Given that my business is Systems Change Consulting, it caught my attention when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis) asserted that both he and Donald Trump were “change agents“ during his recent debate with former Sen. Russ Feingold who is seeking his former seat back from Johnson. His claim reminded me of the time when someone from the Tea Party contacted me with an offer to improve my website. Needless to say, I did not accept his offer, but his offer gave me pause. What I realized then, and Johnson’s debate claim confirmed, is that those who desire systems change come from both sides of the political spectrum.
The mere fact that someone works to change the system does not mean that they want to make the system in question work better for the vast majority of people. Nor, does the fact that someone is a change agent equate to accomplishing change that will improve the lives of those who are most challenged by the status quo.
My firm, Systems Change Consulting, works on solving problems for those in greatest need so I focus
on making progressive systems change in the areas of civil rights, disability rights, general and special education, and combating abuse and neglect of vulnerable populations.
In Sen. Johnson’s case, apparently he believes that being a change agent includes:
- causing dysfunction in the U.S. Supreme Court by failing to hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s nomination for the now 7 month old vacancy on the court;
- prohibiting all federal funding for abortion services;
- insisting on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution regardless of the economic consequences to our nation;
- supporting prayer in our public schools;
- refusing to believe the clear scientific evidence that humans contribute to global warming and voted to oppose the EPA from regulating greenhouse gasses;
- voting against protecting ocean and Great Lakes ecosystems;
- voting against banning high capacity (10 or more bullets) gun magazines;
- claiming that the Affordable Care Act is the single greatest assault on American freedom;
- opposing granting amnesty for any undocumented immigrants; and
- claiming that Social Security is a giant ponzi scheme.
Indeed, if Sen. Johnson prevailed in every instance, he could properly be called a change agent. However, it would not be the type of change which would help most people or the people who need the most help.
My view of systems change is quite different. While many public and private systems could use a healthy dose of change, that change should be focused on providing the greatest good for those in greatest need. This includes:
- improving public education for children with disabilities and other populations groups experiencing significant disparities in achievement;
- providing food, shelter and affordable housing for those without these basic life needs;
- protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities, people of color, women and other disenfranchised populations so that they can enjoy equal access to housing, employment, and all that life has to offer;
- removing those who abuse vulnerable people in schools, healthcare settings and in the criminal justice system and compensating those who suffer from such abuse; and
- making sure that high quality healthcare is available to everyone.
Of course, the list goes on as there are an infinite number of ways in which systems, large and small, public and private, can be changed to improve the lives of those with the greatest need. People like Sen. Johnson and Donald Trump, who work to change the system to the advantage of a small minority of wealthy people who are already enjoying the advantages of their wealth, are not the types of change agents who will benefit our nation.