Every now and then I enjoy breaking away, far away, from the belly of the beast. The farther from the Washington, DC Metro area the better. It is an added bonus if you can be with people in fields and socio-economic backgrounds other than your own. If you’re open to it, it affords perspective and can even lead to new things you never thought possible. If you pay attention, you will learn a lot about the world and maybe even yourself. With a few exceptions, you really can’t do that in this area because most political and legal types live in some bubble, as if the outside world did not exist.
Last week I visited eMERGE Americas, an annual tech conference in South Florida. Frankly, I had never heard of it but was invited to give a talk. The event is a relatively young concept, but has set a very ambitious goal to make Miami a major tech hub gateway for Latin America, and the people are showing up, by the thousands. Former Secretary of State Powell delivered the opening speech; and there were scores of tech gurus giving talks on several stages.
I hope that eMERGE succeeds. It will help my former hometown of Miami with much-needed new lines of business, other than tourism and parties; as well as bring together thousands of innovators and business people to chart the next decade in this highly competitive and always changing sector of the economy. In its third year, eMERGE, and its sister program eGOV, already has more than 13,000 attendees from over 60 countries participating in the two-day conference that included a hackathon the day before it opened.
An added bonus of the trip was that I gave a talk about a topic I enjoy, law and politics, in this instance a review of President Obama’s new policy toward Cuba. Those of you who read my blog know my position, and for those who do not, you can find many posts that will put you in the picture. Distilling these points for a tech and business audience is very different than talking about these issues in this town. An eMERGE audience does not want to be bombarded with Beltway hustle talk; they just want to hear it as it is, and if possible, engage in a conversation about it.
As has been the case in most outside the box talks or meetings I attend, no matter where in the world people are from, they enjoy talking politics. It is almost like music, universal. Evert nation has to deal with it. I especially enjoy talking with foreigners and, at eMERGE, there were a lot of visitors from places all over the world, especially Latin America. Their perceptions about American politics always fascinates me for how accurate it can be, despite living thousands of miles away. Here is my take, albeit non-scientific, from talking with several dozen people over the course of one day.
As a twenty-something programmer from Brazil shared with me, he really could not tell the difference between a Republican and Democrat! When I shared some of the difference, at least as I see them, without missing a beat he quipped, well, “at least you have a choice. In Brazil, the supposed conservatives are no better than the corrupt left in power. In fact, I’m not sure we even have conservatives in Brazil. Politicians are either finding ways to have governments tell us what to do, or taxing us. We are numb to it really. The younger people are tired of it, but we just ignore them as best we can. I have no time for it.”
This fellow might as well have been an American, because his assessment, and that of many other people I talked with in Miami, said about the same thing.
My party sounds like a broken record. Lower taxes, less regulations, etc. We’ve done a alright job governing, although Congress could use a swift kick in the you know where for failing to do robust oversight; however, all in all, Speaker Ryan’s approach of putting the system back in regular order will pay political dividends in the years ahead. But we also do a terrible job communicating who we are as party. Like my new Brazilian hacker friend, and others, were sharing with me: we usually sound like Democrats!
Maybe my philosophy about politics is different than most, but, if we want to win votes, we do so by action, not talking. The Left needs to use coarse rhetoric, even lies, because if voters really understood what they’re up to, they’d be kicked out of office. In my book, President Obama is a master of political deceit, even better than President Bill Clinton. Socialism has been on life support since the end of the Cold War, but these people will never give in. It is incumbent on Republicans to stay calm, lead by example, and focus on our very boring campaign of ideas. And, yes, when Republican elected officials fail us, throw the bums out!
America is a center-right nation and will remain that way for some time. Granted, President Obama, the Left, and a weak Republican Congress has opened space for socialism in America, it is not too late to turn that around. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act must remain our number one priority, right before eliminating the crushing federal debt. Republicans need to get their act together in Congress. Start to robustly use that oversight power. I saw first-hand during the first 100 days of the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 how powerful Congress could be. I have yet to see again that level of fight from the House or Senate. The one area the GOP could use some improvement is shedding the politically correct mumbo jumbo talk. There are some tough political battles ahead and we’re going to take flak. Deal with it because we will fail if we use politically correct talk. We are going to alienate some people, especially crude Leftists, however, we will attract so many more people to our ranks.
Finally, there is this gloom and doom cloud that hangs over American politics that is not accurate, especially not for the GOP (we have the numbers of elected officials to prove it that our message works), that politics in America has become way too ugly and divisive. Secretary Powell used this yarn during his talk. Folks, get over it! Politics is a full contact sport. It always has been and, for the sake of our survival as a free nation, always will be. Should politicians be civil to one another, maybe, at times. Let the voters decide. Voters keep putting “divisive talking politicians” back in office, time and time again. That should tell you something, if you care to listen, about what America believes.