Hearts and Minds or Roads and Sewers?

Some of us choose great leaders and some of us have leaders, great and otherwise, thrust upon us.

In our corner of the world, this fall will mark an important choice in civic leadership during municipal election season.

The big question on every candidate's mind:  What are the major "purchase influences" of voters???

The old "capture hearts and minds" piece is good in theory but just doesn't seem quite accurate to us.  Unless you're Obama, who did manage for a time to resonate with both the passions and the cerebral concerns of the American public.

But even Barack is having a time of it now.  Why?  We think it's because the heart and mind aren't made for the long haul together when it comes to the fickle world of politics ... esp. when we're talking larger social policy or (the big thing that seems to be on no one's mind) the "future".  (How ya doin' Global Warming??!)

A popular criticism of politicians at all levels is that most of them (though not all) can't see past their terms and thus, don't make decisions that will impact any economic, social or cultural policy more than 3 or 4 years out.

Let's take that a step further and ask, does the average voter really think about these things to any major extent?  

Nope.  

And that's not a criticism.  We all have mortgages to pay and kids to feed and garbage to put out and snow to be plowed (at least in Canada) and places to go on municipally maintained roads, so on the whole, are we electing our leaders based on their long-term vision for prosperity and progressive "no one left behind" social policy?  

Nope.

But shouldn't we be?

We all notice when the economy is down or jobs are scarce, but does the average person really care about or fully understand economic development?  

Nope.  (And we're not saying we do either, by the way.)

So, the big question in a municipal race is, do water and sewer rates truly trump vision?  They sure do.

But here's a challenge -- especially to those of us who have our kids' futures to consider -- let's stop criticizing the politicians for thinking just a few years down the road AND INSTEAD, stop doing it ourselves.  And/or stop electing those with timeline myopia.

An even older adage than the hearts and minds bit is this little whimsy, which has been variously attributed to Churchill, Disraeli, Shaw and some 18th century french statesman:

"If you're not a liberal at 30 you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no brain." 

We've never really bought that one.  Let's try a new one on for size:  "If you're not in it for the future, get the hell outta the way."  

You in?

(Disclaimer:  We're not politicians by any stretch and realize how easy it is to criticize those who've taken that leap.  We are also aware of the harsh realities faced by families who cannot afford to look more than a year or two, or even a month or two, down the line.  So maybe that's the true challenge, for those of us with the good fortune to be able to have these discussions to get off of our collective asses and make it better for everyone else.)