One of the things that most confused me when I moved to Pennsylvania was the structure of local government.
As a native Virginian, I understood Virginia, and, frankly, many aspects of Virginia’s structure make sense, even as the persons who fill elective offices often do not. “Independent cities,” for example, are a great idea. Cities are not part of counties. Therefore, if you are in a city, the only jurisdiction to hold accountable is the city; bucks cannot be passed back and forth between cities and counties. If the governance of the independent city is incompetent, there is only one government to blame. If voters do not turn them out, it’s their own damned fault.
Pennsylvania counties are divided into townships and boroughs for no good reason that I could ever figure out (“borough” is a term for a “township” that is a little more urban than the surrounding area, such as Narberth, the wonderful place where I lived; it’s a “township” on steroids that, anywhere else, would be called a “town”).
After a while, I figured out that most local governance was provided by the township; that’s where I registered to vote, for example. As far as I could figure out, counties existed mostly to create
I did a little research and learned that, after the American Revolution, there seemed to be two schools of thought regarding how to promote democracy. One school advocated concentrating power in the hands of elected representatives as a way of guaranteeing “democracy.” The other believed that the more elected officials, the more “democracy”; New England’s town meetings are perhaps the extreme example of this.
Pennsylvania seems to have opted for the latter choice. There are lots of little jurisdictions with lots of elected officials (one of the elected officials was a “prothonotary”–never did figure out what that was, a notary with a big nose, maybe, though Wikipedia tells me it is what anyone else would call “Clerk of the Court”). I remember reading somewhere that Pennsylvania has over 44,000 state and local elected officials, second highest in the nation, though it is a middling-sized state in both area and population.
Now, a couple of decades after I lived there, Pennsylvania’s system of local governance seems to be collapsing under its own weight.
One thing is certain: No solution that involves reducing the number of jurisdictions or elected officials will be brooked. The number of Babbitts must be held constant.
Paul Krugman sees more to Jeb Bush’s week of wonderful waffling on the Great and Glorious Patriotic War for a Lie in Iraq than what it might say about him. He finds it symptomatic of larger problems within the Republican Party and its ideological world-view. A bit (emphasis added):
Voters, even Republican primary voters, may not share that view (of the wisdom of that war–ed.), and the past few days have probably taken a toll on Bush’s presidential prospects. In a way, however, that’s unfair. Iraq is a special problem for the Bush family, which has a history both of never admitting mistakes and of sticking with loyal family retainers no matter how badly they perform. But refusal to learn from experience, combined with a version of political correctness in which you’re only acceptable if you have been wrong about crucial issues, is pervasive in the modern Republican Party.
Follow the link.
Out Roanoke way, a long-time Republican is fed up after trying to vote in a “firehouse primary” (whatever that is–sounds sort of like a caucus).
I’ll quote a bit of his article, but, really, you should read it.
One asked if I was in support of the “principles of the Republican Party” and the second required that I affirm that I would support/vote for whomever the Republicans had nominated to run in the November election.
Believing for a split second that Vladimir Putin would suddenly appear and congratulate me for showing up to ensure that he would receive the usual 96.7 percent of the vote, I was incredulous.
When I responded that I had no idea what the “principles of the Republican Party” were . . . (read the rest–ed).
Jon Stewart’s candidate round up . . . below the fold in case it autoplays.