I seldom write about American politics, because our readers come from all around the globe. But I hope I may be excused this once, because our multi-billion dollar election made news worldwide.
President Obama and Governor Romney said repeatedly that the election offered voters a clear choice about the country's direction, and the voters have spoken, re-electing the president by a convincing margin.
What was it they said? I turn to the words of New York Times columnist and author David Brooks in an editorial on the future of the Republican Party in a century when its traditional base is shrinking and ethnic minorities are the new majority:
“The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.
“Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it
“Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.
“For these people…when they hear Romney talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He doesn’t get me or people like me.”
Scale this national message down to the size of a town, city or region, and you have the essence of the Intelligent Community movement. The only path forward is together. Government working with business and institutions, using ICT to leverage our economic potential and forging a 21st Century solution for prosperity, social inclusion and cultural richness. One of our biggest challenges is the one Mr. Brooks points out: that higher productivity and greater innovation no longer automatically lead to a higher standard of living for most. What can we do about that one? (For ICF’s suggestions, see our free white paper, Innovation and Employment in the Intelligent Community)
The choice in this American election was between an exhausted bit of orthodoxy – that government is always wrong – and a more mature appreciation of the complexities of the age we live in. They call for new ideas, more imaginative solutions, and the willingness – most of all at the local level – to roll up our sleeves together and get to work.