A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for a Dallas Observer story about a local congressional race. The point of the article was that politics — even local politics — is rarely local anymore.

 

There’s a lot of truth to that statement. Sadly enough, I don’t think most of us care.

 

I feel better, though, knowing it’s a malady that doesn’t just affect little ol’ me.

 

Listen to how Dick Cheney, our Park Cities neighbor and George W. Bush’s running mate, recently explained away his voting record of skipping 14 of the 16 elections held since his Dallas County voter’s registration in 1995:

 

“Go look at the elections in Texas. There’s an awful lot of them. A lot of these were issues — Highland Park school board issues, those kinds of things.

 

“In all of the major elections, federal elections, primaries and general elections, I voted every single election for the last 22 years.”

 

Now, I suppose it could be — and should be — a matter of debate whether a school board issue qualifies as a “major election.”

 

But Mr. Cheney was just articulating what many of us seem to believe: There are “elections” and then there are elections.

 

Now, before you start shaking your head about what a slacker Cheney is for not voting, make a quick visit to www.openrecords.org, click over to Dallas County Voting Records, type in your name (or my name, or your neighbor’s name or your favorite TV or newspaper reporter’s name), and see how we compare. You’ll find out a lot of us, including our “leaders,” have done worse than Mr. Cheney.

 

You’ll also find the reason few politicians talk much about local issues anymore — we’re sending them the message from the voting booth that we aren’t going to hold them accountable for the “little” things in life.

 

Little things, for example, like improving our air quality in Dallas right now. Like funding our city’s police and fire departments more competitively today. Like boosting our state’s commitment to better educating our children this year.

 

These are issues we actually can do something about — today.

 

But instead, I’m hearing frustrating, finger-pointing discussions about prescription drugs, the greenhouse effect and national budget surpluses. And, of course, an occasional reference to abortion and campaign finance reform, for good measure.

 

Like the rest of us, most candidates probably started their journey with a simple thought: I’m going to make a difference in something local right here in front of me.

 

But somewhere along the line, concern for the “major” issues started squeezing the juice out of this quest to make a difference on the “little” local issues.

 

Of course, it’s not too late; hopefully, many of us will be staring at a ballot in our local voting booth next month with a “major election” decision to make.

 

Right, Mr. Cheney?

 

 

 


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