Navigating Levels in U.S. Politics

The incentive structure in U.S. politics is all out of whack.

Part of the problem is that politicians are elected locally to govern nationally, but the media that matter are increasingly national — so elected politicians have to keep posturing for local audiences through national media as they conduct the nation’s business.

Being more local is a great strategy for getting elected, but it’s not always a recipe for good governance.

Somehow, sometime, somewhere, someone’s going to have to tell a couple of important truths about 21st-century politics in the United States:

  • The proper business of national politics is to do what’s best for the nation — and the least harm to local communities.
  • The proper focus of a government as powerful as ours, in a country as big as ours, is to set the minimum conditions for national prosperity and global stability.

If being more Brooklyn is your thing, stay local. If, however, you’re committed to bringing a better-informed voice from Brooklyn into the national conversation, run for national office by all means.

Just remember: once you get there, your job is to represent your district, not to scale it.