Mike Jones

Coming out of the March 7 mayoral primary, which failed to elect an African-American change candidate, our problem is a lack of organized infrastructure in the black community.

Politics is like crime: in order to be truly profitable, they both have to be organized. The bigger and more efficient the organization, the higher the rate of return. When you're not organized, you're a mom and pop confectionary, which never has what you really need. My generation are products of a time when the black community had organized infrastructure that protected and advanced its interest, i.e., when Bumpy run Harlem.

Organization means order, discipline and hierarchy. Entrepreneurial environments may be creative and vibrant, but they're also chaotic and disruptive, and they produce way more losers than winners. Our core problem is our culture is producing entrepreneurial politicians with a focus on personal ambition and not politicians who are guardians of our collective interests. We need a better understanding of our condition and a major change in our cultural values.

In defense of the non-voter, some of that indifference is a subconscious reaction to the reality that the current political apparatus does not protect or advance their interests. It's really having conversations about politics, power and values across the entire community on a regular and ongoing basis that will be the foundation of any positive change.

For me, politics is the art and science of acquiring power so you can make policy. Basically, I want to be in charge of the game. And you want to be in charge because you know what you want to change or protect. In order to master politics, you must become the political equivalent of an apex predator: You hunt everything, and nothing hunts you.

This happens in an ecosystem with other apex predators, so you're always in competition for prey and territory. You will have to make concessions to the reality that you will not always prevail because you will not always be in the strongest position. But you must always be hunting; you must always be a political threat. The reason apex predators accommodate each other is because of the uncertainty of who will prevail in a confrontation. People are only willing to negotiate when they're unsure of the outcome, which is the reason lawyers avoid trial if they can.

Teams and organizations lose because of a lack of talent, or they have sufficient talent but a losing culture. I'm reserving judgment on whether we have the talent, but I'm unequivocally prepared to say we have a losing culture. Until we find a way to fix our locker room, we don't have a shot at devising a winning game plan.

Mike Jones, who has held senior policy positions in St. Louis city and county government, serves on the St. Louis American editorial board and the State Board of Education.

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No doubt we have lost our political way along with both our understanding and acceptance of "territorial" control. Despite the many social problems bought about largely due to the lack of economic focus, we seem to miss community building as the bigger picture. Organization around bigger visions and not just personalities fail to pay dividends.

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