Politics » Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics The latest Politics news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers including Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos and more. Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:04:24 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Poverty of the Soul: Time to Address the Real Issue http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/09/poverty-of-the-soul-time-to-address-the-real-issue/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/09/poverty-of-the-soul-time-to-address-the-real-issue/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 10:00:12 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=858789 Analysis

Another tragic mass killing and we each search for answers. The horrendous recent day at the Washington Navy Yard is another wake-up call that as a society and a nation we need to face reality. And as we know from any positive change in our own lives, the first step in transformation is accepting the truth and seeing clearly what reality really is. Something is terribly askew in our culture today.

Yes, some form of extensive background checks on guns would be helpful. Yes, more attention and resources dedicated to mental illness are needed. And of course limits on the violence available through video games, online entertainment, and television and movies is well overdue.

But the real core problem — and it surfaces in many ways — is spiritual and of the heart. Today in America the most profound level of poverty is poverty of the soul.

Poverty of the soul is a national crisis. It affects us at so many levels. In the aftermath of the loss of faith and trust in nearly every institution from government to political to established churches to sports to you name it, so many folks are searching for for a place to call home and for a life of meaning. And when they can’t find it, they act out in totally inappropriate and dangerous ways.

It is not only bright young men picking up lethal weapons and ending the beautiful lives of innocent victims. It is young women with body image difficulties willing to tolerate abusive relationships. It is older people in their last few years of their lives having lost connection and times of joy. It is people going on another run of retail therapy and wondering if this is all there is. It is young people in our inner cities and rural towns in dire need of mothering and fathering. It is people with more connections than ever before because of the Internet but feeling totally disconnected from themselves and would-be friends. It is folks talking in numerous chat rooms but without a community.

People feel a longing deep down within their hearts and souls for something more, and are not finding leaders who can help them make the transition to a fulfilled and meaningful life. It is not more things that people need, or a new political candidate to believe in, but a belief within themselves that they are enough. And that there are like-minded and like-hearted folks wandering in their own neighborhoods who feel the same.

It is a tremendous opportunity for all of use to create new institutions that meet these spiritual needs. It is not the sole responsibility of preachers and pastors to address this (and they could actually do a much better job) hunger, but political and business leaders, and each one of us. We could each do a better job being aware of needs in our neighborhood, of the desire of connection, of the troubled angst of our citizens next door, and of the cries for help that sometimes are barely a whisper. We can hear all this if we pause for a bit from our hectic striving, and just listen. And once we hear it, I am confident enough of us will respond.

I suggested in a column nearly a year ago, right before election day, that whomever was elected president needed to establish a Domestic Peace Accord and initiate a Camp David summit (as we have done in the past related to the Middle East) of leaders from all walks of life to bridge the divides that exist in this country, and create a new vision for our country.

If we talked to each other more, let go of the old mantras and institutions, we could create a more peaceful and compassionate society. President Obama is a good man, but he along with Republican and Democratic leaders seem trapped in an old language and a desire to make decrepit and broken institutions respond inefficiently to new problems.

None of us want to see another tragedy like the Washington Navy Yard killings, but these kind of things will keep happening until we face the core problem in America. Our country, which we each love, faces a poverty of the soul, and it is time we act. Not with a War on Poverty, which is a language that only exacerbates the divides, and creates an “us vs. them” dynamic, but a Pathway to Peace. A peace that starts within our own hearts and then extends like ripples in a pond across the great expanse of every town in America. It is worth it, because each one of us is.

There you have it.

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Time to Share Our Dream With Others, Even if It’s One Person http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/time-to-share-our-dream-with-others-even-if-its-one-person/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/time-to-share-our-dream-with-others-even-if-its-one-person/#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 10:00:53 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=856776 Analysis by Matthew Dowd:

Fifty years ago this week the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a nation and a movement with his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. All profound destinations as a world and as individuals start with a dream or a vision, not with a timeline or logistics or tactics.

Too often we focus too much on logistics and not enough on the values that bind us together and the dreams we have. We get so bogged down in the steps and process that we forget that to live is to have a dream and without one we struggle through the days of our lives.

Maybe now is a good time for each of us to focus on our dream, and tell others what that is. We don’t need to tell it to hundreds of thousands on the Washington Mall, but we can start with just one person. It is when we share our vision or dream with another or others that we begin to make it a reality, as Dr. King did 50 years ago. Setting our intention should always be the North Star that guides us on our way.

Here is my humble attempt at laying out this Detroit man’s dreams done in a top ten format.

I have a dream that:

1. We will see strength in gentleness and kindness, and power in love.
2. We will see honor in humility and courage in compassion.
3. We will see small acts as big things and big things as small.
4. We will fight our loneliness and fears with a commitment to intimacy and real connection.
5. We will see the power of play and the healing from laughter and realize it is children that can teach us most about living and what is sacred.
6. We will be serious about deep values and the direction of the world without taking ourselves too seriously.
7. We will celebrate and honor the divine feminine and masculine in each of us, and the mothering and fathering that this world so desperately hungers for.
8. We will see the value of simple gifts, and the cost from not offering a helping and open hand.
9. We will see the light and meaning that comes from our truth, and the darkness and fears that come from secrets.
10. We will have the faith to hope, and the hope to love, and the love to have faith in each other and ourselves.

This is my dream, delivered not from the Lincoln Memorial but from the living room of a home in Austin, Texas. What is your dream? Take a moment and share it with us.

There you have it.

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Debating the RNC Debate Decision http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/debating-the-rnc-debate-decision/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/debating-the-rnc-debate-decision/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 21:11:23 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=856139 ANALYSIS

It has been a moment to debate debates.

The Republican National Committee unanimously voted this past week to not allow NBC or CNN to hold a Republican presidential primary debate in 2016 if they continue with their biopics dealing with Hillary Clinton. They have been criticized by many for this decision. Let’s pause and try to understand this a bit more deeply than just quick reactions.

Some have said this decision is counterproductive, because Republicans will lose an audience of folks they need for the general election. While that is probably true in a small way, in the bigger picture it probably isn’t true.

The main function of presidential primary debates is two-fold. First, to communicate to and persuade voters who will vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. And second, for the candidates to improve their performance and campaign ability through the series of debates and become stronger candidates headed into a general election. The RNC’s decision will have no effect on either one of these functions.

In 2012 approximately 20 million voters, nearly all diehard Republicans, participated in the nominating primary calendar. In the 20 debates, the total number of viewers for each debate was between 3 million and 7 million viewers (and interestingly ABC News, with whom I am analyst, sponsored the most-watched Republican debate in 2012).

In looking at an analysis of these viewers, it was overwhelmingly partisan. It was predominantly Republicans checking out their field; some Democrats, who were always going to vote for President Obama, tuned in for entertainment; and very few independents watched. The debates in 2012 were really about Republican candidates talking to Republican voters. Just as in years past, debates in the Democratic primary were about Democratic candidates talking to Democratic voters.

No one would really fault or be surprised if Democrats decided not to have Fox News do one of their debates during the Democratic Primary process. I am not equating CNN to Fox, but one could logically equate NBC, whose cable partner is very partisan MSNBC, to a Fox News type broadcast. And the suspicions already run deep among Republicans about the “mainstream” media (as they say) as not being objective. While I believe many of these fears are unfounded, some are actually well founded. And as we know, if someone feels a certain way or has some fear about something or lacks trust, it is often times hard to make a logical argument on the opposite side.

And on the second function above, Republicans with other media outlets will conduct at least 10 or more debates during the primary process in 2016. So they will get the forums and time they need to improve their performance and formulate a coherent conservative message and vision before the fall campaign.

It is also interesting to note that some of the more pointed questions and harsh critiques came from what some would believe were the more conservative media folks in 2012. And counter to what Republicans say, the number and style of debates in 2012 wasn’t the reason they lost the election to President Obama.

There is obviously some real question of whether this is a politically expedient move or one based on authentic concern. Let’s assume it is both, which actually would make sense. I totally understand why people or groups in their life try to preserve their own integrity by who are the people with which they associate and who they let in their lives and how they spend their time.

It seems to me appropriate for each of us (as well as important organizations in our life who supposedly represent us) to draw boundaries so that integrity is maintained. We may have a desire to be kind to everyone or allow anyone into our house, but sometimes the strength of our own integrity demands that we have boundaries to some people. I can forgive someone for trashing my house as a guest at a party, but that doesn’t mean I am going to give them a key to come over whenever they want.

Republicans can be faulted or criticized for many things (and I have!). And they certainly need to have a bigger tent, allowing more diversity of opinion and values, if they want to win national elections. And if governing and winning elections is their goal, then they definitely need to see America as it exists in the 21st century and not be a party that feels like the 1950s. As I have said before, they are a “Mad Men” party in a “Modern Family” country right now.

But criticizing the RNC for this debate decision seems a bit off base. No media outlet has some inalienable right to conduct a debate — it is actually a privilege in this democracy. And if we understand many Republicans’ fears, and their main goals of debates in the primaries as laid out above, then it does make some sense of why they made the decision they did.

I don’t necessarily believe in threats, but I do believe people have a right to try and preserve their own integrity, to be able to draw boundaries so they can live according to their own deeply held values, and to associate with folks they think will respect those boundaries and that integrity. If that is what motivated the RNC, then bravo to them. If it was some rationale of a more base nature, then trust me, the world always catches up to our motivations and it will be discovered.

