“All politics is local.”
So the legendary Boston ward heeler Tip O’Neill said, and in the main, he was right.
However, in recent years those big, pressing national issues have trickled down to infect local politics with America’s maddening “us or them” ideology, when to my way of thinking these grassroots races are about integrity and competence as they pertain to the stewardship of resources, public safety and quality of life issues.
What I’ve come here today to discuss might be viewed as political in nature, I suppose. But as a writer, one charged with knowing words and understanding concepts, it has more to do with political semantics than my flagging interest in the games our local movers and shakers insist on playing, whatever their party affiliation.
To wit: I’ve just now glanced at a sample ballot for the Floyd County election cycle on November 8.
The ballot is organized into the familiar categories of Democrat, Libertarian and Republican, save for our school board races, which are officially non-partisan for the purpose of campaigning and balloting.
Obviously in real life these school board candidates are D, R, L or ABP (Absolutely Bonkers Party), but the overarching point is that they’re the only ones not identified by party affiliation on the actual local ballot.
What this suggests to me is that in the absence of explicit legislative admonitions, all the other local races are intended to be partisan in nature, including the one for Floyd Circuit Court judge.
If not, then why is party affiliation indicated beside the candidates’ names on the ballot?
The judicial sinecure in question was occupied for many years by Terry Cody, who is retiring, and while I haven’t researched past elections altogether closely, or considered the possibility of informal agreements existing in olden times (baseball players called them the “unwritten rules”), I’ve never had a single doubt that Cody was a Democrat.
If for no other reason, I knew this because it said so right there on the ballot every time I voted.
As such, why is it that local Democrats are seized with paroxysms of bile in response to Republican judicial candidate Justin Brown’s not-exactly-shocking revelation that he’s a Republican?
He has identified himself as a Republican on his yard signs, and it’s also (duh) how he is listed on the ballot.
Exactly which rule is he violating?
This reaction is especially puzzling given that if local Democrats are keen to drive home a contrived “straw man” point that Brown is an extremist (I’ve heard the whispers, so don’t insult my intelligence, please), somehow emblemizing the GOP’s hostility to women and families, wouldn’t they be absolutely delighted in his decision to identify openly as a Republican?
Doesn’t this make it easier for the Democrats to propagandize?
And wouldn’t they want their own candidate, Dana Eberle-Peay, to do likewise, as a Democrat, thus reinforcing their simplistic but perhaps potentially effective campaign dichotomy, phrased as “D good, R bad,” or some such?
Or, more enticingly to me, is it actually an Occam’s Razor type of proposition, and party chairman-for-life Adam Dickey is simply too busy consolidating even more municipal power via his recently appointed city council seat (has he ever won a contested election among the general public for anything?) to dispense properly Machiavellian advice to candidates he assumes will lose in county races, anyway?
That Occam was a sharp fellow. We used to drink schnapps together. He may be on to something. Long ago during the heyday of the pre-miracle New York Mets, legendary manager Casey Stengel called a clubhouse meeting and addressed his horrific squad:
“Does anybody here know how to play this game?”
Look, it would be fine with me if ALL city and county offices were chosen by a non-partisan ballot, but they’re not, and the chances to change this situation seem slim. If it comes to a vote, I’m all in. Let’s all be Floyd Countians or New Albanians, and leave the patronage-pie-sharing entities out of it.
As a European social democrat marooned in Indiana, I’ve long since come to the realization that there is no place for me as a Republican or Democrat, at least not the way our two-party system works (it’s not in the Constitution, folks, but I digress).
Rather, I assess candidates on a case by case basis, and subject them to harder scrutiny if they display too many outward signs of having consumed their respective brands of Kool-Aid.
At present, I see no signs of objectionable distemper on the part of either judicial aspirant. But I also understand that many voters will make their assessment based on partisan national issues that have little if any resonance locally.
For a cynic like me, it’s hilarious: Democrats and Republicans alike support judicial restraint (unless they don’t), and are opposed to judicial “activism” (unless they aren’t). Both parties accuse the other of playing partisan politics with freedom and justice, and ironically, they’re both right.
As for the resonance of abortion amid the current campaign, I can’t really blame local Democrats for running against SCOTUS, because SCOTUS has invited them to do so. I believe the GOP will come to regret “winning” the abortion issue.
However, I will lift an eyebrow at local Democrats who accuse a local Republican of being partisan only because he declares his party affiliation openly, and in opposing this villainy, engage in their own partisan sniping during the course of decrying his party identity.
Like this: Did Eberle-Peay ride on the party’s Harvest Homecoming parade float? If so, that sounds overtly partisan to me. If not, then she’s to be credited for holding to her principles.
And yet none of this matters very much to me. In the interests of full disclosure, Justin Brown is a friend of mine.
Is Brown conservative?
Yes, I think so. As I’ve been able to discern his viewpoints, he seems classically conservative in the increasingly rare, old-school way. As noted previously, I’ve spotted a few examples of “private” campaigning, in which local Democrats have whispered about my friend’s extremism. If you know him at all, that’s laughable. He’s a family-oriented person, inquisitive and thoughtful.
Conversely, if Eberle-Peay wins, I’m sure she’ll fill the position with aplomb and be a fine judge. Until then, it’s just that I believe Brown is better qualified, and I will vote for him accordingly.
Verily, not a soul should care about my political endorsements.
If the object of political discourse is respecting individual conscience, I hope readers will apply this dictum to my words here. I’ve no interest in campaigning for Brown, or affixing a yard sign to our property, which my wife and I have decided to no longer do, not because of politics, but because yard signs are annoyingly tacky.
If elected, Justin Brown stands to be a good judge. You, dear reader, are welcome to apply your own standards to this determination.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a beer to catch.