Politics to start (sorry)
I live in Fort Worth — have for close to seven years, which is crazy to even type — and we have some Mayor and City Council and Board position elections going on now. Actual “Election Day” is May 1, but early voting began yesterday (April 19). I live about four minutes from the downtown area, and even though there was a polling place for early voting that was miles-wise closer, I decided to check out the downtown one. It opened at 8am. I went at 8:45am. I was their first person of the day. So, 45 minutes into voting in the 12th-biggest city in the United States, in the downtown core, only one person — fat ass me — had voted. And this is an election that will ultimately determine the Mayor — a new person for the first time in a decade — and 3–4 of nine City Council seats. At a city level, civics-wise, it’s big stuff.
Now, admittedly it’s Day 1 within the first hour, and maybe no one cares and they have to work and that’s their priority, but broadly Fort Worth does not do well with these things:
Two years ago, 39,410 people voted in the 2019 election to decide who would lead this city of nearly 1 million people, according to figures from the city secretary’s office. That means only 8.9% of the 442,250 registered voters in Fort Worth picked the City Council for the nation’s 13th largest municipality.
Fort Worth has had abysmal turnout in its city elections dating back to the 1990s. Among the 30 largest cities in the nation, Fort Worth was ranked 29th in voter turnout, according to a 2016 report by Portland State University.
Turnout has been so bad in the city that in 1997 — when 5.5% of registered voters showed up at the polls — then-City Secretary Alice Church told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram it was “very sad.”
It’s interesting to me because like, we always talk about our communities and our children and their safety and being active locally and all that. Yet, we don’t turn out for this stuff — and it’s not just Fort Worth by any means. The U.S. has generally shitty turnout in both Presidential years (globally) and non-Presidential years (historically bad).
But the local ones, the civic ones, the state-wide ones … those have much more impact on your life than who is President, day-to-day, right? Well, yes and no.
There are two or three theories I’d have here:
- To many, America is about getting your nut, i.e. doing well, being seen as successful, providing for a family, having the trappings. That’s increasingly harder to do if you’re a certain type of person or work in certain professions, but it’s often the goal. Politics can be seen as a hindrance to that, not a helpful hand. (This can vary by party.)
- Whoever is President represents the very top of the supposed “leadership” — even though many Presidents are barely leaders — and emotional belief structure pyramid. So, even if Biden or Trump barely impacts your day-to-day life, it’s important for you to be able to identify with, or view as a villain, whoever holds that office. It might drive a lot of your beliefs and subsequent online behavior.
On the online behavior point, I saw this in Numlock News this morning, courtesy of here:
The Desert Sun, a local newspaper serving Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, launched a fascinating project on their opinion page in June 2019 by dropping national politics from the opinion section and asking readers to contribute opinions about local issues. A new study comparing that paper to a similar paper, the Ventura County Star, which did not drop national politics, found reverberations across the community. While dropping national politics didn’t stop polarization in the community, it did slow it. Further, in the month before the experiment less than a half of the op-eds and letters to the editor were about California issues, but in July that rose to 95 percent. Readers also really enjoyed it: online readership of op-eds doubled that July.
Basically: talk about national less and local more, and you can also help solve our polarization problem. American political polarization is specifically very unique, but I would imagine that more of a focus on local would help.
So this all goes to a bigger point: there are issues we should care about more — like who serves on our School Board — but we spend lots of time fighting and analyzing and screeching about guys and gals in robes that may never impact us directly, or Presidents.
You see this mirrored at work too. How often do you get an audience with a Senior VP and the person spends the entire meeting in the weeds, doing stuff like line-editing tweets? Some people in those roles are admittedly strategic. Most I have interacted with are not that way.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a new article where, seemingly, some Australian consultant gets a bunch of top dogs (execs) in a room and asks: “What is your broader strategy?” They go off and write it down. And — drum roll — here are the results:
The results are always astonishing to me and them. Here are some of the responses from the list I received at my most recent session: actions (“launch a new service”; “review our suitability to the retirement business”); activities (“marketing our products through the right channels”); objectives (“achieve $100m net revenue”) and broad descriptions of what goes on (“planning process from beginning to end of product”; “working for your stakeholders”).
I literally ROFL’ed at this. “Marketing our products through the right channels?” Good Lord. These guys are making maybe half a million per year and that’s what they come up with? I would probably punch the guy in the face who said “achieve $100M net revenue.” You know he’s a total KPI-gagger who probably last complimented his wife in 1987. Sad but true fact: if you care that much about achieving $100M net and haven’t done it yet, you’re not very good at your job.
Not in good relationships or strong friendships, but you do see situations often in friendships where people fixate on small things of long-term insignificance as opposed to the bigger picture of the relationship. My friend Peter once told me that every fight in a romantic relationship is about something different than the origin of the fight; that’s not 100% true, but it’s not 0% true either. We call that “moving the goalposts” sometimes in the biz. What biz? People who write meandering Medium articles about priorities in life.
I had a friend years ago who booted me from her life because she didn’t like how I did Facebook birthday posts. That’s not a joke. After I got divorced, I went and visited the best man from that wedding as my ex was moving out of our apartment. He and his wife didn’t like some of how I acted that weekend — one of the hardest weekends of my life to date — and so they “cancelled me.” Small stuff vs. big picture. Same with this kid Greg Richane in Massachusetts, who piped me as a friend over text exchanges as opposed to the bigger, seven-year+ history we had.
Now, that last paragraph can have me coming off as bitter, and I don’t mean to do that at all. Rather, I’m just saying sometimes friendships and relationships end, or become mired in bullshit, because people are focused on seemingly small issues instead of bigger picture things.
So is this all about priorities?
Somewhat, and we ain’t gonna change that stuff anytime soon — a lot of people, especially at jobs, are horrible at setting priorities.
So that’s a big chunk of it, but it’s also self-awareness and realistically looking at your life, your job, your commitments, your community and thinking what actually matters versus what’s fun to get down in the weeds about sometimes.
I’d say it’s more a self-awareness issue than a priority alignment issue, as life is broadly.
Your takes? PS go vote for School Board, sit down for a deep conversation with a friend, ask your wife how her life is going day-to-day instead of discussing pickups and sandwiches, and ask a SVP what’s the 10-year plan vs. the five-minute plan. Try to focus on what’s actually important.
Takes? And why do you think we do this?