In 2020, perhaps more than any time in modern U.S. political history, the left is talking to itself, and the right is doing the same. Each party’s political center is shrinking, and independent voices in both parties are endangered species.
Bitter divisiveness has produced a mean-spirited politics of disqualification and exclusion. Anyone on the “other side” is not eligible for political participation or even social inclusion.
Locally, our choice in 2020 is to continue importing politics of disqualification and exclusion from Washington and Sacramento, or reclaim our historically more user friendly civic culture.
Being stewards of nature and development is insufficient if we are not also stewards of small town character, too often sacrificed on the altar of political pettiness that sometimes afflicts all of us.
Local governance has reflected old Laguna character with less consistency and competence in recent years. Still, even with embarrassing flaws, we have more to be proud about than to apologize for to be sure.
Yet, as 2020 begins, polarization in City Hall has some feeling excluded by others who felt excluded in the past. Perhaps not party politics per se, but it mimics current extreme partisan politics of exclusion in our state and nation.
Similarly, the School Board’s intolerance for dissent has led to exclusion of an elected leader from the duties of her office. That forced an elected local leader to seek judicial oversight of board actions. Not for her own benefit, but to prevent those who voted for her from being denied equal representation. Overkill tactics of a bullying lawyer approved by the School Board and senior staff so far taints only the board’s reputation, and is not yet perceived as loss of quality classroom education.
It’s not enough that local governance is nonpartisan under state law. We need reconciliation and forgiveness to restore a more truly local governing culture.
It’s fine to have national political party ties. There’s no impenetrable firewall between local, state and national issues.
But across the political spectrum, we can find common ground restoring civil, courteous and compassionate non-partisan local governance traditions.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach