A revolution in U.S., local politics

Published 10:06 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016

By Roger Leonard

I am in Louisville, Ky., and Donald Trump is speaking in town at a pivotal point in this election cycle about his plan to be president.

I received two tickets from a friend to go to the event at the Louisville Convention Center. However, I much prefer to watch these incendiary events from afar, so as not to get toasted by the flame. Trump defines just how far afield our national politics have gone, but our hometown politics in Tidewater have suffered, too.

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I have been reading that voters in Portsmouth are collecting signatures to recall Mayor Kenny Wright, and deservedly so. I am struck by the fact that Suffolk voters have a similar opportunity to change our mayor this November.

Perhaps the best local example of local government failure has been the oppressive and opaque regime that flourished under Mayor Linda Johnson’s leadership. The mayor and council seem hell-bent to obscure their actions and infringe upon the rights of the people to know, and that is both offensive and wrong.

Suffolk has a long history of FOIA failure and outright opaque conduct to retain power. This makes access to information about the conduct of local government both costly and difficult, or even impossible, to obtain.

This is also directly connected to the lack of leadership by our mayor and council and defines the need for change. It is also tied directly to the actions of senior administrative staff to stifle citizen access.

This opacity breeds distrust and suspicion of government at all levels. It seems that our elite career politicians fail to understand our republic was designed to serve the people. Unfortunately, some have been in government too long and they feel government serves them alone.

The system is devised to serve politicians first and not the people. But this political self-interest begets voter anger toward the established government, including our own mayor.

At the local government level, the issue that demonstrates the problem best is transparency. It is tied to almost all grievances of local voters.

Voters are fed up with an unresponsive elite political class that gets re-elected year after year, and cycle after cycle. Many have concluded it is time to overturn it all and upset the old ways. That is why Donald Trump leads and scares the heck out of the establishment.

None of the founding fathers envisioned the career political class we now suffer under. Locally, in the last decade we have had many on City Council who used power to benefit themselves and have held that power for decades.

They have benefited from a sleeping electorate, that could be snookered just enough to allow them to stay in power.

Revolution in the past was conducted with pitchforks, knives and guns. Today it is conducted with rough-words, social-media and a crass attitude. What we are seeing is a revolution against the ruling class and their unyielding demand for order and subjugation.

While I dearly love my city, commonwealth and country, I have struggled to understand why in the past, voters have been so accommodating to these failings of the incumbent elite political class. Now I see there is no more time to wait, there is only time to change and in a big way. I think I understand why so many support “The Donald,” and I forgive them for it.

I say, “Viva la Revolución!” And throw the bums out, even if it is done in a less tasteful way than I would like. At least we are not shooting at each other with anything but foul language. It’s the new American way.

Roger Leonard is from Suffolk. Email him at rogerflys@aol.com.