In the end, it only really matters what our actions are and how they comport with our words and our values. And in the end CNN, NBC, the RNC, and all of us, will be judged on that standard over time. Don’t tell me you have given up drinking and gambling if you still go to a bar in Vegas every weekend.

There you have it.

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Presidents, Pastors and Purpose Seekers: Finding the Balance Between Action and Contemplation http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/presidents-pastors-and-purpose-seekers-finding-the-balance-between-action-and-contemplation/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/presidents-pastors-and-purpose-seekers-finding-the-balance-between-action-and-contemplation/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 10:00:29 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=855766 Throughout history, there has been a tension between a life of action and a life of contemplation, between lots of activities and times of rest, and between work and time off.  And in the end, every spiritual leader from Jesus to Buddha to St. Francis to Gandhi to Martin Luther King has lived and taught that we need both in our life – that we can’t lead our own lives and help lead others without a part of us that is in action and a part of us that is in contemplation.

As President Obama takes a vacation this week and he is, not surprisingly, criticized from the right (as George Bush was, from the left, when he took vacations), let us remember every person and leader needs time away from the role they play externally to concentrate internally upon themselves and their relationship with their higher power.

I hope the president, at this time, isn’t just filling his time off with more activities but is actually in quiet contemplation touching base again with his own purpose in the world.  Vacations only become contemplation and really useful if they aren’t about action but about centering.

As I walk the beautiful grounds of Serra Retreat in California, which is a Franciscan center, you can feel the peace and connection of St. Francis, who, as well as anybody, lived a life of both action and contemplation.  Statues of St. Francis dot the rolling hills here overlooking the quiet expanse of the Pacific Ocean, and they are a constant reminder of a man who was a peace-filled revolutionary in the Catholic Church.   He lived in the world simply and actively, helping the poor, caring for the sick, tending to the vulnerable and caring for nature.

But he also knew that in order to live out this mission from God, as he saw it, he had to have regular times of contemplation and rest and quiet.  It was those times of contemplation that kept him connected to his own gifts and to the grace of God.   Without the contemplation, his good works would have become merely manifestations of his own ego, and he would have not been able to serve others in joy.

We each are called, in some way, to use our talents in a life of action – however we believe our purpose manifests itself.  We are called to a sense of community apart from our own individualism and needs.  And while contemplation and rest is vitally important, it is in the good works we do based on our own value and resources that we truly become who we are meant to be.  A life of leisure, while seemingly what we all dream of, in the end won’t bring us the happiness and joy that service to others gives us.

However, only being a person of action in the world also won’t allow us to fulfill are deepest calling and dreams – whether it is in our personal or professional lives, or in our intimate relationships and the communities where we live.   We each need times of quiet rest, prayer or meditation, and soulful contemplation to center our lives on our priorities, to re-gather our energy, and to connect to our hearts outside the flurry of an active life in the world.

Some people think contemplation takes away our drive in the world. In truth, it enhances and deepens it.  It allows us to work in the world from a place of abundance rather than scarcity.

Finding that balance between action and contemplation today is often very difficult with all our distractions, demands and discussions.  It is difficult but it really is the only path to moving the world and ourselves forward to a better place.

Even in our personal relationships, we need to find that balance between quiet centering and times of action.  Many couples make the mistake of filling their life with all kinds of activities, especially on vacation, and then wonder why their relationship later on feels disconnected.

I have often thought for myself that a relationship isn’t tested in the crises or constant demands, but rather, it is tested in the quiet of life.  How do you both do just sitting quietly together, whether in prayer or reading or listening to music?  Is it peaceful and fulfilling, or are you looking for some activity to distract you from the calm?  I believe every couple should spend regular time together away from the hustle and bustle and reconnect to their shared values and center.   And if that is a problem, then there probably is a problem in the relationship.

Following the lessons of so many heartfelt leaders of history, like a 13th century man who left a tremendous legacy, let’s encourage our leaders and each other to both live an active, purpose-oriented life directed towards others, as well as to take regular time away to rest, recoup and reconnect in order to be in the world in an inspired and joy-filled way.

If we each can find that balance between action and contemplation, we can create a new world both in the small circles of our life and the large circles, globally.   As Thomas Merton, a modern contemplative who studied St. Francis, wrote, “The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction. One is content with what is.”

Let us all be content with what is, as well as seek to help others fulfill their best selves.

Follow Matthew Dowd on Twitter – @matthewjdowd

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The Silenced Majority: Mutts Need a Home http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/the-silenced-majority-mutts-need-a-home/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/the-silenced-majority-mutts-need-a-home/#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 20:16:42 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=855375 gty voting booth mi 130809 16x9 608 The Silenced Majority: Mutts Need a Home

Credit: Getty Images

Today, the political parties in America seem locked in a day-in, day-out battle for the electorate.  The turnover in office has been profound for more than ten years.  It has been a switchover in control from one party to the other as great as any time in our history.

