Who cares about the local stuff? You should.

Listen to this segment in our podcast from August 11, 2018

Why national leaders should start as local leaders first: A compelling argument from a think-tank consultant who has found his thoughts on national policy strongly influenced by his work on a state committee.

People forget that Federalism made sense in the 1790s, when the entire country was less than 4 million people. It makes even more sense today, when 4 million is the population of just a mid-size state. This country isn't uniform, and we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking it is. We're better off with lots of experiments and adaptations suited to local conditions, with a national government mainly suited to defense and protecting individual rights.

The sooner people stop thinking of America as a hollow aggregation of policy choices and start remembering it as a set of ideas about how we do things, the better.

Even as we come together for the Iowa State Fair, I am reminded just how different we can be from one another just within our own state boundaries. All of Iowa's 99 counties are on display, each with different local expectations: Clinton isn't Clarinda, and Des Moines isn't Decorah.

What do we agree on as Iowans? Fair play, being "Iowa nice", doing things for ourselves, showing community pride, and putting a premium on education. Those things are values that bind us, even if we disagree on policies. But they also illustrate just how hard it is to achieve balance between those ideals and the practical realities of running state and local government. As Andy Smarick put it so well in his essay:

"I can't help but wonder if our polarization problem is at least partly due to a lack of state and local government experience among our national leaders -- in both politics and the media."

As we bring together 99 counties for a great State Fair, those thoughts are worth further reflection. We're all entitled to our own opinions, but maybe we should spend more time expecting people to practice before they try to preach.

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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