all of us. What some like to call America does not just belong to the geographic Americans. America is an Ideal of how to have a government of the People, by the People and for the People. This Ideal doesn't just belong to the citizens of the United States, although we are, in the present, its most important stewards.
Some fundamental considerations:
The conduct of the Presidency and of a presidential campaign is not something done by one person, although one person is fully responsible for its fundamental moral character. This was the pattern and standard set by George Washington, a pattern and standard that has fallen away over the many years since his initial gifts to our polity.
In the present, politicians have taken up, as their main tasks, getting elected and staying in power. Secondary and subordinate to this is the care of the Republic and the health of our Society. In their pursuit of winning, politicians have sacrificed their alleged secondary goal more and more by turning over the conduct of election campaigns to faceless political operatives, who are then allowed to engage in almost any activity that supports the primary goal - winning the election. No longer does the politician act as a statesman, but rather becomes a mere merchant of influence, selling favors and votes, patronage and access, all the while letting slide responding to our Nation's real needs.
For anyone interested in the truth, it is unnecessary to say anything about how far from the Ideal was the conduct of the last election by the current administration. Needless to say, their conduct in office has shown the same level of irresponsibility.
Some years ago, in a remarkable book (Statecraft as Soulcraft - what government does) by George Will, written at the time he was still a true Conservative in the tradition of Edmund Burke, Will quoted, in the First Chapter - The Care of Our Time, Senator Pat Moynihan as follows: "I have served in the Cabinet or sub-Cabinet of four Presidents. I do not believe I have ever heard at a Cabinet meeting a serious discussion of political ideas - one concerned with how men, rather then markets, behave. These are the necessary first questions of government. The Constitution of the United States is an immensely intricate judgment as to how men will behave, given the circumstances of the time in which it was written. It is not at all clear that it is working well, given the circumstances of the present age. But this is never discussed."
Politicians, who do not understand that at its fundamental levels our form of government is an Ideal, and/or have no experience with the necessary inner work required to understand and practice this Ideal, - such politicians no longer serve the Republic or our People, but rather only those influences from the realms of concentrated wealth that buy their attention and support their election.
This is not to say that everyone in public office is a mere politician. Certainly many seek office, wanting to be statesmen, and some survive the experience of seeking office to actually become statesmen. Unfortunately, far too many have lost their way, and in the process have sold our Republic to the highest bidder.
In order to renew the relationship of our polity to the Ideal, certain activities are required both by the ordinary citizen, and by those who seek office. Mostly I have written in these working papers of matters connected to the renewal of the responsibilities of citizenship, or what is called Citizen Governance. In this paper I am focusing more directly upon what those who might yearn to be statesmen need to do.
The first required task is the transformation of the political campaign. No longer can it be merely about winning office, or the acquisition of power. Those goals will corrupt the whole process right from the very beginning. The campaign itself needs to be conducted as the initial act of statecraft - as an offering, or demonstration if you will, of the candidate's abilities as a practitioner of the art and craft of statesmanship
This means, at the very least, placing the truth ahead of all other considerations. Granted people do not agree on what the truth is, but the present conventions of politicians, and their out of control operatives, is that spin is appropriate. Yet, spin by its very nature concedes that its goal is not the truth, but rather the warping of facts so as to place the candidate or office holder in the most agreeable light. The gift of the word is then used to obscure and hide, rather than for enlightenment and illumination.
No one wants any longer to know what the true and the good are. These realities are too inconvenient to the primary process - the buying and selling of influence. Our understanding of the true nature of governing has so far degenerated, that this buying and selling itself is seen as compromise. Butcompromise, in the processes of governance and statesmanship, is a much higher calling than mere influence peddling. True compromise concerns not the convenient collusions of power, but rather the melding of differing Ideals and Ideas into a union that represents the agreeable conduct of the Whole People.
Now someone who aspires to this true art and craft of statesmanship - to an understanding of true compromise, must at the first offering of public service conduct their campaign itself as an act of statecraft by grounding its use of the gift of the word in the truth. Someone aspiring to the office of public servant needs to place ahead of their own victory in an election, the discovery of those truths about which this particular election must be concerned. Only in this way can we transform the fallen circus which passes for public debate during every four year cycle of presidential politics, and replace that circus with a periodic National Rite of Celebration and Search for the slowly growingand unfolding meaning and purpose of our Nation and our People.
