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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Leader: one who leads

Over the past year, I've figured out what I want to see in our new territorial legislature. I want politicians who stand for something. Anything.

We don't have political parties here, we have something called "consensus government". In theory, that means that all of the elected representatives sit down together and decide what's in the best interest of all the people. No single faction is able to dominate; in fact, there are no party politics and it's unusual for politicians to openly identify with any national parties. We have something similar to a permanent minority government. (Americans: That means that the people in power are outnumbered by the people who are not in power.)

Whenever I describe consensus government to people in the south, they immediately think it's the best political system they've ever heard of. I have to agree that there are some really good things about it. However, it poses its own unique challenges. The most frustrating of these is that our politicians are generally unwilling to take any stand that might annoy people.

I keep up with the national news, so I know that this is not normal. Our national parties release books that detail exactly what they plan to do. They post this information on their websites and talk about it during debates. People get all upset because one party or another has staked out a ridiculous position and is sticking to it.

You would never see that here. Our candidates do not want to discuss the issues. When they do want to discuss the issues, they don't want to set priorities or take any position that might annoy people.

It is getting ridiculous. One person told me that a candidate showed up at her door and hemmed and hawed over a question about whether our town should have only one school board. Seriously. Apparently the candidate knew that the questioner had the opposite opinion, so she didn't want to say anything that might suggest dissent. I'm not sure how the candidate thinks she will be able to decide if we need new infrastructure if she can't even admit that she wants to reduce administrative duplication in our public agencies.

The last year has made it very clear to me that I want our candidates to take a stand for something, anything. These wishy-washy guys who love children and apple pie just aren't doing it for me. I want to see some evidence that they've thought about the issues, and I want to hear how they came up with their ideas. For any issue there is a spectrum of reasonable opinions. Even if I'm on the opposite side, I can respect a person who has thought about the problem and is willing to stand up for what he believes. I have less respect for the wafflers and the knee-jerk weirdos.

Our leaders should be able to lead. They should have a vision and a plan to get us there. They need to be strong, and they need to make tough decisions, because the easy thing to do is not always the right thing to do. If a person is unable to admit that she thinks we should only have one school board, she is no leader. "I'll listen to you" is not a platform, and "I'm a hard worker" is not a platform.