“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”, is one of Niccolo Machiavelli’s more famous quotes. Machiavelli wasn’t talking about Valentine’s Day … and he certainly wasn’t referring to how to win an election. Certainly not in Shiloh. In our local election in Shiloh this week I placed last of all the candidates running. I fear that I am “unloved”.
These are not my first elections in Shiloh: two years ago I ran and received the most votes, which perhaps makes my current failure a bit worse. I could exculpate myself by pointing out that voter participation went up but my voter base stayed about the same (yeah, that sounds lame) or I could blame a whisper campaign (paranoid!) that targeted me. The truth is probably that it was more than a coincidence that our local elections and Valentine’s Day fell in the same week.
Valentine’s Day when I was growing up was one of the more vapid “goyish” holidays that I encountered and one of my least favorite. In grade school it consisted of buying cheap Valentine Day cards and things like heart shape candies to distribute amongst my classmates. (Funny as it seems now, no one at the Valle Vista elementary school in Cucamonga thought anything strange about boys asking other boys “to be their Valentine”). Part of the ritual was to put up a board with a large envelope for each kid in the class so we all could endow our VD greetings in the least embarrassing manner. Then each child could take his envelope home and count our “catch”. In short, popularity became a proxy for love.
Getting back to our local elections. Running in a “settlement” election is not high politics but it also isn’t a popularity contest, or at least it shouldn’t be. We have a yearly budget of about seven million shekel ($2 million), we collect our own taxes and we even have a development budget for new parks and buildings. As Churchill said, politics is not a game; it is an earnest business. The last two years were spent dealing with our local “housing” crisis and if all goes well soon building will start on another 65 houses in Shiloh. The next two years I was hoping I could help advance building plans for another 100 (mostly apartments).
I have yet to understand what went wrong, but I suspect it has a great deal with how I “ran” my campaign. I tried running on my record and talking “issues”. I must of been wrong on both counts.
Most of the candidates did not elaborate on their experience. I am over 50 and have been living in Shiloh for the last 17 years. Excepting S, a driver for the regional council who is about 40, the rest of the candidates were not yet 30; they had no records to run on. As for issues, I thought building, budget and development were sufficient. I was wrong again. Evidently the main issue in Shiloh is “melding the various groups together” or something amorphous like that. Not that there is something wrong about “melding”, but I would think that where and how we put apartment buildings (in order to lower housing costs) and where we pave new streets should be of a bit greater import. People should care about changing the character of Shiloh, or at least I thought so.
I suppose I could just cry sour grapes and, (to quote Mark Twain) say that “Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.” and go back to my own life. Being on the local “government” was a volunteer job, the last year spent with one particularly “bright” fellow who thought that a persuasive argument was an unsupported claim made repetitive times in an ever increasing crescendo of shouts. Still, if we accept that democracy is responsibility and that to serve is an act of love (or should be) I should not give up so quickly.
Which brings back to Valentine’s Day.
The “they love me, they love me not” in a democracy is a painful but unavoidable part of the process. Everybody wants to be loved, but as Machiavelli said, leadership is much more than that. Sometimes people need to hear the “truth” even if it isn’t popular, even if it isn’t easily digestible. The art is to say the truth and make it seem self evident. You have to make people to want to hear it. In short, if you want to educate the public, you have to love them first.
To love is to risk rejection, but to forsake love is far worse. Or “those who think that love is only an illusion, never really live”. “Never, never, never, give up.”