Two presidents elected from opposing political parties and on opposite sides of the political spectrum for two terms each.  The House of Representatives in seeming constant turnover and seemingly up for grabs again in 2014.  And tremendous volatility in the United States Senate where next year Democrats look in danger of losing their few seat advantage.  Why is this?

Many pundits and political scientists have advanced different reasons for this, from patterns of citizens movements and geography becoming more homogeneous and redistricting following these movements, a system of elections where each side seems to be able to raise whatever money is needed, a polarized cable media environment which gives a megaphone to both conservative and liberal philosophy alike, and dysfunctional system in Washington which seems to punish compromise and reward obstructionism.  All these are true to a degree, but I want to settle on a more fundamental situation — neither party represents a majority of the country on a wide variety of issues.

Having perused and examined hundreds of different polls over the last 15 years from organizations representing the media, parties, interest groups and universities it is clear both the Democratic and Republican parties each represent only a minority of voters with the vast majority of the country unrepresented in our political system today even as each party wins elections year in and year out.

I have always thought of the country as a mixed bag of views not always conservative and not always liberal – we are mutts.  We are a country which both believes in the importance of the individual and the importance of the community.  That we believe in private property and individual rights and responsibilities, while we also believe that there are many times where collective action is demanded and government has some crucial roles.  We believe in the idea a person can walk a high wire in their own life if they desire, but we also believe in a safety net to catch people if they fall.

The majority of citizens in the United States are fiscally conservative and socially progressive.  Citizens are responsible enough in their own lives to balance their budgets, so why shouldn’t governments at every level.  Voters also believe that they each have a moral compass to guide their own lives on social issues within some limits so why should government be intrusive in telling them what to do?

Voters believe government should be funded through a fair tax system to do needed things efficiently and effectively without fraud and abuse.  They believe everyone should pay something in taxes to our system no matter their income level so that everyone has a stake, and they think the wealthy, who have been blessed with more, should pay a higher share of taxes than they do today.  But they only believe this if they trust government will spend the money wisely on proven programs.  Today they don’t trust efficiency in government, so why should they pay more in taxes to a broken system?

The majority distrusts organizations at all levels that get too big, too unwieldy, too bureaucratic, and too disconnected from the hopes and dreams of average Americans.  They don’t trust big government, but they also don’t trust big business, Wall Street, big media, and big unions. They believe that their interests aren’t represented in committee rooms in Washington, D.C., or in conference rooms in New York City.

Voters simultaneously believe in the right of citizens to marry whom they want regardless of sex or race, to own guns if they desire, and to make the heartfelt decision on abortion. But they also want limits on each of these so that traditions are respected and all life is honored.  They believe in background checks for purchasing guns at all levels, in a unified tracking system, and in limits on high capacity clips and assault rifles.  They believe, as science has informed us, that abortion should be limited to early in pregnancy and conducted in a safe and ethical way with safeguards in place.

Americans believe that our entitlement system is needed and that programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are crucial today.  But they also believe each of these is broken and in great need of reform.  That the programs put in place more than 50 years ago are in need of updating with some fundamental changes to address the demographics and healthcare of today.

The majority of America believes in equal pay for equal work no matter the sex or race of the worker, but they also don’t believe in quotas and an affirmative action system set up in a different time in America.  They believe men and women, no matter the race, have some fundamental differences in approach and outlook, but they believe everyone should be treated with respect and judged on their merits.

A majority is religious and spiritual in their everyday lives but are not judgmental.  Their faith informs them, but doesn’t make them holier than thou.  While believing in the tenets of their own religion, they understand morality and kindness and a relationship with God is spread across all faiths from Christian to Muslim to Jew to Hindu to all spiritual practices.

Americans believe the country has an obligation to defend ourselves from terrorists and those that want to do us harm, but believe all individuals have rights to privacy and a just system.  They accept the necessity of war, but believe it should be a last resort when all other methods have been exhausted to achieve peace.  They get, more so than our leaders, the tremendous sacrifice it takes by men and women who primarily come from Middle America.

This is just a sampling as one looks across the country of where the majority of America stands.  Have they evolved over the years on many issues?  Yes, but they also have retained some fundamental values that haven’t changed as tremendous technological, medical, cultural and industrial movement has occurred. At our core, the average American believes in fair play, accountability, honesty, compassion, responsibility and justice.

As we approach the 2014 midterms and an open presidential race in 2016, it might be a good idea for leaders of both political parties to understand they are out of step with the country and build a winning coalition, which starts where the majority sits.  It would not only be smart, it is what is needed.

There you have it.

Follow Matthew Dowd on Twitter: @MatthewjDowd

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Lessons From Thoreau: Reflection, Integrity, Civil Disobedience http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/lessons-from-thoreau-reflection-integrity-civil-disobedience/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/lessons-from-thoreau-reflection-integrity-civil-disobedience/#comments Sun, 04 Aug 2013 18:55:23 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=854815 “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau wrote these words more than 150 years ago after spending more than two years in a small cabin he built by Walden Pond.

