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November 13, 2009

The Path Not Takenů

Derek Shackelford

Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, once coined the phrase, “All politics is local.” This can be interpreted to mean politicians should be able to understand their local constituents and the policies that affect them the most – the local political issues.


This continually holds true election after election. Whether it be a board of education, city, county, local municipality, state or national.  Ultimately it will be the local issues and problems that have the greatest impact on our everyday lives.


Political pundits from both the Democratic and Republican parties have tried to spin the elections that occurred in New Jersey and Virginia earlier this month. There was plenty of fodder to go around in reference to what it all means for the 2010 election cycle. Republicans believe that it was an indicator of what would be occurring next year. Democrats were suggesting that the change of power in those states meant absolutely nothing.


What else would we expect? No one it seems wants to recognize that voters can make decisions on the choices in front of them. Too often we the voters are left with what we should know based upon what someone else tells us rather than deciphering for ourselves. Then, after the votes are cast, there is this analytical conversation on why voters have made their decision. Some have suggested when it came to the governor races in New Jersey and Virginia that it was a pronouncement against President Barack Obama’s administration’s policies. Maybe? Possibly?


How about the voters selecting their respective candidates based on what issues affected them the most when it came to their state rather than a blanket disagreement with the president.


Let’s look at the races.


In Virginia, the governor’s seat changed parties. Republican Bob McDonnell was the declared winner. It has been true in the past that the governor’s seat was occupied by the opposite party in the White House. See L. Douglas Wilder. How about the voters deciding on Bob McDonnell because he was the better candidate and offered a better plan for the future? Not that it was about the party, but about the person.


The same could be said for New Jersey. Gov. Jon Corzine lost his election bid to former U. S. Attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie. Governor Corzine was mired in political corruption scandals and spent much of his campaign time fending off this issue. Why would a voter be inclined to give him a vote of confidence?


What I am merely suggesting is that it is time for voters to go beyond parties and vote for the candidate who offers the best vision instead of mere rhetoric. We must be smarter than declaring allegiance to one political party over another. We can stay stuck in loyalty to a party and miss out on what is really important when it comes to solving the issues before us.


Independent voters so often seem to be in the best position. In this way whoever campaigns for office cannot just go with the party platform and tow the party line.


The candidate must – and should – earn the vote of those who would be casting ballots. Independent voters are not loyal to anyone and do not pledge blind allegiance to just one party.


There are times when voters will cross party lines to cast a vote, but these are few and far between. So, since all politics are local, let’s cast votes in the future that will help us to solve the simple and everyday concerns. Let us require that those who ask for our vote articulate vision instead of rhetoric; leaders who lead instead of being led; and elected officials who serve the masses and not just a selected few.


Our communities and political discourse will ultimately be better for it.



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