Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Process" criticisms in local politics

We'd be curious to hear what readers think of this post from Matthew Yglesias arguing against (or at least, encouraging skepticism toward) "process" criticisms of a reform mayor. After highlighting a quote from a DC resident who has soured on that city's current mayor because "I think he's been making a lot of decisions behind closed doors," Yglesias writes:

"Process" criticisms in local politics

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We'd be curious to hear what readers think of this post from Matthew Yglesias arguing against (or at least, encouraging skepticism toward) "process" criticisms of a reform mayor. After highlighting a quote from a DC resident who has soured on that city's current mayor because "I think he's been making a lot of decisions behind closed doors," Yglesias writes:

I think you have to be suspicious in municipal politics when you hear people offering a lot of process criticisms of a reform mayor. The fact of the matter is that if you take a city like Washington that’s been known for years for public services that don’t perform well, and then you try to improve those public services, you’re going to make some people mad. Under the circumstances, complaints about Fenty’s style—complaints that seem to be the center of Gray’s campaign—seem to me a lot like complaints that President Obama is “moving too fast” or trying to “do too much.” In other words, they’re excuses for the fact that you just don’t want to see change.

One thing to say about this is that part of the point of process criticisms is that a bad process often leads to bad outcomes (insider deals and the like). We suppose Yglesias would say that in that case, you just look at the outcomes, but a more transparent process presumably makes it easier to identify fishy stuff (and thus harder to do fishy stuff). We think a good process can also help build a more engaged, more informed public. Lord knows we've made process criticisms of Nutter.

That said, it is true that process criticisms can sometimes be vague, and so can be an easy crutch for someone who doesn't want to say what he or she is actually upset about.

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