BUSINESS QUARTERLY: Andy Peterson – Voters know better than politicians

  • Andy Peterson  COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 10/25/2022 3:01:12 PM

Surrounded as we are by the splendorous autumn display which draws visitors to our region from around the globe, it will not be long before Halloween brings spooks and goblins to life. Another spooky season, one full of political mailers, phone calls and news releases preceding the upcoming election, is also coming fast upon us. 

I have been asked to offer some reflections on the current state of politics and business. Although an interesting subject in this time and season, at the outset, let me point out that in practice, business and politics usually do not mix. It is critical for business success that whatever may be the individual opinions or political affiliations of customers, clients and employees, all must be treated with fairness and respect. Hard-line political judgments and strident polemics are as welcome in the workplace as they are at a family’s Thanksgiving feast. 

Thus, business owners who are deeply invested in their communities and care a great deal about guiding leaders to wise and beneficial decisions often express their opinions through statewide associations, such as the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association or the BIA. In a recent article, that group’s leader, Michael Skelton, outlined the association's top priorities for the coming year, based on conversations with their members.

The top issues identified by the group, which has distinguished participants from our region, including Richard Verney of Monadnock Paper Mills, are workforce availability, workforce housing and the soaring cost of energy. Solutions offered include strengthening career and technical education in the Granite State, an inclusive, all-resources approach to achieving a diverse, reliable and cost-effective energy mix and support for workforce housing development. 

As someone who has spent much of my life working in business locally and has served several terms in elective office, I respectfully offer these observations on the general state of political discourse today: 

1. The communications revolution has dramatically changed how we live, work and interrelate. 

2. The “fourth estate” has strayed from its traditional function of unbiased reporting as news and media outlets have proliferated. 

3. We are experiencing the continued rise of the political consultant as a force influencing the outcome of elections and see increased sophistication in their methods. 

These impacts are particularly evident in a state such as ours, where a smaller number of voters impact so strongly the choice of presidential nominees and the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. At our household in this season, we receive regular political phone messages and a daily onslaught of mailers, many expertly crafted to play on our fears and suspicions. 

With the help of modern technology, today some of these messages are targeted to specific audiences and do not appear in a neighboring household. In addition, many messages are funded and designed by political party organizations and third-party groups without input from the candidates themselves. Sadly, recent campaign finance reforms have only exacerbated this effect. As we are getting used to the communications revolution’s advances in other areas of our lives, we will have to learn how to navigate a new world in deciding how to cast our vote. 

If you listen to any major newscast today and contrast it to the actual reporting of Edward R. Murrow (as dramatically portrayed in the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck”) it is striking how much has changed. The observation that no one could tell you the political affiliation of Walter Cronkite by his newscast can hardly be said for Tucker Carlson or Mika Brzezinski. We see news stories that once would have been reserved to the editorial section and whole publications and networks catering to a single point of view. 

All these factors complement the efforts of political consultants to forward their narratives and inflame our emotions as they work to retain or regain power. But these attempts to control the outcome of elections, with all their advanced methods, still at the end of the day rely on a fallacy -- that politicians know better how to solve problems than the voters they represent. 

In our regular business and family lives, compassion and compromises are required. Greater problems are quietly faced daily than those our leaders complain are insurmountable. In functional homes and businesses, we have long ago realized that not one among us has exclusive purview of the truth. To succeed, we must learn to reason together. 

In our democratic republic, biennial elections are the great equalizer. And participation in primary elections, particularly in our state where the largest share of the voters are registered independents, is critical to the quality of our general election results.  

So Happy Halloween! Hope to see you at the polls in November. 

Andy Peterson is a CCIM Broker Associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty in Peterborough.

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