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Perhaps the oldest saw in the political handbook is that "all politics is local." It is true eternally in one sense, at least. We vote locally and the results of all our votes are tallied and given meaning locally. The Electoral College is the last vestige of "localism" nationally; it assures us that the so-called popular vote is discriminated into at least its states, where who knows what transpires between the flick of a lever or the punch of a chad.

Recently, I have become embroiled in local politics; you know: Sheriffs, County Recorders, County Attorneys, Superintendants of Schools, state legislative district Assembly and Senatorial candidates, and the like. Yesterday I met a Democratic candidate for the state Corporation Commission, a body almost owned lock, stock, and spreadsheet by the Republicans for decades, maybe centuries. Her name is Kara Kelty, so if you see that name on any ballot vote for her. She is about 40 years old and holds the same ideas espoused here about corporations, namely, that so-called free-market forces are fantasies and that corporations need regulations like infants need their diapers changed—often!

Local politics is what Barack Obama understands and it is what he is going to bring to this nation, even though we are over 300 millions. His ideas have roots in southside Chicago politics, so they have been tested in a blast furnace of race prejudice, race pride, machine politics, individual initiative, religious biasing, secular pragmatism, and the like. His politics is the art of the possible, and some things are not yet possible, he understands.

Local politics here and where you live is marked by personal animosities born out of petty mistakes and petty thievery covered up by collusion, bribery, fear, and the like. Our County Manager is now in the State Penitentary for defalcations of various kinds. The local school district guy hides behind the provisions of open government by accusing School Board members of violating the Open Meeting Act when three of them talk about anything outside of Board meetings, and so on. Bad teachers are kept on to hide supervisory incompetence. Deputy Sheriffs are let go too late to save the lives of those they have mistakenly shot to death.

It turns out that local people get really riled up about things and expend inordinate amounts of political energy trying to face down mischief and criminality among their elected officials. Locals even break the law themselves trying to fix things ... or fix everyone in the opposite party.

Local politics is seething with energy and passion. It is poorly organized because we are a people jealous of our own predispositions and private domains. It is hard to listen for more than several soundbites to a person at our front doors who is hoping to get our vote on a recall petition or our vote for Sally Stubbs for City Council. Yet we listen because we can respond to them. It is our hope that this messenger from the Party or the town council will hear what we have to say and do something about "that crowd downtown" who don't seem to know how bad things have gotten up here in the burbs.

Eventually, in election years we learn to stop trading soundbites and discover dialogue and discussion. We become political ourselves!

Politics is nasty because it is human and full of human mistakes, errors, crimes, and fears of getting what is due from these actions. Politics is nasty because it is full of egos, larger than usual egos, egos that have become calloused and impervious to mere slings and arrows. Politics is nasty because we choose to avoid taking responsibility for our politicians, those folks who want to spend time getting things done ... and getting themselves festooned with accolades and easy public money for doing public service.

Politics is not necessarily nasty. It is just human activity and requires human responsibility to keep it above board.

When people ask me what has Obama done, I tell them that he has met people in the streets of Chicago who complained about the bitter taste of politics in their own neighborhoods and taught them how to put their own personal skills into the bargain to create responsibility, to create places for their kids to go to play and learn and develop into responsible young men and women. Obama has done this thousands of times; he knows that it works because he knows that within most people there is a hope for things to get better and a willingness to extend themselves again to see if it works. It does work! And there is hope!

It will take a generation to fix the mess that the Republicans and particularly the Bushites have created. But, it can be done. You will hear this in January 2009 ... it will be done with Democrats helping Republicans to learn it again, helping them to understand the true nature of civilization, teaching them that people are basically good and want to be—even if they have been bad recently!

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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