|Lord of the Rings|
This week I made an argument that one of the lead candidates in the race for City Council District 7 has a much more reality-based and helpful approach to the City's financial recovery, thereby seeking to ensure delivery of the services and resources we all need beyond the pension crisis we all see coming.
My colleague chimed in to opine that the other leading candidate, by virtue of his background and experiences, is more likely to be active in mitigating a predictable crisis of gentrification brought upon by a massive and likely disruptive new development.
What I see reflected out there in the comments and on social media, however -- among partisans of both sides and more amiable minds alike -- is an enormous tendency to reduce all questions of ideas, qualifications and approach to that of binary identity resentment.
One candidate and all the supporters behind her is cast as cosmopolitan, the other as parochial. One as privileged elites, the other as clannish thugs. One as more interested in innovative and alternative projects, the other a champion for heightened focus on fundamentals.
And it's not new to this race. Wagner vs. Peduto, Ravenstahl vs. Peduto, Bodack vs. Dowd, Kraus vs. Koch, Murphy vs. O'Connor, Murphy vs. Wagner, we've heard all the class rhetoric before.
Is it always going to be this way? Is that just the way politics is?
I cannot separate myself from it. Before I go any further, for example, I am obliged to point out that it was Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and his cohorts, the longtime anti-elitist champion of "Real Yinzers" such as those who have represented the proud 6th Ward in Lower Lawrenceville, who was so determined for so long to grease the skids for Buncher Company's "Riverfront Landing" vision by pushing its own zoning proposal characterized by narrow river setbacks and limited public access, selling the historic public Produce Terminal for partial demolition, and providing them with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-increment financing. A decade before him, it was Wagner attempting more or less the same thing. Pointy-headed academics like Peduto and Dowd fought a lot harder to preserve the character of the Strip for its merchants and those who value its authenticity than anyone else.
But I'm letting it get away.
Pittsburgh is lousy with Democrats, and I used to think of Democrats as the folks who were not so hesitant about highly educated people, young people, the arts, new technology, new modes of transit, outsiders, treaties and alliances, or the infallibility of mathematics.
Not because that's all there is, but because Pittsburgh is not playing a zero-sum game. We're trying to retain and attract infinite sorts of different people and businesses to the City, we're trying to make it structurally more diversified and therefore stronger than it used to be or even is now. We're trying to grow the pie. And I'm not accustomed to thinking of Democrats as so wary of change.
However, it may be this is the very nature of electoral politics. Maybe these tired old costumes will be stowed away by partisans a week after Halloween. Maybe the few folks passionate about their candidates just don't have anything else with which to scare people.
But I do worry that Pittsburgh is chasing its own tail; that something ought to break so these two cultural archetypes can work together on what are clearly mutual interests. Maybe that will just take time.