So as to make this more concrete, it is not just spin that evades the truth, but also promises made that the speaker does not in fact know they can keep. Political campaigns are full of allegations that the candidate will accomplish this or that act when in office, while the truth is clearly otherwise to anyone who wants to think about it. For example, for a presidential candidate to promise any legislative result is to engage in a lie, for only the Legislative Branch can make laws, and Presidents frequently are not able to bend the Legislative Branch to their will.
Someone might say that this form of speech - the loose promise - is common today. That it is, but its very existence as a habit of conduct diminishes the level of reality in the public dialog. Candidates sitting around trading promises made, which can't be kept, engage in fantasy, and conversation without any true meaning. This is made all the worse, as anyone with any common sense knows, by the fact that the promises are frequently made not because it is the true will of the candidate, but merely to appeal to a set of voters whose emotional state the campaign operatives seek to ensnare. All of this kind of speech degrades the gift of the word and makes of our public dialog nothing higher than the typical false promises made for the advertising and selling of a useless patent medicine.
How did we get to this state?
Thetruth is that the United States of America is young, adolescent even. We are immature as a Culture and a People. At the same time, the Genius of History has placed us in this position of preeminence for a reason. Something is being born just here, that can not be brought forth anywhere else - the forging of a People of Peoples. That phase in the evolution and education of humanity, that first was carried forth among differing races and cultures, is passing away, and is beginning to be replaced with that child-like first People and Culture that integrates the gifts of the parts into one Whole. It is as if Life on the Earth is engaged in a very delicate experiment - can human beings find a common sense of themselves beyond the ties of blood, history, race, culture and religion?
Such a process is awkward in the extreme. The Genius of History doesn't do these things in that much of a straightforward and organized fashion as we might prefer, because at its root such a process has to be based upon freedom. We are not being formed into a People of Peoples, but are rather being invited to take up such a task. Moreover, in order for us to embrace such a task in freedom, it has to be completely possible that we will fail. For all to be possible, all must be at risk.
Further,the True Spirit (Ideal) of America, as noted above, does not just belong to geographic Americans, whether of the United States or North or South America. This Ideal belongs to all human beings, and all may live it. The foremost example of the living this Ideal in the Twentieth Century was a nameless man of Chinese descent and culture who stood in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square. By this act he said: "I offer my life on the altar of freedom and brotherhood".
Brotherhood, you might ask? Yes, brotherhood. To what other end is it possible to offer one's own life? Only the community of those who survive benefit by such a sacrifice. And the freedom part? This offer of sacrifice can only be done morally as a free act, while elsewhere, where the sacrifice of life is compelled, it is an abomination.
How little is required then of someone seeking to be a public servant than to ask of them that they sacrifice winning in favor of the truth?
Now some may think that if the United States is being forged into a People of Peoples, what does that mean for the rest? This is a quite legitimate question.
As was pointed toward in the beginning of this paper, the 2004 presidential election in the United States is the concern of the whole world. In a very real sense the rest of the World's Peoples are the Father and Mother of the People of Peoples, and we who live in the United States are their offspring. We are their clumsy and errant adolescent child, who in our natural egotism think we should be in charge, and that the whole world should revolve around us. In a kind of self important drunken ecstasy we stumble around the house and the neighborhood, wreaking everything in sight.
I am sure this is written everywhere in the various wisdoms of the world, but in that which comes to Western Culture as the Ten Commandments, number four or five (depending upon your rite) implores: "Honor thy father and mother" ("...in order that thy days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee..").
A politician (afraid to lead, and only able to follow a mob) will get all pumped up screaming "you're unpatriotic!", while a statesman will have no problem whatsoever understanding that reality is much deeper, and that compromise and brotherhood and honor are much more important than self serving pretense and vain posturing.
The United States of America wasn't born out of itself, and doesn't exist for itself. The same is true of any candidate for public office. It's not about me, or even our People, its about us and all Peoples. And even more so, it is about our children and their children's children. What sane culture can claim to beof value even to itself (much less the rest of the world) that squanders its wealth on itself, leaving its children to live among wastelands and ruins?
This is all I wanted to say about the conduct of the campaign in its Ideal sense. As to the actual conduct of the Office of the Presidency, that is another matter. There are aspects of that Office that need to be discussed in relationship to the particulars of our current situation. This we consider next.
The basic effect of the corruption of the nature of our public life, by the overreaching of concentrated wealth on our constitutional processes, has been the weakening of the Legislative and Judicial Branches of our government, with the result that the Executive Branch has become so warped that the President is now, in effect, a near-King. Yet, we once fought a very bloody and protracted war in order to free ourselves from the arbitrary authority of a King. Tragically, we have fallen back on old patterns, in that the influence of the aristocracy of concentrated wealth has been to install their own sons and daughters in office, through the abuses of power that influence can buy.
