It seems that when nominee Palin said that mayors are like community organizers except they have responsibilities, she struck a nerve. Wikipedia describes the role of a community organizer:
“Community organizers act as area-wide coordinators of all the programs of different agencies so as best to meet community needs for health and welfare services. They also facilitate self-help programs initiated by local common-interest groups, for example, by training local leaders to analyze and solve the problems of a community. Community organizers work actively, as do other types of social workers, in community councils of social agencies and in community-action groups. At times the role of community organizers overlaps that of the social planners.”
The nerve may be a bit more than a perceived slight on a political opponent. It may also strike to a fundamental philosophical difference between the political parties. In the conservative or Republican camp, the role of the community organizer is found in the tradition of churches and local social organizations. In the liberal or Democratic camp, the role is provided by the government using its distribution of tax dollars to foster its desires.
This difference touches on matters of control and funding. A mayor is the traditional community organizer and is a very local office with direct accountability, via election, to the community being organized. Funding, for the most part, is raised from within the community. The community organizer does not have local accountability and is usually funded by more distant governmental budgets.
That matter of local versus state or national control and funding sets the direction for each party’s different approach towards creating solutions to the social and civic problems they see. As illustrated by Palin as mayor and governor, and as used by her opponents to attempt to impugn her behavior, the solution is not clear cut. That is something realized by most of the electorate and leads to yet another position of the candidates, one where, believe it or not, they are essentially in agreement.
Now if only they could accept this commonality as something to stimulate finding actual, realistic, solutions.