Obama vs Romney: Bill Clinton Can Teach This Lesson to the Candidates

President Bill Clinton once said, “The problem with building an ideology is that it gives an answer before you look at the evidence. You need to mold the evidence to get to the answer.”

The more I started thinking about Clinton’s point, the clearer it became: to succeed in politics, whether in Parliament, the company board room, or the living room, you need to project a certain image and promise to cater to the emotions and aspirations of your constituents. The sacrifices needed to even hope to ‘fulfill’ this promise are often lost on both the trumpet blower and the listener. Whether it comes to choosing between socialism or capitalism, the Democratic or Republican party, pro-life or pro-choice, the options are always meant to be polarizing — as if to say my ideology beats your ideology. The funny thing about most ideological rivalries is that all parties tend to have the same goal, but they disagree on the methods of achieving that goal. In the process, we sometimes lose sight of the goal completely.

The media, which should be a countervailing force to government agencies and private institutions, has begun to take sides and now feeds us sensationalistic journalism. What is even more frightening is that we get fed altered snippets of information, tailor-made to promote the interests of a single party. It has become so easy for the media to get away with ignoring so many important events. 

In today’s information age, we are bombarded with so much news, but very few conclusions or embracing solutions. This is a direct result of trying to promote an ideology too strongly; important issues and facts get easily swept under the carpet. Addressing the issue of actually being competitive ourselves with these foreign companies and understanding that for a fairly balanced globalized world there needs to be a give and take on both sides is the vital issue that has been swept under the rug of today’s political dogma. 

Getting back to President Clinton’s line, ideology pretends to have the answer, regardless of the existing facts or evidence. We need to have the humility to accept that answers to problems cannot be as simple as "disregard everything and follow this ideology and you will reach the goal." Our existence and the problems we face are much more complex, so there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution for issues. 

Let us not be a nation that argues over who’s right or who’s wrong, instead let us have arguments and debates that actually lead to compromise and decision making. Whether you take the example of the recent financial crises in the United States and or the debt restructuring in Europe, it just seems like everyone is out to prove a point without actually reaching a consensus. The seed of consensus-building can never bloom in the harsh soils of polarization. We need to rethink the way we build consensus as a citizenry, organize our societies, and learn how to compromise and solve our own problems without pointing fingers at others. 

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Rushabh Desai

Founder, Jobinsight.com. Proud Longhorn from University of Texas at Austin. (McCombs School of Business).. who pretty much loves to play devil's advocate all the time...

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