Monday, February 10, 2014

#41 / All Politics

Tip O'Neill was often quoted to the effect that "all politics is local." He even wrote a book with that title. O'Neill served in Congress from January 3, 1953 to January 3, 1987. That is thirty-four years. He served as Speaker of the House for ten years, from January 4, 1977 to January 3, 1987. O'Neill did know something about politics, in other words.

I have favorably quoted O'Neill in this Two Worlds blog before, agreeing with his "all politics is local" idea.

On February 6th, Washington Post columnist George Will proclaimed that O'Neill's maxim is out of date. Will thinks that the "all politics is local" claim has been "rendered anachronistic by the national government that liberals such as O'Neill created."

I do not often agree with Mr. Will. In this case, however, I believe he is making an important point, and one worth thinking about. 

I routinely receive appeals to provide funding for campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives for candidates who come from all over the country. Of course, members of the United States Congress do affect me by their votes, no matter where they come from. There has been a change, however, from the way it used to be. 

Our politics has been "nationalized" in a real way (though I am not so sure that it is "big-government liberals" who should receive the credit or blame, as Will argues). The power of massive corporations is at least as important. More so, actually, to my way of thinking.

It is worth considering what kind of "politics" we have, if all politics is national.

If our intention is to have a politics that accomplishes the goal of "self-government," a government in which we ourselves are in charge of governmental activities, then I think that a human-scale politics is preferable. In fact, that kind of human-scale politics may be essential, if we really want self-government. If all politics isn't local, maybe it isn't really "politics," at all. Not as politics has been envisioned in the Constitution, at least!

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