Principled government starts at City Hall

A few months ago, I met a gentleman at the National League of Cities conference in San Antonio named John McAlister. John is a fellow City Council member from Gahanna, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. As we waited for a boat tour of the downtown San Antonio Riverwalk, John and I discussed politics in our hometowns, a common discussion at these conferences. Soon our discussion turned to national politics and the challenges facing our country. I learned of John’s steadfast commitment to the oath of office he took upon entering his role of City Councilman, that to uphold and defend the Constitution, an oath that City Councils, County Supervisors, state legislatures and Congressmen take all across this country. John strongly believes that we can regain limited federal government by holding local politicians accountable for their votes. I found his zeal refreshing and reassuring since I, too, am impassioned by such beliefs.

One of the many truths I gleaned from John McAlister can be found on his website. There, he wrote, “If you check the background of your local member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate you will find that most of these people started out in politics as a city council representative, county commissioner, etc. Many went on to their state legislatures. What if we were only sending people to higher office that had proved their worthiness of upholding the Constitution at the local level? Might we then start to get state legislatures and a U.S. Congress made up of people who honor freedom and the founding principles of limited government and a government that secures our rights rather than tramples on them?” How profound.

Principled government – the kind of government that enriches individual liberty and freedom, upholds and defends the Constitution, and promotes the interest of the sum, not the part while maintaining as limited a role as possible—starts in the city halls all around this country. It is in the local communities, not the state capitols or Washington, D.C., that a fundamental change can begin to reverse the course of the “nanny state” and rightful restoration can be made of our American foundations. The continual overreaching of government can be combated best and most effectively by city officials who stand on solid principles and act at times against their own inclinations, with an eye on the Constitution and an ear listening to the voice of the people.

There are times, I will admit, when the will of the people is in direct contrast to the Constitution and to the principles of good Republic government. Many, even some traditional conservatives, will accept more government intrusion into their personal lives and support laws that chip away at our Constitutional foundations for what could be seen as a humanitarian or medical cause or even for a slight bit of comfort all the while consigning the founding principles of our Republic to a mere afterthought. Ronald Reagan once said, “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project.” In recent days, we have seen such relegation of principles in cities around Mississippi and in a number of other states. Big government ideals are disguised within seemingly worthwhile causes. While there are numerous examples, one above all comes to mind—a smoking ban.