Pre-Election Day Thoughts


After a record $4 billion of ad spending, Americans head to the polls tomorrow to elect everybody from County Commissioners and School Board members to Senators and Governors.

If the polls are correct—and I suspect they are—it’s going to be a good day for Republicans from Alaska to Arkansas. But those same polls also show deep dissatisfaction with both political parties and the general direction of this country. American voters are unhappy with their government and their elected leaders, with rare exceptions.

There seems to be something inherently wrong with our politics and we seem to be attracting something far less than our best and brightest to public service.

Government—at all levels—has been demonized and often with good reason due to waste, fraud, corruption, abuse and incompetence. But we’ve also been told that government is our problem and no longer is the source of solutions and that is a dangerous belief system, because it tends to be self-fulfilling.

The truth is, we need government, limited, effective, fiscally responsible and competent to deal with common problems and opportunities and we don’t seem to be getting it.

As a result, problems ranging from infrastructure neglect and terrorism to climate change and immigration reform go untended. Unfortunately, problems that are neglected don’t tend to disappear, they tend to fester and get worse.

Somehow, someway, we have to find a way to work together again and get things done. If we don’t, our children and grandchildren will inherit a range of deep seated problems and future generations will look back at us and wonder—what were they thinking?

I believe that solutions begin with finding capable leaders who have an ability to engage those who they represent.

But after a barrage of negative TV advertising that was long on the “other candidate is horrible” and short on any ideas, I’m certain we are not going to get that leadership when the polls close tomorrow.

I will vote—as I always do—but like others I almost can’t believe the paucity of choices on the ballot.

This less than inspiring slate—which seems to be a nationwide malady—ought to be a powerful wake up call for voters. We need to do better. Better candidates, better campaigns, better ideas, better debates and better coverage of races so voters can get beyond the horse race and really understand what solutions or ideas candidates bring to the table.

Years ago, I stumbled on a quote in a magazine about a candidate running for Mayor in a small Maine town. She said that holding office “was a job to do, not a job to have.”

I clipped that quote and carried it with me during my seven years as a local elected official to remind me that my responsibility was not to take the easy or politically expedient path, but to do what I felt was right. Like everyone else, you find that sometimes you stumble. But for me that quote was a guidepost, a reminder that politics was an opportunity to make change, solve problems, involve people and try to ensure a future for others. The commission’s I served on called it moving ‘the big rocks’.

Too many politicians think of service as a career and are afraid to actually do the job. They play dodge ball with the issues delaying the inevitable and leaving problems for future generations to deal with.

We deserve better.

Great leaders are hard to find. But we better start trying.

Every day I interact with smart, visionary people, most of whom would never consider running for office because they see politics as dirty and inconsequential. It needs to be viewed differently; recast as public service and transformational.

I think the voters are hungry for good leadership and vision. I think they would welcome bold ideas, honesty and being treated like adults.

Just my hunch.


  1. Well said, Jeff. We need fewer who follow the polls, and more who lead from their convictions. The only poll that counts is on Election Day. Let’s hope we can see growing voter turnout instead of turnoff tomorrow.

  2. Jeff,

    A comment and a question:

    1-Well written as usual. The best and brightness become entrepreneurs or run great corporations!

    2-The question, when can I start the Elect Jeff Perlman Committee?


  3. Annette Reizburg says

    Bern, I second your second question!!! Well said Jeff.

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