This year I ran as a 2007 nonpartisan Illinois candidate for mayor of Carbondale in Southern Illinois. In 1999, I ran for mayor of Baltimore in Maryland. During my Illinois mayoral campaign this year, I held seven town hall meetings with topics ranging from improving education to accessing the healthcare system. Two trends stood out to me as I listened to the American people. First, I talked to people who had not voted in twenty years because they felt like they did not have anyone for whom to vote. These Americans felt voiceless in this local democratic system.
This sense of hopelessness and voicelessness caused me to reflect on what would cause a person not to exercise the right to vote for twenty years given the fact that Americans gave their lives for the right to vote. I quickly concluded that it must be more than apathy as described by many people. As I continued talking to people during my seven town hall meetings and on the campaign trail, I concluded that the reason for what we call apathy is actually disconnection. American citizens are disconnected from the democratic process because our leaders are disconnected from the American people.
The second trend I observed during my campaigns was the citizens' inability to see the connections between local, regional and national elections. The local leaders of today become the national leaders of tomorrow. If they are disconnected from the people today, what can we expect tomorrow? The American people have a responsibilityto ensure that this does not continue.
We have been too passive. It should not take an electoral crisis to bring people out to the polls. A crisis usually means something of value has already been lost. We can and must be more proactive with the future of our nation. Disconnection does not eliminate men and women with sincere desires to serve in a servant leader capacity but it means two things. First, it means that we have to challenge each of them to reconnect.
Second, disconnection requires what I call an "intentional leadership style "An "intentional leadership style" requires three things: 1.Continuous self assessments asking, "Am I connected to the American people? If not, what can I do to reconnect with the American people?You cannot be honest with yourself until you are honest with the American people. Are you personally aware of my struggle or just aware of my struggle through statisticians? 2.Create diverse ideological cabinet/team. You want someone who will disagree with you respectfully. Healthy dialogue is the birthplace of creativity.
The phenomenon of group think creates unhealthy and disconnected policy. 3.In addition to ideological diversity, maintain fluid teams to ensure you have the best possible people during the life cycles of your public leadership. This means change is necessary. Stagnation breeds nothing but death.
We have a responsibility to our children and to the future of America to move pass name recognition generated by family legacy and wealth as the determining factors in our choices if we even decide to make a choice see and as a result of disconnection and frustration. Many have walked away from the democratic process and continue to walk away from the process in frustration or even worst did not feel invited into the process by the hypocrisy we now see. A last name does not make you a president and wealth does not prove to me of your ability to lead the country. It means you are a fundraiser. Yes, the presidential candidates are disconnected from the American people? However, there are degrees of disconnection. The candidates do not have the same degree of disconnection from the American People.
In response to what I heard from the America people as a two time mayoral candidate, I have developed a tool to begin to evaluate how connected our leadership is to the American people. I call this evaluation tool, the "Ten Degrees of Disconnection." The "Ten Degrees of Disconnection" is a ten question litmus test.
The ten questions are available at the virtual town hall meeting website. In response to this disconnection, I have also launched a virtual town hall meeting to share with you what I see and to hear from you about your experience so we can support each other in making stand in our individual neighborhoods and communities and to make a national stand in our nation. Log onto the virtual website to reserve your virtual seat for the next national discussion.
Dr. Jessica Davis, political commentator and two-time nonpartisan mayoral candidate, ran for mayor of Baltimore, Maryland in 1999, and Carbondale, Illinois in 2007. She is the virtual host of http://www.virtualtownhallmeeting.com and is the author of AMERICAN SOCIAL JUSTICE REPORT: Creating a Beloved Community.