Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

gardnermug

Falls Church City loves its pigeon soup. Pigeon soup politics is a populist political diet which saps the strength of a community; gradually starving it of a future by suppressing the nutritious voice of a minority perspective.

 

littlecityweedwebheader

 

Falls Church City loves its pigeon soup. Pigeon soup politics is a populist political diet which saps the strength of a community; gradually starving it of a future by suppressing the nutritious voice of a minority perspective. Pigeon soup politics is insidious because it feels fulfilling and is consumed voraciously by the masses. Only later does the thinness of the diet manifest itself by creating a community emaciated by anger, fear of the future, and disregard for the value of minority perspective.

In 1858 Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were engaged in a series of intense, widely publicized, debates designed to gain control over the Illinois state legislature for their respective political parties. The debates focused on the theme of slavery; specifically on whether or not slavery should be allowed to expand into the new territories being admitted to the union.

Douglas was pro-slavery and the political architect behind the doctrine of popular sovereignty. The doctrine said voters in the new territories, irrespective of what the courts or the federal government said, had the right to decide by public referendum whether or not to allow slavery in their state. No surprise, the notion of “let the people decide” was wildly popular.

Lincoln made a more nuanced argument that the Declaration of Independence created a self-evident truth of equal treatment under the law for all men, including slaves, and that such inalienable rights should not be, could not be, subject to public referendum. Contemporary historians felt Lincoln represented (woot woot), but lost the debates – Douglas gained control over the legislature and was selected senator.

Out of the debates came a favorite political quote. Arguing against the idea of public referendum, Lincoln characterized the doctrine of “let the people decide” popular sovereignty as: “… thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death ….”

It is a most excellent quote.

The new majority city council is working with conservative groups and local political bosses to move city elections back to May. The council members are likely to ask voters to give them political cover while they make the painfully contorted argument they know will result in fewer citizens participating in local government, and that they know or should know will have a discriminatory effect on a portion of the nearly 25 percent of city residents which belong to a protected minority group.

May local elections in this state are largely a vestige of machine politics assembled to implement massive resistance. In small communities, with low turnout spring elections, where council members are elected at large as independents, with virtually no outreach being done to minority neighborhoods or non-native English speaking populations, the potential for vote suppression and minority voter dilution is very high.

Falls Church residents should insist its community leaders implement the higher principles inherent in voter rights, and do much better than feed our city their thin “let the voters decide” political pigeon soup as a way to disguise a more sinister political agenda.

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.