Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ralph Nader complained to a small Boulder audience last night that the two-party system in this country is dead. The Denver Post made his sour comments the lead story on their online front page this morning!

I just posted this comment:

The two party system is not perfect, but it's better than any alternative I can imagine. It's served us well ever since the Federalist Papers were written as this country was founded.

Ralph Nader's negative opinion of the system is like the old man who has never left his home town being critical of travel: If he had tried it while he was still young enough to enjoy it, he'd have a different view.

People who went to their local precinct caucus in February saw the Colorado Caucus, what I believe is the full flowering of the two party system. The system has been neglected for decades, new leaders are needed at every level. Yet even at it's worst, which in some ways last February was, the people I've talked with loved the experience.

The ordinary, average, common person has his or her best chance of getting elected to local office with the two party system, there is absolutely no doubt about that. Those who are just getting involved can now become elected to party leadership roles and local offices over the next few election cycles.

If Nader, instead of grand-standing as a 3rd party spoiler, had gotten elected to local office and gotten solid experience for higher office, he very well might be a contender for President today. Let's not let his sour grapes spoil our basically sound system.

What's needed now is for the thousands of new people who got involved for the first time this year to become local leaders.

What do you think? You can always post your comments here or call into a radio talk shop, of course, but if you'd like the chance for live, face-to-face discussion join us tonight for the Denver Socrates Cafe or Sunday afternoon for Denver Speakers Corner

Small Enterprises, Big Lessons

Although this collection of startup memoirs (2007 books Ehrenfeld reviews) is written by small business entrepreneurs, the lessons are big and broadly applicable to all new ventures. Wherever startups begin, the experiences are always personal; they are driven by passionate individuals, marred by painful fits and starts, and inspired by quirky happenstance or ambitious global goals. Few successful new ventures become the company that was originally conceived. Startups always respond to change — and as a result there are few that are not changed as they mature.

The path to sustainability (as in self-funding growth) must be discovered through experience rather than plotted on a map. And the ability to become a viable and ultimately thriving venture rests on the experience, network, and wisdom of the particular founder and founding team. More than any single product or service, their long-term success depends entirely on the quality and capability of the company they have created.

Tom Ehrenfeld in Strategy + Business
Tom Ehrenfeld ( is a former writer and editor at Harvard Business Review and Inc. magazine. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, the New York Times, Boston magazine, and Parenting magazine. Based in Cambridge, Mass., he is the author of The Startup Garden: How Growing a Business Grows You (McGraw-Hill, 2001).

Tom's agreed to be a "surprise" speaker at the Denver IDEA Cafe via teleconferencing in the next couple of weeks. To join us, RSVP at

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