As the time arrives for deciding who our next president will be, I would suggest that there are really two types of candidates. We have what might be called the outside-in candidate or, alternatively, the inside-out candidate. John Kerry would be the former and George Bush would be the latter.
The starting point for the inside-out candidate is a set of principles. The proposals he makes, the analysis to problems he provides, reflects those principles. In the case of George Bush, those principles would be traditional values of right and wrong and a sense that the key to a free society is personal ownership, empowerment and responsibility. The reality on the outside reflects the starting point on the inside. The quality of individual lives, the nature of the society in which we live, indeed the world in which we live, is the result of individuals using these principles in engaging day-to-day problems of life. Humans are causes rather than results.
The approach of the outside-in candidate is the opposite. Individual human lives, in this take on the world, are results rather than causes. This candidate’s starting point for analyzing problems and proposing solutions are external circumstances and conditions. This approach empowers the candidate – the politician – rather than the individual. This candidate sees our society as a social engineering problem, rather than the collective result of individual moral and ethical choices, and the politician is the chief engineer.
If we think of the founders of our free country, I believe we will find inside-out leaders rather than the outside-in variety. The Declaration of Independence defines the starting point for thinking about our country and reflects the take on the world of the men who drafted it. We find a statement of principles and a sense that a free society begins with the individual. We are a nation under God with free individuals endowed by our creator with rights. There is no statement of desired results or social outcomes. We have only a declaration of principles and faith that when individuals are free and personally embrace these principles, we produce the best results for each individual and for our society as a whole.
The outside-in candidate is often attractive because of the natural appeal to think that someone has the solutions to our problems. It’s a fact of our lives that often the last place we want to look for answers is in the mirror. Ambitious politicians are often happy to oblige and take control of our lives.
It saddens me to consider the extent to which African Americans are still buying the outside-in approach. Certainly things are changing, which accounts for recent polling showing that George Bush is picking up ground among black voters. However, the large majority of blacks are still polling for John Kerry. This reflects the extent to which African American citizens still feel that they are results rather than causes. The social problems in the black community reflect the persistence of the sense of victimization, the sense that individuals are not in control of their own lives. It is this very pathology that causes them to find liberals like John Kerry appealing. The answer is always on the outside.
In a recent study published by my organization, CURE, on the “Economic State of Black America,” we see a starkly different picture between the economic reality of black America that is centered on family and the black America that is not. Households that are headed by married parents have median incomes three times greater than those headed by single mothers. Households headed by single mothers are four times more likely to be living in poverty than those with married parents at home.
Economic reality is an inside-out phenomenon and not outside in. Economic success reflects values, persistence and hard work. The only thing government can do is remove obstacles it itself has created – taxes and regulations – that cause barriers to individual wealth creation. The unique barrier to wealth creation that government has caused in the black community is perpetuation of the very illusion that the problem is political and not personal.
Education, another issue of concern in the black community, is also inside out and not outside in. Study after study shows that the single greatest predictor for success in school is life at home. Again, family and values are the answers here. The government-created obstacle to individual achievement in education is the vice grip in which it is held by the public school monopoly. The problem here is both the inability of parents to choose where to send their kids to school and the politicized curricula of public schools that are sanitized of the very values that kids vitally need.
Blacks are beginning to get it and George Bush, the inside-out candidate, is picking up ground. The more time African Americans, and all Americans, spend looking in the mirror rather than at political ads, the faster we will pick up ground. This country is free. The answer to freedom is inside.