Wehave had in the last Century, Roosevelt's, Rockefeller's, Kennedy's and now Bushes in the higher offices (President and Vice President, Governors, Senators and Congressmen), while all manner of Cabinet offices, heads of the CIA and diplomatic posts have been held by the elites of our banking and mercantile classes. We have become so used to this, that we no longer really notice it.
At the same time, to go from one condition, that of influence peddling to a condition of truer social and political health, this cannot be done overnight, or in a violent and disorderly fashion. Further, just as the People of the United States of America must learn to honor their Father and Mother as that lives and has lived in all the older, and more mature, cultures and races, so also must the Citizen Governance movement learn to honor that which lived in the impulses of concentrated wealth that was alsoborn of the true and the good.
For example, Joe Kennedy, certainly a rascal of the first order (as have and will be many in our wonderfully complex and rich history), did not just impose his children on our society, but if we read carefully the biographies of that family we can see that he insisted they not only be trained by life, but also provided all the formal education money could buy. It was the Kennedy's and their friends that took us through that horrible moment of the Cold War where all of mankind stood on the brink of Nuclear Catastrophe (see the movie Thirteen Days for details).
In this approach of the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, we find one valid version of the Ideal standard - those who are to hold highest office need to be trained and educated for it. As much as we would like it, we cannot go out and pick any factory worker, housewife or househusband, nurse or cab driver and elevate them to public service. Yes, to be a son or daughter of wealth is not enough, but we do well not to throw out the baby with the bathwater here.
This is part of why Citizen Governance, especially in the form of its work in changing the nature of the political conversation, is so important. The renewal of the Ideal that is America needs to be rooted in "We the People", but at the same time we need an educated and trained elite at the core of governmental service. If there is a problem, it is that the same forces, that have brought about the fallen nature of our polity, have also infected our centers of learning, our great and small universities and colleges. This is one of the matters pointed to by Eisenhower in his Farewell Speech, where he spoke of the undesirable influence of the military-industrial complex.
What this tells us, among other matters, is that Education, whether for the ordinary citizen in support of their ability to carry out the relevant responsibilities of Citizen Governance, or in the preparation of those charged with the managing of our Society, this Education is the primary function of a healthy society. However, we have to deal with the presently fallen nature of our schools, which have lost hold of the goal of creating an educated citizenry, and have been forced (and are being forced) to primarily provide trained workers and consumers - two very antagonistic goals.
One can be a trained worker whether one is a biochemist or an auto mechanic, and we certainly, as a society, need all these skills. But as a modern human culture, trying to awaken to who we are in the World, we also need to be educated. Someone is educated who is free to be who they want to be, and who has been helped to unfold all the human capacities natural and latent in their own inwardness.
I am not here going into how we go about doing that (this would take a book or two), I only want to point to the problem and its centrality in going into the future. The reality is that the most important people in any society are the parents and the teachers, for the children are formed into who they become by these initial experiences of family and school, and it is the children who are the future. We can have all the wealth and technical expertise in the world, and still have no culture whatsoever, because we do not educate human beings, but only train workers and consumers.
With this background in mind, let us now return to the problem of the imbalance among the three branches of our form of government that has come to be due to the excessive influences of concentrated wealth.
The next holder of the Office of the Presidency has to do everything they can to restore the true balance, and to contain their own shadow impulses toward seeking to solve all problems by the conduct of what has become essentially an imperial presidency. And, the Citizen Governance movement has to stop looking to the Executive Branch to solve all their problems. The President is not a King, but rather a Servant and perhaps a Shepard, and as a Servant the President will not do a proper service by replacing the will of the People by his or her own.
We have in our young culture recently given birth to a couple of important and wise ideas. One such idea is that of enabling and comes to us out of the profound spiritual work of 12 Step movements. In the hard and painful school of addiction, it has been discovered we do no service to a person with such a weakness if we feel sorry for them and try all the time to help them. Our best service is done by what is called tough love, another of these new wise ideas (this is actually not so new, and might be found in some of the spiritual wisdoms of the Original Peoples of the Americas in the idea of grandmotherly kindness - but that is another story). Another such idea is that of co-dependency. This involves becoming so enmeshed in each other, that we really end up supporting each others weakness, instead of our individual strengths.
What this means is that the President can't be the co-dependent enabler of either the weaknesses of the People or of the other two Branches, by using an excess of Executive powers to do something the People and their public servants need to do by themselves. What this means is that we need in the Executive someone with the wisdom not to do things. There is really no other way to wean us from our current addiction to the presidency as all knowing ruler and king.
