Craig Ladwig: It’s a Dunder-Mifflin world


“There is beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” — Pam in the last line of “The Office.”

Overcast, frigid January is a good month for deep thoughts or at least as deep as one’s thinking mechanism allows.

Here’s one: Maybe the politicians aren’t to blame. Maybe this is our own darn fault.

The thought accompanies a fear that we are trapped in a Dunder-Mifflin world, mimicking a functional society while waiting for someone or some event to save us.

So it was encouraging to read an article by the Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson. The title makes the point: “Ordinary Americans Are Going to Have to Save the Country Themselves, One Town at a Time.”

That at least has been our experience. After 30 years, we have tired of sending one politician after another to Washington only to see them consumed by the concerns of the powerful.

Davidson argues with us that few average citizens have the ability to worry the ambitions of a congressman or senator. Most of us, though, could mount a respectable primary campaign at the county or town level, perhaps beginning a movement that threatens the political status quo of an entire state.

“The plain truth is this: You’re going to have to save the country yourselves,” Davidson writes. “Donald Trump isn’t going to save it. Ron DeSantis isn’t going to save it. There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that a GOP majority in Congress is going to save it.”

He doubts, then, there is any point in sending another suit to Washington. Rather, he recommends something more ordinary — using your money, energy and time taking over the mundanity of civic life, organizing and winning elections for mayor, council and school board, finding the Jim Halperts and the Pam Beeslys willing to run against the Michael Scotts and the Dwight Schrutes.

“It’s going to be a long, thankless slog,” Davidson warns.

That understood, this foundation dedicates the current Indiana Policy Review to the slog, profiling therein the experience of councilmen throughout Indiana known for voting their mind. We list the steps to a successful primary challenge. There is a handbook on education reform written by Andrea Neal, former member of the Indiana Board of Education. This spring, we will co-sponsor a seminar on Indiana’s councils and school boards.

We call all of this the Foothold Project. We mean to make available the tools our members need to follow Davidson’s advice, to give the next generation a fighting chance — that and to take heart, our challenges being woeful but surmountable.

Craig Ladwig is editor of the quarterly Indiana Policy Review. Send comments to [email protected].

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