Some fine points by Dan Canon, who lives among us right here in Nawbany.
National Politics Taint Local Races And Lay Waste To Societal Norms, by Dan Canon (LEO Weekly)
… In years past, there was not a lot of daylight between Republican and Democratic candidates at the state and municipal levels in Indiana and Kentucky; you often still can’t distinguish one from the other if they don’t tell you. It is not uncommon for a local politician to switch parties depending on who is likely to get more votes at the top of the ticket. So, to a degree, national-level politics have long influenced what goes on in small towns.
The degree has gradually increased over the last few decades, as federal wedge issues have been made the focal point of every political contest in America, from the Clarksville dogcatcher to the Rabbit Hash dogmayor. This shift has not happened by accident; the GOP was shrewd enough to localize national issues in order to dominate state legislatures and redraw the federal map, a strategy that has proved stunningly successful …
Allow me to skip to the conclusion.
… The real question is: Given that these are the devils we know, what does a (Matt) Bevin victory or a (Bob) Hall victory say about the degree to which people have adopted the national lens as the one through which all politics should be viewed? Dissembling, insulting teachers, bulldozing family homes or outright insane behavior — do these still matter to heartland voters on Election Day? Or, has our collective attention span been whittled away to the nubs of abortion and immigration, with no room for anything else?
If the former, then I think there’s real hope for our fragile republic and for the Midwest in particular. Nearly a hundred years ago, an editor of the Terre Haute Tribune said of iconic socialist Eugene Debs: “Ninety-five percent of the people [in Terre Haute] don’t like his ideas, but they worship the man.” For now, it is still acceptable — even desirable — to cast yourself as an independent voter in small-town Indiana. You vote not for the party but for the candidate you know; your friend, your neighbor, your friend’s neighbor, someone you went to elementary school with. You couldn’t imagine them doing anything too nefarious. As long as this is still true, there is a chance, however slim, that progressives who’ve laid roots in their communities can win municipal offices and state legislatures. In red states, the image of left-wing populists has needed rehabilitation at least since the McCarthy era, and mainstays of small towns are just the people to do it. Alas, it seems this cycle will be more about expelling the worst devils we know and meeting some new ones. Let’s hope we can at least do that.
Of course, it depends on what is meant by “progressive,” given that the differences between Bob Hall and Jeff Gahan are paper-thin at best, but I’ll refrain from quibbling with a thought-provoking essay.
As LEO reminds us: Dan Canon is a civil rights lawyer and law professor. “Midwesticism”is his short-documentary series about Midwesterners who are making the world a better place. Watch it at: patreon.com/dancanon.