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Lessons From The Massachusetts Election

Everyone is talking about the political consequences and the mood of today’s electorate following the stunning upset in Massachusetts this week when a little-known state senator

Everyone is talking about the political consequences and the mood of today’s electorate following the stunning upset in Massachusetts this week when a little-known state senator claimed the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy. This article is meant to head in a little different direction.

I truly believe this election was monumental. It was epic because it wasn’t expected and caught everyone but the average American totally by surprise. Still, I think those focusing on the political issues of the day are missing the bigger point.

I believe America is the greatest country in the world due to its values, and I believe its future will be based upon those values as well. The mortgaging of our children’s future and the deepest recession since the Great Depression has forced us as a nation to take a hard look at ourselves and ultimately our values.

I won’t try to argue that the shift will happen overnight, but we are evolving from a materialistic, consumer-oriented and media-driven society with declining values into one that is more reflective and true to the values that made our country great in the first place.

The other day, I read some statistics on divorce and the breakdown of the family. Amazingly, the leading cause of divorce according to this study was finances. The irony here is that we’re still the undisputed richest country in the world, but our families are crumbling because we somehow believe that we deserve even more.

More than politics, I believe the electorate’s anger is a reflection of a loss in values. The stimulus program and bailouts are a great example: trillions of dollars paid out and left for someone else to pay back. Then there’s the pork-barrel spending, the backroom deals, the profiteering, the rewarding of unethical behavior and the use of partisan politics to consolidate power, rather than actually working to fix the problems.

The health care crisis definitely needs to be addressed, but most folks realize that the solution being proposed wouldn’t address the underlying causes, or even the symptoms, and would leave us in even a worse quagmire.

Meanwhile, the climate change and energy policy debates discarded the concept of sound science years ago. Today’s discussion is more reflective of certain world views and profit potential than anything science related. In fact, the stories of scientific fraud and misinformation are no longer even regarded as a surprise (this week, the U.N. panel of climate scientists expressed regret for its exaggeration on how quickly Himalayan glaciers are melting). And subsidies, such as for ethanol, continue to be paid out to one group at the expense of another.

America sees the need to return to its past values to achieve its past hope, and Americans are sending that message to their politicians regardless of the side of the aisle they sit on.

Our own industry is not devoid of failings, but I can’t think of any group of people who believe more strongly and live more in line with the values that made our country great. It’s why I remain so optimistic about the future of our industry and country. Our ideals are what create hope for the future and shape our outcome.

This election attests to the realization by Americans that our country has lost its direction, and the election results are a signal that we still aspire to the values and ideals that made us great. It’s a realization that a fancy home is no replacement for eating meals together as a family, or that power and success are necessarily intertwined with work ethic and character.

America is beginning to find its balance, and that’s the message all the pundits are missing. We’re not going to allow our direction to be determined by the passionate fringes but we'll be guided by our core American values. We won’t be governed and dictated to solely by special interest groups.

I have no data to back up these assertions; my own life and world view are my main criteria. When I left school I was going to be rich, famous and build a great cowherd. Today, I aspire to raise three great kids, set an example they can aspire to, and to work hard to secure for them a future as least as good as that which I’ve enjoyed.

I believe we’re seeing a similar transformation in our political views. The message Massachusetts voters sent this week, and Virginia and New Jersey voters sent a few months back, is that we’re all in this together and we still have faith in the ideals and values that made America the envy of the world.

We’ll no longer allow those who talk about unity to divide us, and we’ll no longer allow those in D.C. to use the serious problems we face as means of gathering power. Instead, we’ll demand that our leaders find the middle ground where real solutions are created and enacted.