Local Control for Me, Not Thee
Cities, counties and states should decide what's best for them—until they shouldn't
WFAE’s Tom Bullock tried admirably this week to answer what seems at first like a perplexing question: If “local control”—letting local rather than state, and state rather than federal, governments decide what’s best for their citizens—is a cornerstone of the Republican Party, why is the GOP-dominated General Assembly imposing its will on North Carolina cities and counties?
Journalistic convention clouds the real answer. The giveaway comes during an interview with Charlotte Republican political consultant Larry Shaheen:
Let’s start with ideology. Before Republicans took control of Raleigh, Democrats had run North Carolina government for more than 100 years. The Democrats, Shaheen says, had policies that unfairly favored cities. They were allowed to expand their borders through annexation, and their influence over residents. That time has passed, says Shaheen. “We now have an administration [that] honestly believes that cities have for years and years and years abused their power and taken over more control of individuals’ lives.” So, he argues, Republicans have put their belief in local government on the shelf, in favor of another Republican belief—small government. “I think that they’re trying to follow their core message of limited government by forcing the cities to acknowledge that they have and should have a much smaller role to play.”
Everyone catch that? The GOP believes in local control, unless local control means a more robust government than Republicans want, at which point it becomes an enemy. That means, of course, that local control isn’t a principle but a catchphrase, a convenience, applicable only when it’s Republicans resisting a higher level of government controlled by Democrats.
The GOP has one principle: The dominion of private concerns over public ones and the slow strangulation of the public sector, wherever it might be. That’s all. Any other piece of doctrine that runs up against that one will lose every time. You can’t understand the Republican Party, and especially its representatives in the legislature, without grasping that.