These days, it’s hard to pay much heed to Tip O’Neill’s famous apothegm “All politics is local.” If we are to believe our media, right and left, “All politics is Donaldian.”
We don’t get to hear much else and those of us writing about the subject, myself included, are guilty of exacerbating this monomania. Trump, to his credit and our foolishness, dominates everything. When we hear about other politicians, it’s usually about how their success or failure will affect Donald. Or when a politician like the bilious Maxine Waters seeks to get attention, it’s almost always by attacking Trump as the second coming of Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot (assuming she’s heard of him).
It tends to get tedious — to say the least.
But because I have only weeks ago decamped Los Angeles for Nashville and was interested in making new friends and contacts, I wound up at a small gathering for a candidate for local office, Joe Williams, who is running for the Tennessee House from Davidson County.
My first night in Nashville, as some readers may recall, I attended a rather more national event, featuring Trace Adkins as an opening act for the president. They don’t call this Music City for nothing. (No, I haven’t been to the legendary Bluebird Cafe yet, though it’s only about six minutes from my house.)
But back to local politics. The venue was a lovely home in the lush Oak Hills suburb. After the requisite wine and cheese (and fried chicken), the candidate spoke. There was little talk of Trump or his adversaries. The issue du jour was that most local of issues that affects all of us, ultimately perhaps more than any other — education. Williams is a lawyer but also a former history teacher and he and his wife, also a lawyer, have been focused on this subject for years.
What ensued was a collegial and intelligent discussion of what to do about such matters as school choice, the escalating cost of higher education (and the attendant student loan crisis), the growth of administrators at the expense of actual teachers, and, beneath it all, the overweening bias that has so infected our educational system at all levels, threatening the free expression on which our democratic republic depends.
Everyone, including the candidate, seemed calm and rational, concentrating on solutions. What could be done right there in the Tennesse legislature? Of course, it was a Republican crowd, so the chances of pre-Fourth fireworks were slim.
Speaking of which, as I celebrate my first Fourth of July in my adopted state of Tennessee, between the hot dogs and bourbon (hey, it’s Nashville), I will be reflecting on this: One of the glories of our nation is that, even with a staggering population of 320 million, we are still able to participate in these kind of local events that can affect our lives directly. That corny stuff about “We the People” still obtains, if we want it to.
We owe a debt of gratitude to folks like Williams willing to run that enervating, sometimes humiliating, gauntlet that is competing for office. They are the life blood of whatever democracy we have, especially, as Williams has, if they are willing to communicate directly with their prospective constituents one-on-one and actually listen. (He’s giving everyone his cellphone number to ask questions, but for his sanity, I’m not going to publish it here.)
Newbie that I am, I have no idea if Williams will win. He’s running against another Republican, a dermatologist, and a Democrat lifer in Nashville politics. The odds are stacked against him. He doesn’t have the money of the others and Davidson County — unlike most of Tennessee — skews blue. But he got the vote of this first-time Tennessee voter the other day.
Finally, it would be nice if, for the Fourth, we put a zipper on yelling at each other for a while. We’ve got the greatest country in the history of the world to live in, bar none, even with all the problems we are bombarded with on an hourly basis. The economy’s roaring. Unemployment’s rock bottom, even for minorities. How about a little gratefulness for a change? And a little less of this.
Happy Fourth to all!
Roger L. Simon – co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media – is a novelist and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter. He recently discussed his work on BookTV.