What can a simple yet extraordinarily deep man from more than a century ago teach us about our times and us today? Much, it seems to me, after spending time walking in those same woods by Walden last week.

The 1840s was a time of tremendous technological, industrial and communications change (the telegraph was just invented and trains were beginning to spread across the land), immigration was emerging as a major issue (i.e., the Irish were coming here in huge numbers because of the Potato famine) and race concerns were a huge discussion (slavery), libertarianism was rising as a movement, great economic disturbances and income inequality was present, and nature and the environment were on many people’s minds.

Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? Thoreau’s answer to this was very direct. Wander off and get in touch with what mattered — in himself and in the country. To find out what was truly essential and what really mattered deep down. Nearly all of Thoreau’s brilliant writings and lectures came from time he spent in nature and by himself most of his days.

Let’s examine five key points in which what Thoreau thought about and wrote of might point the way for us today.

Reflection and solitude. Thoreau believed, as well as most spiritual leaders and thinkers throughout history, that we needed times in our lives to pause and be alone and reflect on the various ebbs and flows within us and in the world. Hurrying about wasn’t going to find us the answers. Today with cell phones, computers and cable TV, thousands of communications interrupt us every day, distracting and detaching us from our hearts and souls. And in the midst of the long Congressional recess, I am hoping that instead of hurrying around their states and districts, leaders might take some time to be alone and have some heartfelt reflection. Maybe they can come up with better answers and a better way to converse with each other. Maybe they can examine their own prejudices and stubborn judgments that get in the way of a path forward.

Simplicity. This was a major tenet of Thoreau’s and it is also embodied in the above point on reflection. We often lead such complicated lives filled with so many possessions or the desire for possessions that it carries our hearts away from the essential values in life. Thoreau didn’t argue for poverty, but he did argue for a much simpler way of life. And by doing so, in the end we would discover we would be much happier. Retail therapy never really works for anyone in the long run. And maybe the answer isn’t for us to figure out how to make more money, but how we can live with less. How we can be less attached to “things” in our daily lives, and more connected to fundamental values and to each other.

Integrity. In the midst today of all the scandals going on in politics about the loss of character and men behaving badly, in sports of cheating and self-absorption, and the loss of faith and trust in nearly every institution in our country simultaneously (corporate, government, political), maybe it is time to focus on conscience and living a life immersed in integrity. We constantly look around for others to build new institutions, and Thoreau would say to start with ourselves in the manner with which we live. And to ask our leaders to do the same. We should spend more time on rebuilding trust than time we now spend on coming up with great programs and policies.

Local matters. Thoreau believed that change really begins in our communities and neighborhoods, not in some far-off capital. That if we really want to improve the country we each have to start locally. This is why today there is such a rise of social entrepreneurs and service organizations focused locally on helping one person, one family, and one neighborhood at a time. I am proud today to be the father of a son who served in the Army for five years and now works in a charter school in the projects in Brooklyn, N.Y., and another son who just started work in Miami for CityYear. These are the ways real change will sweep our country.

Civil Disobedience. So many leaders in the last few generations from Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela have relied on Thoreau’s thoughts on the idea that sometimes breaking an unjust law may be the only way to highlight injustice. And whether you agree or disagree with them, this is exactly the path Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning were following in the disruption they caused. As I have written before, Thoreau understood that civil disobedience was a journey to give power back to the individual and that the small acts of a few people can actually move things forward, even in the face of huge organizations and forces we seem to not control.

Thoreau wrote long ago, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Today many men and women feel lost, desperate, and in dire need of a new kind of politics and living, and a song to sing. Maybe through following some tenets written in the woods long ago, and rediscovering our essential values and nature, we can write our own lyrics and find that song for our nation and ourselves. To find a new way, and as Thoreau wrote, “Only the day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

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Learning From Loss, in Life and Politics http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/06/learning-from-loss-in-life-and-politics/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/06/learning-from-loss-in-life-and-politics/#comments Sun, 02 Jun 2013 11:00:21 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=848037 Learning and lessons in life come more from our losses than from our wins. And our growth and forward movement arises more out of our mistakes and mishaps, than out of what we perceive as our smart decisions and choices. This is as true in our relationships as it is in our politics.

One big lesson I have learned through many relationships, including two marriages and two divorces (as I tell people, anyone who gets married a second or third time must be the ultimate optimist), is that I finally realized that I was only ready for a relationship when I no longer needed a relationship. Let me explain.

For all those reading this who are commenting to themselves that why would we pay attention to a guy on relationships who has two divorces, give me a chance here.

