Sunday, December 10, 2006

PARTISANSHIP: What Does It Mean at the Local Level?

by Kyle Michaelis
In response to my previous post, reader and contributor Elisia Harvey asked:
What does it mean to be a Democrat on the local level (mainly city/town/county level)? What kind of policies do Democrats support on the local level that distinguish them from Republicans?

Without the national platforms/issues defining a person's stance, the only thing that seems to distinguish a candidate is the candidate himself/herself.... I realize many local offices are non-partisan (and rightly so) and other offices are partisan (unrightly so), but for the local offices that are rightly partisan, what distinguishes one party from the other?

Hope this makes sense....I would appreciate any feedback anyone wants to give.

I think Elisia's question makes perfect sense, but I can't give her a very good answer. At the local level, the distinctions between Ds and Rs really are quite exaggerated and undefined. I think even a lot of candidates would say the exact same thing. What differences do exist are probably most recognizable in their respective approaches to economic development.

What's funny is that traditional Republican "Laissez faire" economics really has given way to the idea that government shouldn't just stay out of business' business but should actually subsidize economic development.

While Democrats are open to the possibilities of government taking such a role - hell, they started it - they've really become the more moderate - even perhaps conservative - party because they want to see such programs regulated and seem more likely to expect actual benefits for someone other than corporate shareholders.

When issues of discrimination and minority concern arise, one will also see some pretty big distinctions. With moderates in both parties, this difference is largely just one of priorities. But, on the extremes, there's a huge gap in even admitting when these problems exist - along with differences more moral in nature.

But, even here, partisan labels speak to little more than a tendency. Each candidate must speak for him or herself and be judged on his or her own merits. That's probably easier at the local level because, on the meat and potato issues there addresed, you can't help realizing how much more we have in common than not.

Those are my thoughts, at least. Anyone else care to share their two cents?

For a bit of perspective on the issue, I suggest everyone read this article from last week's Lincoln Journal-Star, emphasizing partisanship on Lincoln's city council to an absurd and insulting degree in regards to - of all things - the city's regulation of electronic billboards.

Lincoln's city council is elected in non-partisan fashion. It's silly and unproductive for the Journal-Star to frame this debate as one of Democrats versus Republicans. One suspects this is their way of lashing out against "the Democrats" because the Journal-Star itself is impacted by the council's regulations.

Perhaps a shot across the bow to warn Lincoln Democrats what they can expect from the local newspaper and the Republican Party in the city's elections this spring - wouldn't you say?


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