Lights, Camera, Shutdown!

It’s that magical time of year again: when political theater of the absurd engages in a “government shutdown.”

Government shutdowns used to mean something to me. The first government shutdown I remember happened in 1995, during the Clinton presidency. A second 21-day shutdown in 1996 made much more of an impact.

Federal shutdowns became more personal when I joined the Army in 2003. The benefit of military service is that you are required to work, even when not getting paid (I wonder how long that would work in a prolonged shutdown).

During the Obama administration, shutdowns, or the threat of shutdowns, became routine. Congress and the president frequently came down to the very last minute on budget matters. The commands I worked for spent a lot of time during those years preparing for perceived or actual shutdowns. Some came; some were averted at the last moment.

Cable news loves government shutdowns. Producers can train a camera at Capitol Hill, run a shutdown clock, and let a brigade of pundits fill air time in so-called “debates.” Actual reporters can kick their feet up on the desk and relax. Newsroom expenses go down while ratings and advertising rates go up. Shutdowns provide sensational and profitable moments for the news business.

The threat of federal shutdown has become so routine that it has lost its meaning. We all know how this plays out. Politicians will enjoy this AstroTurf, made-for-the-news-cycle moment until public attention turns to agitation. Senators “standing in solidarity with (fill in the topic / demographic / burger topping preference)” will eventually decide that they do not want their names associated with the loss of paychecks in their states (particularly Virginia and Maryland). A “deal” will be struck that essentially maintains the status quo. Life will go on.

It’s like having a leader who commands through raised voice and attempts at physical intimidation. Eventually, threat tactics stop working when you realize that threat is all the guy has.

Government shutdowns have gone from something that people perceive as the end times to just another attention-grabbing technique by the politicians that we the people foolishly reelect year after year.

The leadership lesson for the rest of us is that tactics that depend on manipulation have a limited shelf life. The frequent use of these tactics is why Congress currently has the lowest approval rating of all measured institutions in the U.S.

Learn from that failure and do otherwise.

 

Copyright 2017 Chase Spears All Rights Reserved

 

There is more where this came from. Connect with Chase online at Twitter, WordPress and LinkedIn.

 

 

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