Friday, July 6, 2018

#187 / Bottoms Up!

The picture above could be of my hometown, Santa Cruz, California. A picture of Santa Cruz can be found at the bottom of this posting, for comparison purposes. In fact, the image at the top is of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Forbes has named Lancaster one of its "coolest cities to visit." Santa Cruz already has plenty of tourists, so my purpose here is definitely not to stimulate more tourism. That said, I do confess that I live in a pretty "cool" city and am proud of it!

Thomas FriedmanThe New York Times' columnist, used Lancaster as an example in a column that ran in The Times' July 4, 2018, edition. The title of Friedman's column in the hard copy was "Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up."

Friedman is right! Local communities may be the only places in our country, at the current time, that a politics of democratic self-government is still functioning. I am not sure whether or not the Fourth of July timing for Friedman's column was deliberate, but it was certainly appropriate, since democratic self-government is what the American Revolution was all about. 

Frankly, I am worried about citizen-based democracy in my own hometown, since elected officials here are more and more turning over key policy decisions to the unelected staff. My list of the "Five Simple Things" that an elected official needs to do includes the following as Rule #2:

Rule #2: “Remember You're In Charge.” There is a bureaucratic momentum present in every institution (certainly including government). An elected official needs to remember that he or she was elected to run the bureaucracy not the other way around.

What I most liked about Friedman's column was that it echoed an observation that I have made pretty regularly in this blog. We can't have "self-government" unless we get involved in government ourselves. Leaving politics and government to elected officials and bureaucrats is a formula for disaster. We are seeing this work itself out at the national level right now. We need to be sure that we engage, as citizens, from the "bottom up," if we want to protect and preserve our democratic heritage. 

The entire Friedman column is worth reading. Here is the paragraph that most caught my attention (emphasis added):

At 7:30 Friday morning in early June, the Hourglass leaders in Lancaster were all sitting around the kitchen table at Art Mann Sr.’s house, as they do every Friday. The seven men and women representing different Lancaster societal and business interests were discussing the region’s shortage of clean water, because of farm runoff, fertilizer and salt on the streets. None is in city government or an elected politician; they’re just respected volunteer community activists who will make a recommendation, based on research, to the city or county to get a problem fixed and help galvanize resources to do it. They all know one another’s party affiliation, but they’ve checked them at Mann’s front door.

As a toast to democratic self-government, "Bottoms Up" is just right!

Image Credits:
(1) -
(2) - Gary Patton Personal Photo

1 comment:

  1. Grass roots, neighborhood assemblies, community coalitions, federations of neighborhood assemblies, ad-hoc interest groups, Libertarian Municipalism... these are all descriptions for local political action by local residents. This is how we get things done, not how things get done to us!


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