Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Step #1: Elect the Dog Catcher
Okay. I admit the headline is chocked just full of "snark" but maybe it at least got your attention. And now, having your undivided, let's talk seriously.
As long as there has been political parties, the phrase "From the Courthouse to the Whitehouse" has been a battle cry. As near as I can tell, both parties have used it from time-to-time but it generally rings hollow to most of us and serves as little more than a reminder to go farther down the ballot than selections for President, US Senator and Congressman. The truth is, even though we don't consider it, those local races are critical to our agenda.
Ever since I graduated from college, I have been a "local government" junkie. I got hooked on City Planning and public administration in my junior year of college and never let go. Most of my fellow "Polysci" buddies were completely hooked on International Affairs but not nerdy 'ole me. I knew that local government was "where the action" is. A decision made by a local council person or even a local bureaucrat can have a direct and immediate impact on hundreds if not thousands of lives almost instanteously. And even more significantly, that council person or bureaucrat has to have day-to-day contact with the very people who either benefitted or suffered with his or her decision. Yes. Local government IS where the action is.
Moreover, the progressive agenda works best at the local level. I often marvelled at how anyone could serve a term of office as a local Mayor and still call themselves a conservative (or more appropriately Libertarian). The progressive agenda is played out modestly and simply on the local level: Government protects the weak from the strong, promotes the general well-being of the community, and safeguards the health and safety of its citizens. It's really quite elegant.
The Republican Godfather of the "Conservative Revolution" , Richard Vigeire, said that conservatives started their own "Courthouse to the Whitehouse" movement in the 70's after Nixon practically destroyed the Republican Party. They felt that conservatives had to start influencing from the ground up...or from the grass-roots up. And they've been very successful.
Now Nathan Newman reminds us that we have to do the same. We have to start the progressive revolution all over again. And we do it one elected position at a time. Here's his take on it.
The point of the report, "Governing the Nation from the Statehouses: The Rightwing Agenda in the States and How Progressives Can Fight Back", is that progressives are too fixated on the White House and Capitol Hill and are ignoring the rightwing's campaigns in the states, where the Right can not only have as much influence on changing policy in the country as at the national level but can also undermine progressives political power in profound ways.
But there's another reason progressives should be paying more attention to state politics and policies. If you hadn't noticed, those in power in DC don't care what progressives think. We can win an occasional defensive fight, as with protecting social security, but we can't win any progressive victories.
If there's a primary in your neighborhood, be sure to get out and vote today. And don't just pick off the "top" of the ticket.....look for that dogcatcher too....