Just In Time -- Is Anybody Listening To Us?

Nov. 15, 2007
Elected officials need to get the message that if they can't deliver on their promises, we'll find somebody else who can.

All politics is local, which probably explains why the national pundits didn't have much punditry to offer following the recent odd-year elections. Even though we live in a world of continuously streaming news updates, the ability to concisely analyze trends at a local level seems to be a lost art within mainstream media circles. The national newspapers and networks -- which operate on the theory that everything has to mean something -- tend to avoid covering city and municipal elections altogether.

By ignoring local trends, though, the national media miss out on the opportunity to discover what issues are the most important to those of us who live out in the hinterlands (i.e., everywhere that's not New York, California or Washington, D.C.), where most of the business of making stuff occurs in this country. They so desperately want that one BIG story that they miss out on hundreds of smaller stories that taken in total add up to an even BIGGER story.

Between now and the 2008 national elections, I'm sure that you're going to be inundated with poll after poll, telling you what your fellow Americans think about the war in Iraq, illegal immigration, healthcare costs, education, homeland security, the price of gasoline and other issues. But I'm not as sure that anything substantive will be done with these poll results.

Although technology has sped up the rate at which people live their lives, I'm reminded of an old Eagles song that goes, "Things in this life change very slowly, if they ever change at all." Most people don't really want radical change, anyway. We see elections as a chance to "throw the old rascals out" and start over fresh with, well, some new rascals, but we don't actually want to see the entire system jettisoned. We like the fact that we have the right to vote in every election (whether we choose to or not) and to make our collective voices heard.

That's what makes the United States of America the greatest country in the world. The one thing that everybody wants is to feel that they have value, and the brilliance of our system of government is that our elected leaders have to listen to us, and if they don't, we have the power to replace them.

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See Chain Reactions: David Blanchard's blog about supply chain management.
The problem with all this polling data is that politicians use the information solely to get elected, when they should really be using it as a guide to what's important to their constituents. They might say they hear us, but they're certainly not listening to us, and nobody likes to feel that they're being used or patronized.

Every election cycle, politicians throw out carefully rehearsed platitudes about "fixing" manufacturing that make you think that finally, here's somebody who gets it. And no sooner are these people elected (or reelected) than we discover they're off on a fact-finding mission to China or India, while meanwhile the widget factory across town just laid off 250 people and plans to shift all its assembly work to the Honduras. And we're all left thinking, "Yep, they fooled us again."

And yet...

Every November, the United States observes both Election Day and Thanksgiving. I used to think that was a rather cynical way of scheduling things -- get people all hot and bothered about how rotten their situations are in early November, and then expect them to be grateful about it all by the end of the month. I don't see it like that any more, though. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the abundant blessings that we enjoy every day in the United States, and despite all the problems in the world at large (as well as within the manufacturing industry microcosm), we are each of us blessed to be living in a country that openly celebrates its freedoms and offers everybody an opportunity to excel within their chosen vocation. The manufacturing community is filled with a lot of smart, industrious people who deserve the same level of intelligence and industriousness from their elected leaders.

David Blanchard is IW's editor-in-chief. He is based in Cleveland. Also see Chain Reactions: David Blanchard's blog about supply chain management.

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