First, the people who have usually learned the most — whether in business or politics or life — are the ones who have been unsuccessful in previous endeavors. I became much better at political campaigns by analyzing my losses, or studying the losses of others, than I did from the wins. As I have written before, most people learn the wrong lessons from victories because they attribute positive cause and effect to all decisions, when in likelihood this is not the case.

Second, people who have suffered loss in their lives, if they have the courage and openness, look at themselves and their own accountability and try to improve. When you win or succeed, it is hard to force yourself to grow. When you lose, if you take responsibility and don’t blame someone else, it is the best chance to evolve to a better place and not settle for the status quo.

Also, people who suffer loss or make mistakes are often the most compassionate to others. They understand human fallibility and the twists and turns of life, and become less judgmental about the actions of others, and ultimately themselves.

I turned 52 last week, and I finally feel like I am ready to be in a relationship in a free and open and loving way. In years past I was always arriving into a relationship from a place of lack or need. Hence, the relationship would somehow complete something missing in me (I am sorry to the makers of the movie “Jerry Maguire,” but relationships shouldn’t complete me) or fill a need I had.

If you have a hole in you or emptiness, you are on a fool’s errand if you think someone else can fix that for you or fill it. You will be disappointed and distraught later, when you learn that no one else can fix what’s missing but you. No matter how much I thought I loved someone or tried in the relationship, I was always left with myself.

The great test of whether you are ready to commit to a relationship in a full way is if you are at peace with yourself. And if you can look in the mirror without anyone standing next to you and like what you see, and be satisfied with who you are alone. Be honest with yourself right now, would you rather be alone or in a bad relationship? Most people, if self aware, would say they would rather be with the “bad” over the be “by yourself.”

And I think this is all true in our politics as well. Yes, we want our leaders to improve our lives and the lives of others in this country, but do we want to make them responsible for our wellbeing and our happiness? Do we want them to fill something in ourselves that we should fill on our own? If we vest this power in our leaders, we will ultimately be disappointed in their actions and decisions, just as we are in our personal relationships.

This happened with me at times with President Bush, and has happened with many voters including myself with the actions of President Obama.

We have to be willing to commit to doing what we can on our own to make the change we want, and build the country in the small circles of our life and in our most intimate relationships first. And then hopefully we can find a partner as a leader who joins us in this commitment. We shouldn’t be interested in picking a leader or partner who will improve our lives without our participation, but someone who will partner with us in our own commitment to improve.

This is exactly what I am going to look for in the leaders from either party who will be running for president in 2016, and it is what I am looking for in a partner in my own life. I have given up on the idea that a woman or a president can fix my life. It is my job, and it feels good to finally have that awesome power. Onward.

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Lessons From Boston: How to Be a Man http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/04/lessons-from-boston-how-to-be-a-man/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/04/lessons-from-boston-how-to-be-a-man/#comments Thu, 25 Apr 2013 10:00:04 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=844234 ht tamerlan dzhokhar tsarnaev nt 130419 wblog Lessons From Boston: How to Be a Man

Courtesy The Sun of Lowell, Mass| FBI/AP Photo


Last week, in the midst of the search for the remaining Boston bombing suspect, I tweeted out a note saying I wished folks would come up with a different term than “manhunt” because the behavior and actions of the Tsarnaev brothers were anything but the acts of men.  As I said, “real men don’t harm innocents and real men don’t disrespect or abuse women.

Interestingly, it turns out Tamerlan Tsamaev was arrested previously for abuse, and had a history of controlling behavior and verbal abuse of women.

It all got me thinking a bit about what it means to be a man in today’s world and what the qualities of true strength are in a man.  It is an important topic of conversation for many people, and there is confusion among both sexes about what it all means and the conduct we all would like to see in men today.

PHOTOS: Week in Terror at Boston Marathon

For many people, especially women, the older terrorist brother, Tamerlan, would be considered as an archetypal man.  By most people’s reckoning, he was tall, dark and handsome.  He was tough, carried himself with bravado, was a ladies’ man and a Golden Gloves boxer from Boston.   People would normally associate those attributes with being a manly man.

It is also interesting to me that Christian Grey, the main character in the very popular book series Shades of Grey that became a phenomenon among many women, was considered strong and in-command in the bedroom.  He was also incredibly controlling, just like the older brother bomber in Boston.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: From Terror to Capture

Everyone responds to strength, and women as well as men are attracted to the concept of a real man.  But we have often confused compassion with weakness, gentleness with the feminine, and toughness with meanness.   We ask ourselves why so many women are attracted to bad boys, get themselves involved in abusive relationships or allow themselves to be disrespected.  I think it comes from confusing external strength with the place where real strength resides, and that is internal.

We could all debate for hours the attributes that might reside in a man of real strength, and I hope we can begin this debate and discussion today.  I have come up with five key values I believe a man should possess to be considered a real man – a strong man.

