On June 27, in a semi-dazed state of disbelief, I watched the globally televised debate between President Biden and former President Trump. My emotions alternated between laughter, anger, sadness and deep concern.

Intentionally, I almost never write about politics. This op-ed is no exception; I am not writing about politics. It’s about the absence of great leadership in our federal government, which inevitably comes with a cost that every American must carry and bear. Additionally, the two-fold source of our current problem is central to my aspirations for advancing the causes of shared leadership and dispersed power in human institutions.

First, very few voices are actually included in our Democratic and Republican finalist candidates at the federal level. Second, both current presidential candidates, like many leaders across human history, have overreached, become self-absorbed and gone too far. They are too absorbed in their own voice.

To the first problem of not enough voices and not enough choices.

When Nikki Haley, the last surviving Republican Presidential challenger to Donald Trump, withdrew from the race on March 5, more than half the states in America had still not voted and now only had one choice. On the Democratic side, of course, the incumbent, President Biden, was allowed no serious challengers, running essentially unopposed.

About 1.3 million people live in my home state of Maine. About 7% of them voted in the Republican primary that selected the only surviving candidate, Donald Trump. In the Maine Democratic primary, President Biden received 58,950 votes (out of 1.3 million people). His only opponent was Dean Phillips, who received 4,561 votes.


We haven’t even gotten to the wildest part of it all.

Only 27% of all Americans identify as Democrats, yet those 27% get to pick one of two finalists for every top elected position in Washington. And only 27% of Americans identify as Republicans, yet they get to pick the other finalist. The 43% of Americans who identify as independent? They go unrepresented. That is not a system of many voices. And because we collectively tolerate it, we are living with the consequences.

To the second problem, both President Biden and former President Trump think that they, better than anyone else, can save us. That’s hubris. They both had their turn, yet they want more. That’s overreaching. The two candidates have one thing in common: They both are on a personal mission to “save” America. Think about the self-aggrandizement embedded in that belief. Listen to them both talk, and you will hear the same phrases. “I saved us from inflation.” “I brought back America’s respect and standing in the world.” “My administration did this. My administration did that.”

Every speech is “I” and “my” dominated.

Both men mean well. Their supporters mean well, too. This essay is not about tearing any of them down. They both certainly get an “A” for effort. But the reality is America can do better, much better. And we know it.

We need a new system and values set for selecting our top federal political leaders in the 21st century. The status quo is consistently not working. Why isn’t it working? The answer is simple: Too few voices and choices.


The biggest voting bloc in the country (independent voters) is not represented. That makes no sense. We need a third party.

Even within the Democratic and Republican parties, the primary system makes no sense. It’s over every time before most states even vote. Every state should vote on the same day, and everyone should be voting for the finalists.

Finally, we need younger Americans to come of political leadership age, exert more influence, produce more candidates, and bring forth our next wave of government leaders. We need a fresh set of political paradigms that aren’t division-based. I believe only a new generation, the next one, who grew up in the freest epoch of American history, can do that.

I listened closely and often to 36-year-old NBA champion Boston Celtics Coach Joe Mazzulla this year, and I want more of that kind of fresh leadership in our federal government. He was born in a new age of America, and his perspectives, like so many of his generation, are different, fresh, and transcendent of the old and tired language of division.

They aren’t as saddled with the sex, race and religion baggage older generations are still carrying. We need new voices, more voices and fresh systems that speak to the center of America, not its edges or its past. Our current system for selecting federal government finalists doesn’t work well anymore because it represents and includes only a fraction of our nation’s amazing voices. It’s time, and we know it. Let’s go.

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