Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday morning coming down

All "my guys" lost in the yesterday's local election. It's always a downer when that happens. You spend the time reading and listening to the candidates, educating yourself on the issues, and forming opinions about what's best for the city. You, naturally, think you got it right, and so you're left to wonder in disappointment how "everyone else" got it so wrong.

I experienced this in big city Los Angeles. Now I'm experiencing it in small town New Hampshire. It's tougher in a small town. The margins are so close. One of "my guys" lost by 62 votes, a relatively comfortable margin in our small town, but a number small enough to drive home the just-out-of-reach factor. A change in only 32 votes would have altered that outcome. In a race outside my ward, the margin of victory was a mere 3 votes. I'm sure we'll see a recount on that one.

There was a clear pattern in this year's election. The incumbents were well established and liberally inclined. The challengers were business oriented, small-government types who championed free market solutions. One of them even evoked Adam Smith and his "invisible hand" during Candidate Night. I'm a sucker for the free market, of course, so this was music to my ears.

Unfortunately, free market ideas can be tough to sell. If they are articulated well, and supported by concrete examples, people "get it." They recognize the simple truths that have been born out by their own experiences, and they readily embrace them. Ronald Reagan was a master at this. He had a talent for stating in simple terms the life lessons Americans had internalized but never given voice to. He spoke for us.

On the other hand, if these ideas are articulated poorly, or go unarticulated, a candidate comes across as not having any ideas or being in favor of "doing nothing." This was the case in our local election. It may have been music to my ears, but I'm sure references to Adam Smith's "invisible hand" fell deaf on the ears of most of our citizenry. I doubt one in twenty voters in our town knows who Adam Smith was or has heard of his "invisible hand." The candidate would have done better to leave Smith out of it and instead cite examples of small businesses who, in a quest for profit, provide valuable services to our city by which all our lots are improved.

Worse, when asked if he had a plan, as a prospective councilman, for filling the empty store fronts in our downtown area, the candidate refused to expand beyond an emphatic "no!" This is fine for a member of the choir, like me, for I understood his implied contention that it's not the job of government to fill those store fronts. I recognize that our city's onerous regulations and high tax rate make it unattractive to business, and that the private sector would take up the cause of filling those store fronts if only our government would "get out of the way."

I'm sure most voters, understandably, took his terse "no" to mean that he had no ideas, and likely had given the matter little thought. And so, with one word, the candidate with the best solution and the clearest understanding of how the world actually works offered up a ringing endorsement for his opponent.

So, my disappointment is not only in my fellow citizens for not "getting it," but also in my candidates for not making "it" accessible. It's not enough to be right. You've got to sway minds, and "my guys" just didn't do a good job of it this time around.

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