Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wanted: Local political parties

Recently Matthew Yglesias has been talking about the failure of partisan elections in cities and local government. Cities are so heavily democratic that the current parties tell you nothing. Non-partisan elections (as in Chicago) would seem like a good idea, but for low-information voters, they just end up being name-recognition contests with a huge incumbency advantage.

This strikes a chord with me, since my current city council member seems intent on pushing pointless city ordnances that restrict development and nightlife for very little reason. But how are we supposed to know what candidates for local office favor? Sure, local officials are responsive to their constituents, but not everyone has the time/inclination to do a Q&A with their city council member's staff. Local issues are very different from national ones, and they don't break easily on the usual party lines.

What we need are local parties that focus on local issues. For example, if I were to run for city council, I would run as a member of the "Density and Transit Party" or whatever. My party platform would be mostly about promoting transit, removing subsidies for cars and parking, and relaxing the zoning and density restrictions to promote new development. Perhaps my opponent would be running as the "Preserve our city" party that tries to enact ever harsher historical districts and height restrictions in order to prevent new buildings from changing the character of the city.

These parties could even be national, but the partisan breakdown would be odd. There are plenty of conservatives who would agree with my party's goal of removing barriers to development and market-distorting subsidies. There are plenty of liberals who would support the idea that cities should be preserved, not developed. New parties would allow low-information voters to tell at a glance what each candidate stood for.


  1. Kind of like the Rent Is Too Damn High party?

  2. Except without the anti-semitism and bulldozing mountains to build subdevelopments.