All Politics is Local

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Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tip O’Neal, use to say “all politics is local.” Since then it’s become the title of a book by Meaghan Winter, but what she had to say was not what I expected.

When I think of politics I think of government that is closest to the people: my local commissioners, my city, my county. But all 65,758 square miles of my state of Florida?

Winter emphasizes action at the state level. That’s what she calls “local.” She emphasizes local action above what I’ll call hyperlocal, such as counties and cities (commissioners and mayors). I prefer hyperlocal or home-based action myself, but if action must be fomented at the state level, Winter’s book is an explanation of why it must be done.

I live in central Florida and our capitol, Tallahassee, is a million moons away from me. With so much going on there, how do I keep up? How do I reach my state representatives? I mean, really reach them. Not the kind of “reaching” that gets you a form letter, but reaching so as to persuade. While Winter argues that all politics is local at the state level, Florida’s politicians aren’t hearing our voices at that level.

What’s worse is that hyperlocal politicians, like our mayors and commissioners, have been rendered symbolic on most matters due to the state’s fixation on preempting all municipalities with one large bruh. Winters says that “since 2010, state lawmakers have increasingly passed so-called preemption laws, which restrict towns and cities from passing laws different from those approved by state lawmakers,” and that is one reason her book is so state-level focused. Our hyperlocal lawmakers are left with little more than an honorary role in their communities, while the state controls what happens in backyards everywhere around our sandy peninsula.

“[Florida] has been a state where anti-government fears have been aroused in the local populace,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, no doubt due in part to the lack of ability of this populace to effectuate change in Tallahassee. Winter hits this issue over and over again in her book, even being so bold as to point out that at the state level our representatives don’t “give a shit” about Floridians. [I take exception when it comes to Darren Soto (D), who is aces in my book, but otherwise can see what she means when it comes to my other state rep, Sam Killebrew (R). He scored an F on Florida’s People First Report Card on issues like affordable housing, the economy, health care, our public schools, clean energy, clean water, reproductive rights, and the freedom to vote.]

Only at the hyperlocal level would any Floridian find representatives who care. A finer point that Winter’s makes is not all politicians are cut from the same cloth. In other words, if you look you can find some politicians who genuinely care.

Affluent and arrogant state leader, Rick Scott makes for a fine comparison in Winter’s book between those politicians who don’t give a shit about the welfare of Americans and those who do. Scott is a man who prevented federal funds from coming into the state, funds that would’ve addressed poverty and health insurance issues. To this day, Scott continues to act against the best interests of Floridians while his term as governor saw an expansion of the gap between rich and the poor in Florida.

Winter’s book contrasts Scott with Democratic opponent Alex Sink to show how the two differed both in actuality and from the perspective of the voter. According to Winter, in a fictional world, where people vote according to their own selfish, best interests and not according to party line, there would never have been room for a character like Rick Scott.

All Politics is Local by Meaghan Winter. It’s very educational.

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