Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Playing with Perception 

Politicians are masters of perception, but sometimes they fool even themselves. It seems to me this is what is happening as House Republicans have apparently decided to delay any bill on immigration until after the election in November. Do they really think everyone will forget about such a divisive issue in two months, especially immigrants? Or, do they expect anyone who wants immigration reform won't vote? Their Democratic opponents won't forget, and they remind citizens that House Republicans are refusing to do anything about the issue.

There are limits to perceptual hocus-pocus and spin. It is easy to wave a wand and make things disappear, if few people are concerned about an issue. One can afford to let them scream. But, on an issue that has sparked huge demonstrations and angry discussion pro and con, it is highly unlikely a majority of citizens will forget. Rather than helping their cause, it seems to me House Republicans are in the process of sealing their fate.

It is interesting to watch. Every organization over time stops listening to its constituents or listens selectively to a few. We see this everyday in the business world where CEOs and CFOs pander to Wall Street to the point of wrecking their businesses. They will do anything to get their stock price up.

The hard part of listening is actually listening without filters and with close attention to underlying motivations and needs. Surveys and focus groups mean nothing, if one uses them to confirm biases. It seems, however, that human nature is not designed to be objective for long. We get lost in ourselves naturally without realizing it. Then our constituents remind us -- sometimes brutally -- how far we have strayed. This is something House Republicans are about to find out.


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