Embracing the process of elections

In the 1994 film “Legends of the Fall,” Alfred Ludlow arrives at the family’s Montana ranch to announce his intention to run for Congress. Alfred is accompanied by several important businessmen and associates.

“Father, l have come to ask for your blessing,” he informs Col. Ludlow. “You see, these gentlemen and a great many others want me to run for office.”

Col. Ludlow smiles and asks: “And what do you gentlemen hope to get out of this? What do you want for yourselves, should my son be elected?”

Alfred didn’t appreciate his father’s interrogatives, but the colonel’s questions were clear, concise and relevant.

The colonel trains his eyes on his son and asks: “Do you think these men back you out of patriotism and admiration?”

Now, more than a century later, the “what’s in it for me?” factor persists. And since many office holders enjoy lucrative careers by peddling influence, it behooves us to ascertain why candidates choose to run for office.

Is it genuinely inspired by a love of country or community? Or, motivated by the opportunity to wield power in hopes of fattening an ego, purse or wallet?

National elections are extraordinarily expensive. The money required to mount a meaningful campaign is prohibitive to the vast majority of potential leaders.

Campaign reform proposals are floated from time to time, yet money continues to dictate which men and women serve in our most critical federal leadership positions.

However, though campaign funding also is pivotal at the local level, it is not nearly as imperative. An individual with a meaningful message can make it resonate if he or she endeavors to meet, greet and communicate with voters.

Too often we forget our local leaders have a greater impact than senators, governors and presidents on our daily lives and activities. And, unlike state and federal public figures, local officials (mayors, commissioners, council members, etc.) should be easily accessible and willing to lend an ear regarding your most pertinent thoughts and concerns.

After all, the basic purpose of these office holders is to serve the public. Those forgetting that fundamental function should be dispatched to seek employment elsewhere.

Elections present citizens with important choices. By taking the time to investigate candidates’ leadership qualities and positions they take on significant issues, voters can enhance the quality of local government.

Take the time to become an informed voter. Consider each candidate’s intelligence, honesty, motives and ability to communicate.

Again, it is your government. Your choice. Your future.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association.