Over the approximately 20 year’s experience of sitting on boards, I have decided that the act of governing is a nasty business. Most boards are composed of what I call the 4 Ds—dreamers, doers, doubters, and downers. Each individual group, if gone unchecked, can cause ruin for the organization, but with each working together and compromising, I find a workable solution always appears.
I have served every position on boards except treasurer (I’m a words person not a numbers person) from president to non-voting advisor. I have also served on various types of boards from church boards to professional organizations to non-profit organizations. The board is elected by the general membership to run the daily business of the organization (from maintaining the physical plant and staff to paying bills) to charting the future and setting goals for the organization.
Many times while sitting at a board table I have pictured the organization as a boat with rowers on both sides—the dreamers and doers on one side and the doubters and downers on the other. In order for the boat to move ahead each side must work hard applying equal energy so the boat moves forward in a straight line. I am always amazed watching debates on the boards as each side energetically argues its position until someone in the middle suggests a compromise that encompasses both views.
This is true democracy in action where people come together and speak freely until a solution is found. Ideally, our federal government is an extension of this metaphor only on a grander scale. I must admit I am not the first to come up with this metaphor as Plato wrote about it and so did Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his immortal poem “O Ship of State” but my views aren’t as grandiose as Plato and Longfellow because I see the working mechanics where they were talking about the state itself.
This form of governing has worked well for thousands of years until now. Now we have a new party in our governmental mix known as the Tea Party. Don’t get me wrong, I have been in favor of a third party for years to break up the gridlock in Washington but I was hoping that third party would be composed of intelligent people who would listen to both the Democrats and Republicans and be the ones to work out a compromise between the two. However, it seems what we have is a bunch of not-so-intelligent people determined to hold their own line in the sand and not bend either way. In other words, we have a road block that only complicates the gridlock in Washington. I admire people who stand on principle and I have done so many times, myself, even to the detriment of me or my reputation. However, I have never done so when it meant the total collapse or downfall of the organization I was representing. Something each elected representative should keep in mind is he or she is there for the good of the whole. The Tea Party has not acted responsibly for the good of the whole nation. They have brought us to the brink of collapse standing on principle of a few regardless of what is good for the nation. There always comes a time in a debate where both sides need to recognize the merits of the opposing view and work to find a middle meeting point. As much as I dislike certain elements of both the Democrats and Republicans they have always eventually compromised, shook hands, and continued to the next problem like civilized citizens. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for the roadblock in the middle called the Tea Party.
While serving on both professional and non-profit boards there was always a certain professionalism that pervaded the atmosphere with unspoken rules in effect where each recognized the importance of the work we had to do. Everyone also recognized that a business does not operate the same as a family unit and a business or organizational budget and financial responsibilities were not exactly the same as a family budget. Serving on a church board that is composed of professionals, homemakers, entrepreneurs, laborers, and both educated and uneducated has always been a challenge because not everyone has the business background needed for running an organization. During one intense debate over the church’s budget a woman with no business experience was resisting paying the staff and couldn’t understand why we needed to pay a choir director. She asked why someone in the choir couldn’t stand in front and wave his arms. Others felt that all staff members including the minister, secretary, custodian, etc. should serve on a volunteer basis. Still others didn’t understand that electric and gas bills needed to be paid. Some never understood the concept of “the cost of doing business”.
I fear people with this same mentality are making up the Tea Party. They are so far behind in basic knowledge of how government operates and what is expected of them that they are holding up progress. They are feeling empowered from their limited success in the last election and are boldly taking advantage of that power. This is a democracy and everyone has the right to be heard. They have been heard but now it is time to either become a player or step aside so the business of governing can continue. We sent our representatives to Washington to do a job so, in the words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Get-r-done!”