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The Common Sense Mandate

by on November 10, 2020 5:00 AM

There you have it America, we have our mandate. We are, basically, split down the middle. Kind of what you would expect in a country of 331 million people. After days of feeling like Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day,” we have our next President. Well, sort of. Now we have to wait for the legal battles before it will be declared official. It’s 2020 after all, did you really expect anything normal to happen?

As I watched this past election season transpire, I couldn’t help but think of the Stealers Wheels classic song from my youth: 

“Clowns to the left of me / Jokers to the right / Here I am stuck in the middle with you.” 

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I for one am glad that the campaigning is over. I have become more disgusted than ever at the vitriol being spewed and the divide that I personally believe social media has fueled in our country.

Let me apologize for implying that those on the far left are clowns and those on the far right are jokers. I need to be more intentional about avoiding sarcasm and cynicism, especially right now. It doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sense of humor, but, given the current state of the nation, the more we all focus on getting along, the better. 

So, what did we learn from this election? That more people wanted a change at the top. President Trump has no one to blame but himself because he couldn’t get out of his own way. His staff’s biggest failing may have been that no one had the courage to delete his Twitter account.

There were more people voting Democrat in the presidential election, 75 million to 71 million (the most and second most votes ever cast for president), indicating the desire for a new leader at the top. But the Senate likely still will lean very slightly to right and the House slightly more to the left, even though 12 seats in the latter were lost to the Republicans. Hence, my conclusion that no one philosophy is preferred by the populace.

No, there wasn’t a blue wave or a red wave. From my perspective there is more evidence than ever that most people are somewhere “in the middle” depending on the issues. We can’t deny that there are more people identifying with the far left and the far right that have flattened the curve. Common sense would lead us to determine most of us lean a little left or lean a little right. I will defer to my friends who are experts in statistics to argue the nuances of the numbers.

It is my sincere hope that common sense, and cooler heads, will prevail going forward. That we will, sometime soon, be able to start to heal and come back together. If President-elect Biden can find a way to rise above all the noise from both parties and make bringing the nation together his priority, then there is hope for us and our COVID-19-weakened economy.

Having said that, last week I read an article that sent shivers down my spine. This was a headline on the MarketWatch website on Nov. 2: The U.S. could split up, Gundlach says.  In the article investment expert Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of Double Line Capital, actually uttered the following statement:

“People are strongly committed to the concept of democracy and yet China has had massive growth and way better infrastructure under totalitarianism,” Gundlach mused. “What are we doing when our outcomes are inferior? Is it possible we could change in that regard? Yes, it is possible. I think we are going to see substantial changes in the next six years.” That might even include the U.S. breaking into more than one country, he said.

Say what? Totalitarianism? The U.S. breaking into more than one country? Is that really what we want? There is certainly some evidence that a growing number of people would support that outcome. However, in my humble opinion, that is a very small, albeit very loud minority.

The possibility that there are outside forces that are fanning those flames is real. We had better be on guard for that possibility. As someone who is very interested in history and who has coached and therefore studied strategy and tactics, it is probably best that we assume that there are indeed forces out there who want us divided. We must always allow for the possibility of the unthinkable or we will get caught off guard like we did on Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001.

With regard to strategy and tactics, we should make reading Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” mandatory. Sun Tzu was a military strategist and advisor to a king in China around 500 BC. Here are a few of the principles from Sun Tzu: 

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

“All warfare is based on deception.”  

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

Situational awareness and scenario planning are skills necessary to succeed in business and in life. I don’t believe I am being alarmist or paranoid, just prudent that times are ripe for intervention by outside forces, perhaps even more than one, that could greatly impact the future of our country.

Perhaps I am a bit overly cautious because of British Author Martin Jacques’ 2016 book, “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order.”  I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but he certainly brings up some very valid arguments for why western nations are at risk.

So, now that I have brightened up your day and we have all that out of the way, let’s try to move forward.

We need the Common Sense Party and we need it now. We need term limits. We need tort reform. We need politicians that actually act in the best interests of the people they represent. No more unrealistic promises you know you can’t keep. Treat each other and the American people with grace and with dignity. Stop wasting our time tearing down your opponent and tell us what you plan to do. I don’t mean to generalize about politicians because there are some, who at their core, are really good people who got into politics with good intentions. Just too few of them.

One of my favorite light-hearted movies is “Dave,” starring Kevin Kline, in which he plays a guy who is a dead ringer for the fictitious President Mitchell. When the real president has a stroke, Dave stands in for him. What transpires is a down-to-earth guy who makes common sense decisions (like better budgetary decisions) because he genuinely cares about the masses. In other words, he is free from party politics.

Another series we binged during COVID-19 was “Designated Survivor.” (Well, we binged until Netflix took over for the third season and turned it into a TV-MA soft porn fest). Kiefer Sutherland plays the secretary of housing and urban development who becomes president when terrorists bomb the Capitol, taking out the sitting president and all high-ranking officials. While the premise is a stretch, Sutherland’s character makes all kinds of progress despite his lack of experience. Why? Because he’s an independent who is not beholden to anyone and therefore can make decisions for the greater good using common sense. 

I fully understand that these are fictional characters living in a pretend world. But it does make you think of all the good things that could actually get done beyond campaign rhetoric if our politicians actually were free to vote their conscience and do what’s in the best interests of the people. But that would require constructive dialogue, respect, and compromise...on the part of all involved.

I stand ready to support whoever is the next president. I just hope that their number one objective is to bring us altogether. The real threats are interests from abroad who have infiltrated our open society because, well, it’s easier to do in an open society.

We need pragmatic, common sense solutions to balancing our budget, healthcare, taxes, immigration, infrastructure, Social Security, foreign trade agreements and international affairs.

I believe this will only happen when the leaders of the country remember that the majority of Americans want social solutions and fiscal responsibility. Common sense solutions and the courage to compromise.


Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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