The People's will is best manifested by the Legislative Branch, who are called upon to make those laws necessary to the proper ordering of a modern human society. But the Legislative Branch does us no good with its own addiction to wealth as the only means to obtain and maintain power. Both our Congresspeople and our Senators must end this obsession with their own importance, and learn to set that aside in favor of striving again to realize the Ideal that is embodied in our Constitution. Every election, which proceeds on the basis that the truth can be ignored, and that the ends found in winning is more important than the honest means by which it is obtained, drags us further into rot and decay.
Just as true Citizen Governance can only be founded on a proper understanding of ends and means, so the practice of statecraft at all levels of government will only be balanced and healthy when the right relationship is found between these two elements of political process. For the Executive Branch this means that at the center of its practice must exist the truth in all that it says to our People. Anything less, anything self serving and in support of hidden agendas makes a lie of the process and tears down the presently fragile remaining trust of the People.
Wemust not fail to notice that a mistrust of politicians has lead to fewer than half - HALF! - of our People practicing even their most basic right and responsibility of the vote. We presently live in a situation of deep spiritual despair at the core of our polity due solely to the failure to honor the trust of the American People. From the Pentagon Papers, through Watergate and Irangate to the joke that was Clinton's statement that he never slept with that woman, our government has done nothing but harm to the Ideal Center of our way of Life, through lie after lie after lie.
Not only has great mistrust been the fruit of these failures, but such work divides the nation deeply between those who still hold to the faith and want to trust, and those who have been too many times burnt. The Executive (and the Legislative Branch) harms us deeply with every piece of spin and outright lie.
The only real coin of any value, passed between the citizens of a Nation and their public servants, is the truth. With that coin in circulation, nothing is impossible to such a People, for truth leads to trust, and it is mutual trust that binds us together into a Whole.
This being the case, and given that the Media itself has been corrupted by concentrated wealth, it is the need of our People that as many barriers as possible be removed between the People and their public servants. In practice, this will mean in my campaign that nothing will be hidden from the Press, should they seek it, except in that rare circumstance where undo harm to others would result. I certainly have no intention of hiding anything concerning myself. The same rule will apply in practice in my administration, should the People honor me with their trust - essentially unlimited access to the People through the Media.
In fact, the whole nature of such a modern administration changes, once we admit the value of the truth as the primary Ideal element. The object then no longer becomes serving some kind of ideology (of the Left or the Right), but of finding out what is the true need, and the best means to provide those services which government is charged to provide.
However (and this is a big however), given the nature of the imbalance between the Branches, it is no longer healthy to look to the Executive for that which should be provided by either of the other two Branches. Neither new laws nor justice is the role of the Executive. Moreover, given that this imbalance didn't appear just recently, it will not be easily corrected. We need to be patient, and take small steps where those are called for. Radically reformations are usually destructive of more than they create.
As the Citizen Governance movement grows into its own, the foundational elements will shift, and a new kind of public servant will come forth (since they will now find the right support). These changes at the level of who is doing the work in the three Branches are the essential. Many believe that if we just change this or that law, we will have progress, but the real curative is to change the quality of the people doing the work. The raising of the quality of those people coming into public service will take time, and will require multiple transformations of our ways of Education and other related matters.
We need to understand that social problems of the systemic nature so common today cannot be corrected by the application of this law, or that edict. We are involved in a work of healing whole systems, and this means advancing on many fronts at the same time.
In a way it is a kind of mutually reciprocal process, whereby Citizen Governance elevates on its own the level of discourse, while this in turn enables public servants to strive more toward the truth in all their activity. The one slowly reinforces the activity of the other, each becoming stronger over time.
All of this has been fairly abstract, so in order to make it all more concrete, let me now write of these ideal elements in terms of our various problems with regard to the economy. This is just a for instance, by the way, and not meant to be complete or definitive.
We can start by dismantling some illusions - the President is not the manager of the United States economy, and in fact, there is no such thing as a national or state economy. This may surprise many, but as we are trading here in the coin of the truth, these things have to be said.
There is only a World Economy, which has come slowly into being over the last few hundred years, taking off with the trading empires, and then being more built up by the industrial revolution. What the Left worries about as Globalization, is merely the by-product of the emergence of the World Economy in the final age of the aristocracies of concentrated wealth. And, what the Right worries about as the threat to the privileges and prerogatives of private property, is only the last stage in the dying away of a false understanding of the nature of human progress.
