The other day when I came home I found a political flier tucked under the mat on our front doorstep. It was a flier from Anne Gonzales, a former Mayor (and current Vice Mayor) of Westerville. Ms. Gonzales is running unopposed in Tuesday’s primary for the Republican nomination for the 19th District of the Ohio House of Representatives, a district that includes New Albany. Her opponent in the fall will be Marian Harris, a Democrat who is serving her first term in the General Assembly.
The flier from Ms. Gonzales was signed “Sorry I missed you. Anne.” That simple message got me to thinking about government, and why I believe that the seemingly never-ending intrusion of the federal government into areas previously reserved for state and local governments is a bad thing for us all. Ms. Gonzales was going door-to-door to meet her potential constituents, no doubt tell them a little bit about herself and then listen to what they had to say. If I had been home I could have given her an earful about any topic of interest to me, should I have chosen to do so.
When local candidates go door-to-door and hear what their potential constituents have to say, they may or may not agree with those sentiments — but at least they know what their constituents think and can consider those honest views when they vote. When was the last time your home was visited by a federal bureaucrat, Senator, or Representative? Given that lack of personal contact, is it any wonder that the officials in our federal government frequently seem so out-of-touch with what real people are thinking? When federal elected officials interact principally with the many members of their staffs, campaign consultants, pollsters, lobbyists, and other elected officials, with an occasional highly controlled “public appearance” or “town meeting” with a carefully selected audience thrown in, they clearly are not likely to have a good sense of the views of average Americans.
We obviously need the federal government to do certain things, like protect the country and establish uniform, non-discriminatory, nationwide rules to govern certain aspects of American life. But we should all be mindful of the federal government usurping authority in areas that properly should be handled by local and state government, like public schools, police and fire protection, local roads, libraries, zoning, and the encouragement of economic development. Those are areas where knowledge of the specific needs of the locality are of paramount importance. In addition, state and local governments can serve as creative, small-scale “laboratories of democracy” that may develop new and better approaches to long-standing problems. If every jot and tittle of American life is the subject of nationwide edicts from Washington, D.C., the possibility of such creative experimentation will be quashed.
I’m sorry I missed Ms. Gonzales, because it would have been interesting to talk to her. In any case, her willingness to stop by reinforced my view that we are better served by a less intrusive federal government and by greater reliance on local and state governments who, from time to time, can get an earful from their friends and neighbors.