You can feel it coming…it’s in the air. Local political gadflies are all abuzz about the 2020 election. Will it be Trump and Biden, or will a new political star rise to challenge the incumbent?
I published an article about Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard being a qualified candidate, even though she was born in Samoa. I was commenting on constitutional questions about the “natural born citizen” clause in Article II of the Constitution.
But because she is a 2020 candidate, readers from all over the country flooded my social media wanting my opinion on other candidates, immigration, impeachment, FBI spying, trade wars, diplomacy to keep the peace, and strategic readiness if diplomacy fails.
It reminded me that, if we let them, right here in Laguna Beach, small town purveyors of boringly predictable national political drivel will suck up all the public affairs oxygen debating statewide, nationwide, and worldwide political party platform narratives.
2020 already promises to be unlike any other, and there is high risk of political party-induced blindness to what should be shared interests in local issues. So, a special intentionality is called for to focus on preserving the integrity of local nonpartisan elections, in which nonpartisan candidates take stands on nonpartisan issues.
It is fine for nonpartisan candidates to have national political party affiliations, but I have seen up close and personal how party-driven national identity politics can obscure rather than clarify choices in local elections.
What I learned as a senior constitutional lawyer in the White House, National Security Council and State Department for 20 years, is that Democrats get it right and get it wrong about as often as Republicans. Neither party has a monopoly on wisdom or folly, both are capable of doing good and evil. Mostly, each party is ever eager to correct the other party’s mistakes, which is why the two-party system has made American federalism a success story.
When former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neil distilled the truism “All politics is local,” he meant politicians who come to Washington and forget about local issues don’t last long in Washington. It should work the other way too—candidates and officials who make nonpartisan local office about national party politics should find themselves on the endangered species list.
If we can keep local politics about local issues, neighbors who disagree on national issues may be able to stay civil and work together on local issues so we can find common ground for the good of our town.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach