Why the local is so important

Sam Smith– The recent elections were another example of how real change is produced from the bottom up. For example, while three black candidates for governor or senator didn’t make it in the south, there is no doubt but that doing as well as they did is a sign of change.

There are plenty of examples in recent history such as the number of local environmental laws before it became a significant national interest, gay rights, and legalizing marijuana.

Liberals and progressives have had a tendency to downplay the importance of local action and local power in favor of emphasizing national change. The latter is certainly desirable but surprisingly frequently it depends on strong and long efforts at the local level.

Further, Americans favor local government first, then state, then national. So succeeding at the bottom becomes a message for the top.

One of the ways progressives could help themselves at the national level is to propose measures that leave some choice at the state and local level. Civil rights would obviously not be one of these, but many decisions such as public works bills offer the opportunity for some local decision-making.

This would increase the support for national measures and make the national government appear less bossy.

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