1.  Integrity – A man tells the truth even when it is hard.  A man is honest with those in his life even when others might be upset.  A real man’s words and actions are integrated into one being, and as best as possible he lives the words in his head and heart even through hardship and insults.  A real man doesn’t say he is a good family man or a loving person and then live another life secretly.

2.  Compassion – A man is kind and gentle to those he cares about and even to those he meets along the way that might be strangers or unknown.  A real man picks up somebody when they are down or listens even though his time is tight.  A real man can make a fist to protect someone innocent that is about to be hurt or can hold the open hand of a child as they walk down the street.

3.  Honor – A real man respects people in his life and honors their importance through both words and actions.  A real man honors another by not discussing his intimate shared actions with someone with the world.  He holds the bonds built in private as a treasure that may just occupy the space of two people.  Respect can mean carrying a shared time to the grave or it can mean opening the door for a woman as she walks into a room.  In the real sense of the world, a real man is a gentleman.  Being a gentleman isn’t weakness or meekness, it is character.

4.  Play – A real man smiles no matter the weather and understands the incredible importance of being light and play.  Even when things are painful or troubling, he can find a way to laugh and play in the midst of tears.  He especially is able to laugh at himself and not take himself too seriously.  Arrogance or bravado isn’t the qualities of a real man.  They are a substitute for true confidence – a confidence built on a solid foundation of values and real self-esteem.   A real man would rather have someone laugh with him than fear him.  Real men are strong enough to play games on a playground or in the bedroom.  Being a real man isn’t about being passive in sex, it is about making love in a powerful and playful way.

RELATED: Quadruple Amputee, 13, and Brother Want to Help Boston Bombing Victims

5.   Tough – Lastly, a real man is tough – not tough in an “I am going to beat everyone up” kind of way, but in a “we can get through this hard time” kind of way.  He can defend or protect someone when they need it and stay up all night if someone is sick.  He is tough enough no matter how tired to get on a plane and show someone he loves that he cares.  That is real toughness.  The ability to keep going and fighting for what he believes no matter how tired.

These are just my start on what I think a real man might reflect and what strength in a man might look like.  I think women have a huge part in this debate because they can signal the real kind of strength they are attracted to.  Women need to begin to ask for strength in a man that involves not the Hollywood image of a bad boy or the sociopathic character from a novel, but strength that is rooted in the values like love, truth and respect.    That is standard that we could all aspire to, and maybe would cause less violence in this world like shootings or bombings.

The opinions expressed by Matthew Dowd are his alone and not those of ABC News.

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Do Americans Crave Justice or Revenge in Wake of Boston Bombing? http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/04/do-americans-crave-justice-or-revenge-in-wake-of-boston-bombing/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/04/do-americans-crave-justice-or-revenge-in-wake-of-boston-bombing/#comments Wed, 17 Apr 2013 18:22:44 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=843650 What is strength?  How does one define standing tall and strong in life?  Why do we often confuse patience, kindness and gentleness with weakness?

Many of these questions come to mind as I watch the horrific scene in Boston in the aftermath of the horrible bombings.  The same feelings came to mind in the midst of the fallout of tragedy in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary.  As anger justifiably rises and a demand for justice is called for, the question surfaces, Where does this end?

The line between justice and vengeance is a very thin one.  In the aftermath of 9/11 we all wanted justice, but at some point vengeance seemed to take over and it blinded many to the reality of decisions about going into the Iraq War.  We ended up spending more than a trillion dollars and, far worse , thousands of lives were lost or forever changed.  None of us feel safer or closer to a world where all people respect the rights and freedoms of each other.

We believe it is strength to fight on behalf of innocents and to do whatever we can to track down the awful perpetrators of acts of violence like what happened at the Boston marathon.  And it is.  But at what point do we celebrate and encourage revenge instead of justice? Is it strength to allow all emotions to take control and erupt in a variety of different ways or is strength defined in calm and a more measured, gentle way?

Yes, justice should be served and we need to track down who is responsible for any dastardly act and let the full weight of the law come down on them.  I am just concerned at times that our demand for justice often times becomes a hunger for revenge.  Passion doesn’t have to be defined in a way that is the opposite of gentleness.  We can have a passion for the good and kind.  And this is what is missing considerably in our political discourse and on our television sets.

Passion is often only seen in the polarized sides of the political debates that happen.  Each side gets rapped up in their dogmas and fights like heck on behalf of their positions.  Anger rises, verbal pushing and shoving happen, and we think this is where the passion and answers are.

Maybe the search for truth and justice and love actually is found in a different kind of strength and another form of passion.  A passion and strength wrapped in a clear hunger for the truth no matter how it upsets our own preconceived notions.   A strength, which stands tall in compassion and kindness and believes justice isn’t achieved through violence whether sponsored by a government, a gang or some terrorist organization.

