January 8, 2013

National politics and local politics

If there's anyone who knows politics, it's Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. I don't always agree with him, but even when I disagree, he and his site do a great job of making me think.

Almost all of his great work, though, is on the national level, where it's easy to find the large audience he needs to sustain TPM as a business. It turns out that he - like most people - doesn't pay nearly as much attention locally:

I've followed New York politics for 25 years. I lived nearby in college. And I've now lived here for real for 8 years. But in almost every sense I'm a neophyte to the city's politics. My political mind still lives in DC or in the country at large. New York is just where I live more or less apolitically with my family.

The rest of the article makes clear that he's slightly more aware of local politics than that sounds, but it's not nearly as deep as his national coverage. The article talks primarily about people, not issues, with a touch of party.

National politics is much easier to learn and discuss - there are armies of people, many of them paid, who explain and discuss it at various level of detail and quality. State politics, even in the relatively huge Empire State, is a much tinier interest, and local politics, even in the larger cities, is a major jump down.

National politics is important and the gossip can be fascinating, but stories about national politics overwhelmingly teach us that politicians (and sometimes bureaucrats and soldiers) are what matters, with citizens turning up at the polling place or writing letters beseeching the powerful to do something good.

I dream of reversing that, of encouraging people look around their neighborhood to see what they can do, rather than hoping enough people across the country might agree with them. There is so much we can do - so much we can change - if we're willing to start on a smaller but critically important stage.

Dryden has already demonstrated how important local activity can be, as an awakened populace encouraged the Town Board to ban hydrofracking and the Town has stood its ground against an ever-shifting cast of powerful characters. I'm pleasantly surprised that people I encounter elsewhere have heard of Dryden, support Dryden, and want to know more of the story.

Local politics can make a huge difference - we just have to figure it out, and participate.

Posted by simon at January 8, 2013 8:13 AM in
Note on photos