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When candidates talk, pay attention to the road map and not just the destination

The art of political speech is one that nearly every keen observer of the game understands, though few are adept at its execution – it’s the art of talking a lot and saying very little, it’s the art of grand ideas and minimal planning, it’s the art of exuding empathy while living wholly separated from the reality of constituents – because it flows in the exact opposite direction of desirable human action.

In our day-to-day interactions, we expect brutal honesty at any expense, we expect well-drafted and well-organized plans before endeavoring upon any task, we’re quick to distrust and can quickly tell when someone is attempting to scam, fool or trick us – why then do we allow politicians to peddle assertions only marginally more realistic than a fairy tale?

To be sure, all most politicians have to do to rally support is show a basic knowledge of a community’s biggest needs and concerns and claim as believably as they can muster that they alone are the ones capable of curing these ills.

In Selma, that often sounds like calls to solve the city’s trash and litter problem or to patch the potholes riddling city streets or bring in new businesses and jobs or adopt more transparency and accountability within city government, but it very rarely sounds like actionable plans for addressing these crises – indeed, we are being asked to vote on the destination rather than the road map by which we will arrive there.

We need less destination and more road map.

Indeed, something must be done to keep city streets clean, but which candidate has put forth a plan for getting it done?

Indeed, we need more transparency in city government, we need fewer jagged streets, we need more businesses and opportunities, but which candidate has laid out a plan to achieve any of these ends?

Anyone can parrot the concerns of the people and rearrange their language to make it sound as though they can address those concerns – knowing people worry about crime, a candidate can easily say, “We need to do something about the crime in this city,” knowing that everyone agrees with the point and, therefore, a plan is unnecessary – but it takes a real visionary to get into the nitty-gritty of drafting plans and admitting that not every battle can be fought and won right away.

As the candidates speak, listen for those with road maps because, overall, everyone has the same destination in mind.