I don’t want to talk about the election results. That has been well covered, and while I disagree with many of the conclusions, I would like to call out one important thing. Maybe not at the end, but there were a lot of “undecideds” at one point. The massive shifts in Republican polling during the primaries show at least half of that dynamic. But for some reason all of these idiot political consultants have done everything possible to prevent politicians from connecting with voters. I have written about this before, but chief among the glaring barrier between candidate and constituent has been the lack of the use of analogy to make political and policy arguments more cogent.
Imagine you are a farmer from a long line of farmers producing fresh crops for the local community. Your parents teach you the craft and when the time is right, you take over the family business, a 100 acre farm. Each year you look at last year’s production, advances in technology and most importantly how many people there are in the community that will buy your crops. No sense in planting too many acres if you can’t sell it. Conversely, you don’t want to farm too little, else your customers will go somewhere else, even at higher cost. These predictions are paramount to your success, your livelihood and the future of your family farm.
The tractor is getting old and during the winter you decide to buy a new unit in the spring. There are many different models for selection. Factoring the payment, your margins and anticipated future potential, you obviously don’t want to buy something too big. It’s time to figure out what your prospects over the next few years will be and estimate trended demand. So you naturally look at what you have been farming over the past years. Looking at your notes you see that while your parents had once jam packed all 100 acres, because of bumper crops and people moving out of town, or buying frozen vs fresh and other trends in the local community, that you are down to only farming about 80-85 acres. What’s more, you see that couples are marrying later and having fewer children later life, so you can estimate that the trend for fresh vegetable demand over the coming years will not go up. Bottom line, you can buy a smaller tractor and save some money on the monthly payment, which will already be tough to cover, given your projections.
Is there anything here that does not make prefect sense? Even if you are not a farmer, can you understand, appreciate and even support the decision of the farmer? Sure we may argue about adoptions adding people to the community or the new community center drawing in a few new families, but those are arguments at the fringe. While, the farmer may want the super huge John Deere model 9560R, it is not justified for a farm in the 80 acre range. Buying it would be irresponsible, negligent, and jeopardize the livelihood of her family. Right?
Last week Salem held a hearing with the school committee to discuss a possible plan to close one of the 6 elementary schools in town. Over the past 5 years the town passed articles to fund massive renovation projects for 3 of the 6 (now complete). A warrant to renovate the other 3 was voted down in the last election. So the school committee did the responsible strategic-minded thing, and went out to hire a professional firm to study student population growth over the next 5 years. After seeing the numbers trend down so steeply, the committee, with the superintendent, thought it might be prudent to ask the town to only renovate 2, since the third could be closed keeping projected class sizes the same, even with the smaller footprint. As a kicker, closing one school would save an estimated $900k per year in operating costs.
At the meeting, I was the only one to stand up in support of what to me seems like the only rational course of action. A high schooler got up and rambled for 10 minutes about the need to renovate the high school (well established fact, but not part of the agenda) to thunderous applause. A “graduate” of the school in question talked about the soul of the school and what it meant to him. There was anger over the (heaven forbid!) need to possibly bus students 2-3 whole miles further than they do today…gasp! And then my favorite: A fellow employee and financial advisor described how we were in a cyclical bear market and soon we should shift back to a cyclical bull market and when that happens there will be all this crazy demand…for a school? Hey Meg, if the market goes up 10% let’s have another baby and get him into, the school system ASAP. Are you kidding me?!?
I was livid. Even if births in the area were to suddenly spike, it took 2.5 years from start to finish of the 3 school renovation plan to be voted, funded and completed. As Bubba would say, it’s arithmetic. If I see 500 new babies born over the next year to replace the estimated drop in enrollment, I still have at least a year to plan the school renovation and have it complete before those babies turn 4-5 and enter that school. Geewiz, how do I know that? I can read a calendar. This stuff is not hard to figure out. What’s more, if Congress is unable to do anything to set this country on a stable path to prosperity, do you really think the economy will magically cycle back to a bull market and there will be massive expressions of peace and love and unprotected sex happening throughout southern New Hampshire? If you are the farmer, how many acres do you plant as a contingency for THAT scenario?
I went to Cogswell school in Bradford, MA for second and third grade. I think it was built as the town hall in the 1800s and later became a grammar school. Today it is empty, for sale even. Does that change the status of my degree as class of ’80? Tear it down and plant corn for all I care. Somehow when this country acts as a democracy, we respond with emotion first. Yet somehow we formed an emotional bond with a detached an aloof Harvard law grad turned community organizer. In the absence of a rational argument people gravitate to the familiar old blanket, even if it is full of holes and no longer keeps warm.
The term “Compassionate Conservative” seems to have been a complete farce, attempting to play on people’s need for a warm blanket. This has no meaning to me and certainly provides no hint of how to approach problems with the interest of actually solving them. I will aim to be a Rational Republican… That movement starts today.