Bob Franken




I had dragged my daughter Jessica to House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s off-camera briefing. She was just a sprout, but she knew who the Tipster was. He not only had political shrewdness, but so much Boston blarney, Irish blarney. So sure, she knew who the Speaker of the House was.
I was the combined proud father and reporter regularly covering O’Neill. I had arranged with his chief of staff, Chris Matthews (yeah, THAT Chris Matthews), for Jess to attend. I must admit that I was a proud poppa, as she hid her boredom in politeness — until we were leaving, that is. Then, as we were milling around in the outer sanctum of the speaker’s office, Jessica exclaimed in the loud voice that only an 8-year-old can have, “That wasn’t so bad, Daddy!”
Jess grew up around politics and politicians, and grew more and more disgusted with both. I can’t really speak for her, but I’ll try: It was because of what it took to govern this country and what it took in eroded virtue to make any progress at all.
She’ll agree with me, I’m sure, that “money rules” has become the be-all-end-all motivation for change, good or bad, but remembers fondly Tip O’Neill and his association with the belief that “all politics is local.
We pundits have it backward: We take an issue that has tremendous importance back home and immediately report on the political significance. That goes for any deal to appear to solve the latest problem, real or imagined. In truth, the practical effect on a constituent’s wallet — or health or food prices, etc., etc. — will determine whether the officeholder will continue to hold office not some pundit’s praise. .
Tip knew that. He didn’t actually come up with the saying that all politics is local, but he became known as its strongest advocate. He would take perverse pleasure not with Donald Trump’s ugliness but to know that he realized that all political demagoguery is local. So Trump’s  playing to the fears and prejudices at the precinct level would win the day, and, more importantly, win at the ballot box.

That’s why the Virginia governor’s election has such significance. It’s an off-off-year campaign to choose the state’s (excuse me, commonwealth’s, if you want to get pretentious) next chief executive.
So what happens in the deal negotiations between conservative Democrats and liberal Democrats, and, of course, the Democratic president (the Republicans are only participating insofar as they’ll oppose whatever the Democrats concoct), has a real deadline of November 2.
Donald Trump knows this, and so he’s staying away to defer  to his surrogate Glenn Youngkin. It’s not about Trump (except that it is); it’s really how much of a role of imposing parents’ values on their kiddies’ schools plays.
Terry McAuliffe is the former governor is the Democratic candidate. McAuliffe is relying more on his party’s celebs to make his case: Barack Obama, the slick former president who happens to be black; Kamala Harris, the vice president, who represents two minorities; and Joe Biden, decidedly white, notably unslick, who happens to be president of the United States.
It’s the hot political story of 2021, besides the ongoing pandemic, Afghanistan, inflation, infrastructure and climate versus how much parents will control public schools.
This much has not changed since Jessica was a kid (she grew up and flourished, in spite of her obvious disadvantage … me … proving that the acorn can fall far enough from the tree):
Politics is still local. That’s all well and good. The problem is that all politics has also become  divisive and too hateful to accept consensus, and too toxic to be anything but minimally acceptable.

© Bob Franken
King features, Inc.

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