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Advice from a post-partisan about the upcoming elections

REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

The former U.S. president known for his blunt spoken candor, Harry Truman, once advised that in the political season, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”

Chuck Slocum

I have been asked to talk about the 2014 election to several Minnesota groups recently, including some seniors in Bloomington, women professionals in Minneapolis and a group of radio-TV managers in St. Paul.

In preparation for each talk, I tried to bring relevance and clarity but noted that the presentations did not generate much enthusiasm as what needs to be done is tough medicine.

A businessman with a Republican pedigree, my basic talk emphasized that I was now more a “post-partisan” than an activist.

I described Republicans as devoted to individual rights, local initiative, and common-sense fiscal policy, often emphasizing private-sector markets to drive the economy and society.

Democrats, I said, most often sought the collective good for people largely through government action to address our many challenges.

Each political party had good people who believed in our state and nation and recognized that effective, bipartisan policies needed to include both a “head and a heart.”

Deficit and debt

By far the most important issue confronting us today, I said, was the largely uncontrolled annual federal deficit and longer-term debt, now pushing $18T and growing by over $1T a year, creating a catastrophic threat to our security and economy. I recommended a careful look at the bipartisan group “Fix the Debt” and their citizens’ petition with more than 400,000 names on it. A volunteer for Fix the Debt, I told of joining with former U.S. House Budget Chair Martin O. Sabo, D-Minnesota, to brainstorm about a can-do plan that, over time, moved the nation toward black ink — as we were as recently as the year 2000.

The ability to recognize and plan for such fiscal integrity, I said, should consider both reductions in the growth of spending, including entitlements, and increased taxes. Neither represented popular positions with elected officials seeking re-election this year, I conceded, and said that voters themselves had to demand that the issue be comprehensively addressed by the White House and Congress.

Youngest citizens must be prepared to succeed

The future workers of America and Minnesota need to be well trained and prepared for the changing economy, I said, and reported that Minnesota Chamber research confirms that a vast majority of our state’s businesses lack confidence in finding future workers to allow them to grow and prosper.  

A big part of assuring the future work force is the success of  our nation’s very youngest citizens, about half of whom start kindergarten not fully prepared to succeed and about a quarter of whom, research tells us, never do catch up. “We can’t have a winning team on the job with one in four of our kids sitting on the bench,” I told my listeners. 

We need to start early, focus on kids learning to read and write by third grade and then engage — perhaps involving many of our most plentiful baby boomer adults — as long-term mentors. Many at-risk young people need such support to the age of 25 and beyond.

Understand the value of consensus building

Last, I emphasized that our nation’s political insiders from both major political parties know how to win elections, but many elected officials today seem to lack necessary skills to govern wisely and well. They are often distracted by irrelevant issues or gamesmanship, I said.

Voters should consider choosing elected leaders who understand the value of working together, building consensus on what is really important. Complicated issues such as immigration reform, clean air and water, and America’s role in a changing world cannot and will not be solved in a partisan manner.

Chuck Slocum is president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm; he is a former state chair of Minnesota Republicans and was once executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership. E-mail: Chuck@WillistonGroup.Com.


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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/08/2014 - 08:07 am.

    Deficit and Debt

    The debt is not the most pressing issue facing us today: it’s climate change. We only have one environment and if that goes to hell, then the economic costs of dealing with the issue will make the current debt we carry look like chump change.

    Even cleaving the climate aside, the debt still isn’t #2. That issue falls to the economy, which has been struggling along since the start of the recession. People need not just jobs, but full time good paying jobs with decent benefits. Ironically, there’s an article in today’s Minnpost about how rents have risen (6%) and income fallen (17%) in all but three of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

    People with decent jobs can pay taxes, which increases government coffers and takes care of the debt.

    It’s no wonder Mr. Slocum’s presentations were met with lackluster support–his priorities are terribly off track.

  2. Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/08/2014 - 09:29 am.

    Let me guess

    Tax hikes for the poor and middle class, and benefits reduction for poor, middle class, and young. Yep post partisan for ya, guess we should change the definition to “for anything that won’t affect me personally”.

  3. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 08/08/2014 - 11:11 am.


    “I described Republicans as devoted to individual rights [except for other people], local initiative, and [mythical] common-sense fiscal policy, often emphasizing private-sector markets to drive the economy [down] and [rob] society.

    Democrats, I said, most often sought the collective good for people [[largely]] [sometimes] through government action to address our many challenges. [But Democrat politicians don’t see the harm in it if Republicans won’t let them.]”

    There, fixed that for you. Now, I would like Republicans to behave in the way you describe, Mr. Slocum, but they don’t. You’ve given them far too much credit. On the other side, you’ve way oversimplified Democrats. The thing of it is, Democrats are far more diverse and separate from the politicians they elect than Republicans, although there are exceptions in each camp. Plus you, like lots of Republicans (particularly the nastiest politicians and their parroting followers), suggest that Democrats want solutions entirely through government actions. That would be an oversimplification to the point of falsehood. I would venture to guess that most Democrats WANT people to take care of themselves, but recognize the reality that not everyone is capable of doing so, and are realistic about the basic nature of humans to be less than open to charity. It would explain why Democrats tend to also out give Republicans to secular humanitarian causes (and secular charity, in general).

  4. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 08/08/2014 - 11:27 am.


    Whenever someone starts out by calling themselves “post-partisan” you can pretty much guarantee what follows is going to be a steaming pile, and this is no exception.

    The federal deficit is not “largely unconrolled” and has been shrinking significantly the last several years. The current deficit is less now less than half of the one trillion he claims is added every year. The facts conflict with his argument, and sadly, rather than revise his argument, Mr. Slocum chose to ignore the facts.

  5. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/08/2014 - 06:12 pm.

    Mr. Slocum left out one central operational tenet of the GOP.

    It is that substantial economic benefits of government should by right flow to the numerous and massive corporate entities in our country – in manifold subsidies which either contribute directly to their profits or detract from their expenses.

    This results in the “privatize profits, socialize costs” mentality which we see in manifold variations.

    A better and more believable way to distinguish Democrats from Republicans would be to say the former believes the collective resources of society should be spent for the benefit of the people, the latter believes they should go to business and in particular, our large corporations.

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