Why is there only a World Economy? One important clue is to notice that all this is happening in that time when all of humanity is awakening to its shared fate as the inhabitants of one Earth. It is no accident that our consciousness as a world full of companions and brothers and sisters is emerging at the same time as the World Economy, globalization, and the apparent intensification of the struggle between the so-called rich and the poor.
Economy deals with the transformation of the gifts of the Earth, their movement to where needed, and then their use - that is, production, distribution and consumption. The consequences of such activity effect us all, and imbalances are everywhere.
The only reason we think at all of national economies, or even local or state economies is because of a habit of thought instilled in us by the influence upon our thinking as a result of living in the age of natural science. One of the processes of natural science, as conducted in the past (this may be changing), has been the use of abstractions - of taking single facts out of the context in which they are embedded, and then believing we can understand these single facts free of this context.
So it is possible, say for those living in New Hampshire, to gather local facts, rates of unemployment, stock values of local companies, profit and loss figures from these same companies, tax revenues, and so forth. From these abstracted facts then (they are all embedded in a much larger picture where the flow of capital, the changes in interest rates, and federal tax cuts or raises dominate the local conditions) an imaginary picture is created as if there was a local economy. In truth, we can only ever speak of local conditions in the World Economy, in much the same way we can only speak of local conditions in the Total Climate of our planet. Yes, it will rain here tomorrow, maybe. And maybe there is some capital flowing in our local direction next year if we offer property tax rebates.
What this means is that whatever our coming economic realities, the whole world is in the same fragile boat - our one planet, the Earth, and Its Children, humanity.
Yet, because we assume that the Executive Branch manages the local economic conditions in our Nation, we tend to look to Presidents for economic leadership, and conduct. But the factual relationships are quite otherwise, and to the extent that the Executive pretends to managing the economy, they lie.
This is one of the hidden realities behind globalization - it is a necessary stage on the path to learning to deal with the World Economy through international relations. As this particular time is during the infancy of our understanding of the dismal science (economics), and as the dominating political power has been with the elites of concentrated wealth, our first efforts at managing the World Economy have been trade agreements, mostly written with the benefit to the elites of concentrated wealth in mind.
At the root of these problems is a kind of understandable mistrust. Over the years of the birth and coming into being of the World Economy, the banking and mercantile classes have had a lot of trouble with various governmental leaders. Since this all began as the age of Kings and Queens was is its last days, these authoritative personalities made all manner of decisions that were destructive of commerce and trade. It is no wonder that the elites of concentrated wealth wanted little to do with the interference of governments in the management of economic processes.
Then as the hereditary aristocracies gave way to the emergence of democratic republics, the problems continued, for voters were not well educated in even the basics of accounting, much less the intricate details of high finance. As a result, the dialogs between the voters and their public servants lost any contact with economic reality, while at the same time the discipline of economics wandered about in a universe of abstract principles and mathematics, attempting to imitate physics, a poor choice in all events, since all economic decisions have a moral (human) component.
I am not going to go into the economic decisions of the current Bush administration, being made in conjunction with a Congress even more in denial of the real consequences of their actions, except to say that the same irresponsible patterns of behavior applied in the 2000 election, and the field of international relationships prior to the war, are being carried out in the realm of economics. No care is being taken for our common future, and all is determined by the agendas and short term political goals of the moment. What we have here is the very opposite of true statesmanship.
Like much else in human society, if we wish to have some kind of balance and health, we must make approaches on multiple fronts. Economic health can't be dealt with by itself, nor is the Executive to be looked toward as the primary actor. The most that can be expected of the presidency is some common sense and guidance.
The economy is created by activites we do together. The President doesn't run it like some corporate executive, any more than does the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
There are a number of actors in the drama: consumers, bankers, workers, financiers, stock brokers, investors, and so forth. Added to these are all the regulatory bodies, whether governmental or private. At present each group, and frequently each individual within each group, goes their own way, frequently irrespective of their effect on the whole. Self interest seems to dominate over community interest and the common good.
What we want is for self interest to be enlightened, and for it to understand how to satisfy itself and how to participate in the common good at the same time. It is here where a true education plays its most needed role. Only someone, who knows how to be free and who has begun to unfold that which is latent within themselves, will be able to find their way to enlightened self interest. This is what a true civilization does, when it possesses a living and dynamic culture - it makes its greatest investment in the education of its children, knowing full well that only this act gives birth to a healthy future.
written on the cusp of Spring, March 21st and 22nd, 2003,
during the initial phases of the war against Iraq.