Thursday, October 22, 2009

What is it about North Carolina Libertarians? Matt Drew makes it into Durham City Council run-off election

Regular readers will have long ago been introduced to ground-breaking Tarheel State Libertarians like Michael Munger and Chris Cole.

Now [h/t Libertarian Republican] you can add Matt Drew, the Libertarian candidate for Durham City Council, whose finish in the ward primary now entitles him to take on Democratic incumbent Howard Clement.

A visit to Drew's website discovers a candidate who is both thoughtful, civil, and willing to challenge perceived wisdom.

With respect to the idea that he cannot win the council seat in an overwhelmingly African-American population:

If you are a voter, go look in the mirror and honestly appraise yourself and your reasons for voting. If any of the reasons you voted for me include the fact that I’m white, I have a message for you:

Please stay home in November. I don’t want your vote.

If you find yourself in this position, I strongly urge you both to re-examine yourself and your motivations for voting. You also need to re-examine what Libertarians are about, because you clearly don’t understand anything about the person you are voting for. If you vote for me based on race, you do so with the understanding that I fundamentally disagree with you and will not represent your interests on City Council.

If one of the reasons you voted for Mr. Clement is because he’s black, I want you to do something for me. I want you to approach a man who has honorably served on the City Council for 26 years, a man who fought against open racism in the great Civil Rights battles fifty years ago, a man who has certainly seen and suffered more racial ugliness in his life than I can ever know, and I want you to tell him to his face that you voted for him because of the color of his skin. I hope that if you did that, he’d politely tell you where to shove it. And he’d be right, because you are insulting many of the ideals he and many others have paid a huge price to attain.

So how do you expect to win an election if this is how you characterize your opponent: a man who has honorably served on the City Council for 26 years, a man who fought against open racism in the great Civil Rights battles fifty years ago, a man who has certainly seen and suffered more racial ugliness in his life than I can ever know.

You do it by taking on his record:

My opponent, Howard Clement, has a simple theme for his campaign: Experience Matters. He’s right, of course. Experience does matter. Of course, this begs a larger question:

Experience doing what?...

What experience does my opponent have? He’s experienced in continual and rapid growth of government and taxes. He’s experienced in borrowing tens of millions of dollars (and paying millions more in interest) to build iconic edifices that continue to drain money from the city budget. He’s experienced in raising fees: a city fee increase went into effect a couple of weeks ago on the consent agenda, and wasn’t even discussed or debated. He’s experienced in deciding who gets corporate welfare support, the vast majority of which goes to large developers and large companies with little debate. He’s experienced in building skate parks in a year when critical programs are suffering budget cuts. He’s experienced with delaying what should be straightforward city decisions week after week … after week. He’s experienced in setting up programs like the Durham Youth Council that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish a goal that was already achievable.

What he doesn’t have experience with is reducing the footprint of government. He doesn’t have experience with ending programs, terminating city participation in failed projects like Rolling Hills, and cutting frivolous projects. As we move into what will likely be a decade of high unemployment, falling property taxes, falling sales tax revenues, and general belt-tightening, his response is to raise sales taxes to increase funding for yet another failed city program, our transit system. He continues to refuse to take the lead on the issues facing our water supply, as the process slowly grinds along with low priority and no sense of urgency.

Possibly this is too cerebral an approach to modern politics. Many local commenters on both edges of the ideological spectrum have argued (or have supported by their actions) the thesis that politics is not about rational discourse on public policy, but it's simply about winning.

They'd never consider acknowledging or complimenting their opponent's long record of service and historica role in the civil rights movement.

Matt Drew may not win, but he represents the sort of solid, substantive, civil candidate that any party should be proud to claim.

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