Monday, September 16, 2013

Motives Drive Narrative (Monday LINKS)

Motives are the shallowest of political commentary.  "Politician X is doing X because of X."  These discussions normally exist in silos of relevance and are not connected to the whole.  If you like the elected official, allegations of motive sound like conspiracy theories.  If you don't like the person, it's the truth.

But at the end of the day, the "what" matters much more than the "why" does in public affairs.  When people want to learn about changes to their community or the law, they will be much better informed to receive the "what" than the "why".  Nevertheless, motives drive the conversation.  Maybe to make it interesting, but I think the more likely explanation is that it simplifies complex work into easy to recall sound-bites.

I saw an example of this on Thursday at the Ellicott City Revitalization Workshop.  The contractor had posted topics around the room for people to "vote" on in prioritizing Main Street's needs.  One of the attendees yelled the question "Who picked these topics?" and went on to question the motives of those soliciting feedback.  Mind you that no one had had a chance to read any of the topics selected by this point in the evening, which proved out to be rather exhaustive.  Nevertheless, an event of near-unquestionable legitimacy was quickly placed in an ideological box vis-a-vis Ken Ulman and Democrats v. Republicans.

The "what" in this case would be the changes necessary to make a good place great; a much more valuable subject than the "why" (which I never quite understood - is Ken Ulman conspiring to...make Ellicott City better?).  But clearly, with a different perspective, that whole event was pursuant to some larger narrative that I am not aware of and only makes sense in the context of motives.

Be hesitant to ascribe motive.  In all of the days I've spent caring about local politics, the one thing that plays out most often is that things are much more straight-forward than people think.  And most people just want to do good by their constituents.  I've never heard an elected official say that they were going to do something, or not do something, because of a campaign contribution.  That's not to say those things don't take place, but there needs to be a legitimate "what" or the "why" will overtake the discussion.

As soon as you start looking for it, you'll see how much of our political discourse is about motive and how that warps the discussion.  Reject it.  Talk about good ideas, good opportunities, and the leaders that are taking them on.  Those that aren't are probably up to no good.


Orioles are 2.5 games out of the Wild Card spot, leap-frogging the Yankees over the weekend.  This season is still alive (but on serious life support).

The Ravens just looked awful, but managed to win (I'll take it) over the Browns on Sunday.  Oh, and Ray Rice got hurt.

Liz Bowie with the Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland School Assessments are set to continue despite students being taught a curriculum that does not address many of the subjects being tested.  The $9 million annual expense will have no practical utility other than frustrating teachers and students.  This is an outrage (and I don't use that word lightly).

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow comes back to us with some good posts about what he did this summer.

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!