Working For Main Street
What we do in D.C. only means something if you are building community where you find yourself.
I have a new piece up over at American Compass’s “The Commons.” That’s their more informal outlet, a bit like this, our “State of the Union.” American Compass should be fresh in your mind because TAC print editor Helen Andrews contributed an essay to their rollout on family policy this week. It’s a provocative piece and well-worth a read, and it pairs especially well with these TAC essays by Joseph Paul Barnas and Patrick T. Brown.
All this fruitful overlap between TAC and American Compass exists because we share a vision for Main Street America. As I have tried to highlight in my post there today, the abandonment of a local focus in our political life in exchange for the gaudy displays of national partisanship has deeply damaged our communities and our country. Though this open letter to my parents is a grateful one, in one important negative way they are like their Boomer peers:
But the above pathologies exist in part because of something you are prone to, as we have discussed. And that is a preoccupation with what is happening over here, in Washington, D.C., often to the point of confusion about what is happening over there, at home, in your case the other, better Washington. Stop it. The Boomers cling to wealth because they cling to power, and in pursuit of power they point that wealth to Wall Street and K Street. And because that wealth is turned to Wall Street and K Street it does not end up on Main Street, and because that money is not spent on Main Street, local opportunity withers away, and with it, the prospect of a normal (or perhaps no longer that but only traditional) life, of marriage, children, religious observance, and the continued building upon what came before.
This is in part the natural result of mass media and the shrinking of geographic space by technology. D.C. feels very near, at a viscerally biological level, when you are “connected” to it by radio, television, and the internet.
But the danger is that being an “informed citizen” is just a form of infotainment, and that it distracts you from living where you are. To repeat myself again:
You are responsible for your home: for your house, your yard, your neighborhood, your church, your school, your city, your county, and your state, and only then your country (I’ll concede a little bit), in that order. You have power in these domains, and diminishing power as we extend the abstractions of law and the remoteness of geography.
Now, you should probably be thinking that this seems like a bit of self-condemnation. Aren’t I managing editor of a publication that tells you what’s going on in D.C.? Am I telling you to stop logging on to TAC, to go read a book and your community newspaper? Not quite.
The relationship that TAC central here in the Beltway has with you, the TAC readership everywhere, is a mirror of the federalism or subsidiarity I believe can allow local communities to flourish even today. We are bound much less tightly to the news cycle than many other political publications of similar size, and we are thinking out loud and working here in D.C. so that you can think along with us, at a human pace and carefully, out there—in the heartland, in places where you still meet pioneers, in little stores on Main Street. We are all companions in navigating a confusing and frenetic time. If you weren’t building this country wherever you find yourself, our attempts to understand it, to plan, and to influence here in D.C. would all be in vain.