Localist Legislature: Last Hope for the Middle Class?
Ronald Reagan has attributed his success in politics to its correlation with show business. Social critic Neil Postman ruefully agreed, adding that in American democracy, “the idea [of politics] is not to strive for excellence, clarity, or honesty, but to appear like you are, which is an entirely different matter. “Without reading Postman, Central America knows from experience that the politicians they send to Washington are not always what they appear to be. However, those who stay close to home – the elected members of state legislature – are a different race.
Members of Congress are notoriously inconsistent with their constituents. One example is MP Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), whose district Trump voted 16 percent in 2020, but who continues to blow up Trump – even after the former president has left public life – and every Republican, who dared to support him. When Kinzinger voted for the indictment against the president in February, he was censored by his county’s Republican Central Committee – and by his own family via a handwritten note from the New York Times.
The DC smog of special interests is enough to tarnish the thinking of any politician and even bring a congressman into conflict with his own “flyover” family. And this separation is by no means limited to Congress. Today’s forgotten middle class is also at odds with judges, bureaucratic representatives, and even many who carry the populist label. Regardless of the election results, America always seems to have a few votes before the end of Obamacare, a Supreme Court judge who shrinks from overthrowing Roe v. calfor a presidential election outside of the reform of the military-industrial complex and the surveillance state.
COVID-19 added mayors and governors – including many Republicans – to the list of free-standing elites. Hypocrisy, scandals, and catastrophic mismanagement plagued the governments of governors such as Andrew Cuomo, New York, Gavin Newsom, California, Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan, and Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania. Texas Governor Greg Abbot praised the right-wing media for lifting his state’s mask mandate after almost a year – but many “forgotten” Texans asked why a conservative governor ordered this restriction on civil liberties in the first place.
State legislators are the opposite. You are not entering politics to wage a national culture war. Their thoughts usually focus on small business growth, education, caring for seniors, fixing potholes, and beautifying historic parks and downtown areas. But the 2020 crisis put a lot of state lawmakers in the spotlight – and they haven’t pulled back yet.
After the unusual 2020 elections, with a majority of voters believing that fraud will affect the outcome, the forgotten middle class feared that the electoral system itself could no longer bring about real representation or real change. However, the events of the controversial elections have shown that state lawmakers are at least still listening to their voters and taking action, even when it is not subtle or politically correct.
During the by-election contest, large groups of Republican lawmakers in contested states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia pariah the corporate media for their actions during the by-election controversy. The state legislature held hearings, approved exams, signed lawsuits, and even nominated competing electoral rolls to be electoral college. And after the election was finally decided, 33 states introduced 165 electoral integrity reforms, including a sweeping vote recently passed in Georgia despite angry corporate outcry.
None of this would have happened without the close cooperation between the legislature and the conservative base. Agree or disagree with those who contested the 2020 elections. These are clearly politicians who cannot be dismissed as having special interests. Governor Asa Hutchinson recently learned the same lesson when he tried to engage – and lost – with the Arkansas General Assembly about gender reassignment for children. Despite the elite’s aggressive promotion of social change, lawmakers are still a great ally of the average American.
The left has long understood the populist power of state lawmakers – and it infuriates them. In 2019 New York Times The authors tried to prove that state lawmakers were as distant as other politicians by providing a link to a bogus website called District Pulse with survey data to 2,346 randomly selected state lawmakers. Legislators largely ignored the link and introduced the Times Journalists – strangely not used to being ignored – concluded that state lawmakers “don’t care” what their constituents want. However, the opposite is true: these lawmakers care far more about a warm voicemail from a local restaurant owner than they do about a nifty infographic of “District Pulse”. Their kinship with the middle class and rejection of particular interests have made them a particular target of political spending by national union leaders, democratic strategists, and Soros-backed NGOs.
To give an example from my own small town, Latrobe, Pennsylvania: Following the tragic death of the former official, a special election for the state representative is currently taking place. The Republican candidate – virtually guaranteed to win – is local Conservative organizer Leslie Baum Rossi, mother of eight and creator of the famous Trump House, which is painted like an American flag and features a 14-foot steel cutout of the former president. If elected, Rossi would join a cadre of state lawmakers whose ears are more attuned to parents and small business owners cooking in church than to journalists on CNN or Twitter.
Across the state near Allentown, small business owner Arthur Gillespie found his livelihood at risk when his archery business closed in March last year. However, thanks to the responsiveness of several state lawmakers he contacted, he was able to secure an official waiver that reopened his business. At that point, he received daily anonymous phone calls threatening physical violence. However, he continued to campaign for state law to drive back Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral business closings.
“As long as they stand up for me, I stand up for them,” says Gillespie. “They understand that Governor Wolf alone cannot dictate politics for the entire state. They are by no means perfect – they are still politicians – but they actually care about issues that affect my everyday life.”
In Pennsylvania and across the country, state lawmakers have begun rolling back bills, veto overrides, and amendments to the state constitution to limit governor’s reach and emergency powers. In just the past four months, 300 bills have been proposed in 45 states to this end, and many have already been enacted. This is not just happening on a partisan basis: Republican lawmakers in Arkansas, Utah, Ohio, and Indiana have shackled Republican governors. The New York Democrats reached across the aisle for enough votes to beat Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are equally anxious to contain Governor Tom Wolf, whose pandemic shutdown of schools, congregations and businesses has had a disastrous impact on the Commonwealth. Last year lawmakers passed 10 bills focusing on transparency and reopening, most of which the governor vetoed. Although some of Wolf’s shutdown orders were constitutionally questionable, the Partisan State Supreme Court stamped them all – and blocked most legislative backlashes. Now the General Assembly has tabled two constitutional amendments of the state, which permanently limit the disaster declarations for governors to 21 days and whose approval requires the consent of the legislature. The Pennsylvanians will vote on the measures in a nationwide referendum on May 18.
It is a symbol of the populist power – and political courage – exercised by state lawmakers to deprive the governor of decision-making powers to place them in the hands of Pennsylvania’s 7 million voters. These local heroes may lack the Ronald Reagan showmanship, but the job they do goes beyond maintaining looks for their constituents. If the forgotten middle class has hope in times of COVID dictators, irregular elections, and non-contact DC swamp creatures, it is in the local representative’s small office.
Andrew Cuff writes on conservative issues and political reform from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. You can find him on Twitter @ AndrewJCuff.
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