On Game Changers and Changers of the Game

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The world needs game changers. Game changers bring a new energy to a problem. They tackle it head on. They work with others to advance society. They take what is good in society and build upon it. They construct.

Lately, I’ve been looking for game changers but I am finding only changers of the game.

By way of a couple of examples…

In 2012, one of the races that gained national attention for Indiana in that election was the highly contentious competition for the state’s Superintendent of Public Education. The election for the state’s highest education post is normally not one that demands a lot of attention, but in 2012, it was different. Indiana was embroiled in a huge debate over the direction of public education with a controversial incumbent, Tony Bennett running for reelection and an unheralded newcomer, Glenda Ritz running as the challenger. Teachers across the state helped with a grassroots campaign and Glenda Ritz pulled off a stunning upset victory over a much better funded Bennett campaign. The people spoke loud and clear—so loud and clear that Ritz actually received more total votes than did Mike Pence who won the election for governor that same year. Glenda Ritz was set to be a game changer, then Governor Pence changed the game.

Faced with the challenge of working together with a duly elected education leader with a different agenda than his, Governor Pence went to work. He decided the best way to deal with the challenge was to change the way the game is played. The self-proclaimed champion of small government created another state education board that he could control and gave that second board many of the powers that Glenda Ritz was elected to have. In doing so, Pence essentially stripped Ritz of much of her power right before the eyes of the millions of Hoosier voters who put her in office. In the subsequent years, Ritz had a very difficult time doing what she was elected to do. Then, just this year, the state legislature voted to remove the Superintendent of Public Education position from the ranks of elected offices and will be making it an appointed position. Message sent. If the game gets tough, change the rules.

Now, President Trump is talking about how hard it is to be president. He says he thought it would be much easier. You see, he is used to being a man who gives orders and watching people do his bidding as a business leader. But as POTUS, he finds himself constricted by pesky things like checks and balances and the Constitution. He is now hinting that such things, the very things our nation is built upon, are “archaic rules” and that he would like to consolidate power so that he can work unfettered and become the “closer” he believes he was hired to be.

In essence, he is saying that it is too hard to be a game changer, so he wants to take the easy way out and change the game.

President Trump seemed to appreciate those checks and balances that restrict a president when the Republicans blocked President Obama at nearly every turn during his administration. Remember when President Obama tried to fill a Supreme Court vacancy and the Republicans absolutely would not let it happen? Then, when the Democrats dared filibuster the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, the Republicans changed the game again.

Both sides, admittedly, are guilty of failing to be the type of game changers that find ways to work with the opposition. However, lately, one side seems to be gaining an awful lot of ground by trying to change the game. That concerns me and I think it should concern you, too.

Checks and balances built into our Constitution are the chewing gum and duct tape that have held this grand experiment of a nation together, despite our best efforts to destroy it, for more than 240 years.

God help us if anyone manages to change that game now.

 

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