Editor's Note: All politics is local

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12.6.11 Tip O’Neill’s famous phrase “All politics is local” is usually taken to mean that voters, no matter how grand the race, make decisions based on their immediate concerns, not on broad ideas about governance and political philosophy. Interesting to note that as a charismatic Irish Democrat from Boston and the longest serving Speaker of the House in history, O’Neill made his name in politics by opposing the Vietnam War, pushing hard for Nixon’s impeachment, and becoming the ideological foil to Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics.

I knew a political operative in Chicago, since moved on to D.C., who used to get upset by the way people misunderstood and then misused O’Neill’s analect. For this guy, the advice wasn’t a warning to limit the scope of campaign messages, it was a simple reminder that in order to win elections, you have to start with a base at home and build out from there.

When I arrived to take the editor’s seat at C-VILLE, I decided I didn’t want to wade into longstanding local disputes. First off, it makes sense to watch a while before you draw conclusions. And second, as a reporter, I’d always hated writing about the transportation and school funding issues that divided communities and never went away. Most people find them boring, and the people who don’t won’t ever stop hammering on the points they’ve been making for a decade. More ink often just tightens the knot.

This week, though, we’ve decided to revisit the issue of the Western Bypass, in part because James Bacon approached us with a new view on the state’s role in the process and in part because Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd’s decisive re-election in the Rivanna District can be seen as an affirmation of his position on building that road, or at least, a sign that voters want the issue resolved more than they care about the implementation of Places29.

Back to O’Neill. If all politics is local, what do we make of the state ramming home a $200 million road building project after decades of local opposition? I guess I think back to a North Carolina politician who once told me that if the state wants to build a road and you don’t want it built, you better find them another one.––Giles Morris
 

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