One sometimes hears that local politics should be purely local, without regard to state or (especially) national issues. Local politics has never been purely local, and in any event purely local is a stunted standard.
For decades, in small cities like Whitewater, the disingenuous claim of an apolitical local atmosphere belied a center-right politics. Which candidates ran, what they felt about economic policy, their stands on social issues: these were all political positions falsely presented as apolitical, as though conservative positions weren’t about politics but merely an expression of the natural order of the known universe.
One sometimes heard that the only goal was to have adults in the room. Most of these adults tuned out to be comfortable champions of the right, pushing their views while insisting there were no other legitimate views.
Since Walker in Wisconsin, when state politics became more divided along ideological lines, and increasing under Trump across the nation, a new generation of critics of Walker’s and Trump’s positions has come on the scene, including locally. In response to that rising local opposition, the right cries out: don’t be so political, that’s not how we talk around here.
The same small-town conservatives who advanced decades of right-leaning policies in a Trojan horse of supposed apolitical common sense now bemoan open, candid efforts to advance a contrary politics of the center or center-left.
(Whitewater’s not a libertarian city, and isn’t likely to become one. An alternative politics in Whitewater is arising along center-left, not libertarian, lines. Whitewater is also not a radical city. Claims about radicalism in Whitewater are as credible as Bigfoot sightings: someone may have seen something, but if so it was an oversized raccoon.)
In any event, the quality of local politics these past decades has been poor: riddled with dodgy data, weak reasoning, and self-promotion. A more competitive local political scene will compel better effort all around. These changes will, of course, be unsettling to those who’ve lived self-satisfied and self-promoting.
Too bad. No one is conscripted into politics, as elected or appointed officials. If a more competitive local political scene, with a greater range of ideological choices, is too hard for the right, there’s always life in the private sector. If the center-left doesn’t try to make its case, then they’ve squandered the moment.
In all of this, if it’s too troublesome for elected or appointed officials to advance open political principles, then they’re not suited to political office.