Friday, January 27, 2012

Wow, People Are Still Stupid

Normally I won't read any "Letters to the Editor" section of any newspaper. Not because I'm against people expressing their right to free speech, but because they're stupid. If I sound elitist, it's because I am.

I have very little concern for the "common man's" opinion. Newspapers feel obligated to allow for everyone to chime in on a story, which is understandable. It facilitates discussion on relevant topics. But the discussion is almost always worthless when people have little clue what they're talking about. Even worse, if you ever want to find out what crazies do with their free time, look at the comments section of any news organization's website. The truthers, birthers, and everyone else come out in droves.

Last week, I broke one of my own rules and read through that very section in the Detroit Free Press. One of the letters the paper published was from a citizen of Troy being critical of their non-partisan elections for city office.

The writer doesn't like non-partisan elections because he believes that lack of party affiliation allows for candidates to hide their true selves from the public. At the center of his criticism was the Mayor of Troy, Janice Daniels, who apparently doesn't like gay people. She said so one time on facebook. Once this little "gaffe" was revealed publicly, she received an appropriate level of condemnation for her words.

The Mayor's response was something well short of an apology. She pointed out that the comments were made before she even considered running. That should make it all better, right? Well no, it won't. Having an openly homophobic Mayor isn't good, especially for a wealthy suburb town like Troy that has reputation for being cosmopolitan. But that's another topic for another time.

Our writer friend seems to think that had she run as a Republican (she most likely is given her involvement with the Tea Party), we would have known right away that she possesses all the negative traits of Republicans. Unfortunately, this person seems to make the same mistake a lot of people make: linking local politics to national politics.

There are a few reasons many local governments have non-partisan elections. They're too small to address national issues. There isn't a Republican or Democratic way to fix streetlights and potholes. Cities are often highly partisan one way or another, prohibiting the minority partisans from running for office. Plus, a party label is nothing more than an endorsement of coalitions.

Cities like Troy have no say in whether or not gay and lesbian couples can get married. They can't outlaw guns. They are simply creatures of the state, meaning what the state can bring you into the world, and it can take you out. Local governments provide basic community services that we cannot otherwise receive from the private sector, like law enforcement.

Some cities in Michigan do have partisan ballots on their city councils. Cities like Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor have that and what you see is one side has a monopoly. Such monopolies discourage those of a different political persuasion from getting involved in local politics.

More to the point, it's not uncommon if someone does seek elected office on the local level, they often join the other party in an attempt to get elected, or remain elected like in Ann Arbor when Marcia Higgins switched sides and Stephen Rapundalo left the Republicans to run for city council as a Democrat). Conservative Republicans can't win in a town like Ann Arbor.

So, even though we know for a fact that Mayor Daniels is a Tea Party activist, it doesn't mean everyone elected to office on one slate will tow the party line, especially at the local level where they can't really do the things they can do in Lansing or Washington. Are we okay with that?

1 comment:

dmarks said...

So often the letters are not the common man's opinion at all. The letters are form letters from national political pressure groups. I figured this out when I was seeing the same letters in multiple newspapers. All you need to do is google a sentence or two from a suspicious letter, and you will find it in online newspaper web sites scattered across multiple states.