People are looking for passion and strength in their lives whether in politics or their partners.  A passion and strength that has at its core a desire for truth and treating people kindly and gently.  Strength is not held by the loud, angry, abusive and rage filled, though often this is confusing for us.  True strength is held by those who can stand in the midst of life storms and sometimes awful tragedies and hold a position firmly of kindness and justice.

Where do we start with all this and defining strength differently? Before we can change our politics and institutions, we first need to change who we are ourselves and what we value in others that are part of our intimate circles.  When that begins to change, then the world changes.  Every we has to start with an I.

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Advice for Pope Francis: Remember Your Namesake http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/03/advice-for-pope-francis-remember-your-namesake/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/03/advice-for-pope-francis-remember-your-namesake/#comments Sat, 16 Mar 2013 22:40:46 +0000 Matthew Dowd http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=840175 A few years ago I decided to go on a self-directed solo pilgrimage to holy places representing Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Of course, this was all in the aftermath of my rather public break with President Bush in which the White House described my motivation for doing this as “Matthew is on a personal journey.”  I think that is code for he is crazy.

I traveled to India, Nepal, Turkey, Israel, Rome, but my final stop was the most heartwarming — Assisi.   I thought it the best way to end this long trip.

St. Francis has always been a personal hero of mine.  I have statues of him throughout my place in Austin.  I hired a woman artist to paint on a four-foot board the famous prayer of St. Francis, which I keep in my living room especially reminding me that it is best to love, rather than be loved, and it is in giving that we receive.

I remember so well walking the stone streets in Assisi and visiting the chapels dedicated to Francis and to one of his famous followers, St. Clare.  The shadows on the old simple buildings as the sun began to fall seemed to come alive with the spirit and joy St. Francis embodied.

As the new leader of the Catholic Church became Pope Francis, I am filled with hope and faith that this institution will follow the path St. Francis laid out nearly a thousand years ago.  St. Francis renounced the trappings of wealth, gave up his very comfortable ways, and dedicated his life to all creatures, especially the poor and vulnerable.  And he did this not in a sullen somber manner, but with joy and laughter and lightness and love.

As Pope Francis begins to walk in the new shoes of Pope, his acts and words seem to be signaling that he is serious about adopting the way of St. Francis.  He wants a church that is both poor and of the poor.  He has waved off the papal limousine a number of times.  He speaks humbly and with humor.

This start makes one very optimistic, but there are many valleys ahead.  Though one interesting thing is this new pope has become a human Rorschach test for people.  Everyone seems to be seeing in him what he or she wants.  Conservatives see him as conservative, liberals see him as progressive.  That actually gives Pope Francis a tremendous opening to lead all of us.

After having watched leaders in the United States who had good intentions, get lost on their intended way, I have five humble suggestions for this Pope and his team at the Vatican.

  1. Strip the Vatican in Rome of its extravagance and obnoxious displays of wealth.  I was struck on my pilgrimage when I went from Rome to Assisi how much more holy and human a place like Assisi felt over the ostentatiousness of Rome.  The flock and the world need to see an outward sign that the Vatican has changed.  And while this may seem only symbolic, it is an important value to convey.   Let us all remember Jesus spoke much more often about the dangers of wealth than he did about any other issue, including sex.
  2. Reform the staff and bureaucracy of the Vatican immediately.  I have seen two presidents in a row, one of which I worked for, who had good intentions about bringing the country together and getting past the divisiveness, but then had people around them that did the exact opposite of those intentions.   In order to reform, you have to surround yourself with reformers who have in their hearts the spirit of St. Francis.  Don’t look for folks who can manage the bureaucracy well, look for those who will fundamentally change the nature of the Vatican, including openness, transparency, and compassion.
  3. Figure a way to bring women and youth and laity more into the leadership of the Church.  Even if the bridge to cross of having women priests is too much, listen to the nuns who follow St. Francis’ way every day in communities around the world.   Have lay people who are qualified give sermons in church and tell their stories and speak their truth.  Create more institutionalized ways for young people to serve the church, even if they are not called to be clergy.  President Obama missed a huge opportunity for doing this after he won the first time when young folks wanted to change the world, but were never asked to in any concerted way.
  4. Don’t get caught up in tactics, it is the message that matters and how we live it.  In St. Francis’ time there was no Internet, social networks, television or radio shows, and Francis traveled only a few miles from his home nearly his whole life.  It was the truth and timing of his message and the way he conducted his life that had the power and changed the world.   It is not about using twitter more; it is saying and acting the truth of our hearts more.
  5. Take regular trips to Assisi while you lead the Vatican in Rome.  Not photo-ops or with large entourages, but simple trips to pray and remember the path of love St. Francis layed out before us and who you now carry his name.

And finally for all of us, I recall a famous saying attributed to St. Francis: “Every day preach the Gospel, sometimes use words.”

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