Lord Acton got it right: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." This maxim proved true during the first six years of the Bush administration when the Republican Congress allowed folly to flourish. Closer to home, it has proved true in Pittsburgh, where more than 70 years of Democratic rule have brought the city to the brink of ruin.
Power is an equal-opportunity despoiler. Too much uncontested power residing in one party -- it doesn't matter which -- is a prescription for civic trouble. Unfortunately, we've got trouble right here in River City.
In the May 15 primary, some of the most important races locally have no Republicans seeking their party's nomination, thus almost guaranteeing a Democratic walk-over in the fall. Although issues abound in a region that has lost population and needs economic development, Republicans are content to concede the positions of Allegheny County chief executive, district attorney, county treasurer, county controller, city controller and mayor of Pittsburgh without a fight.
The mayor's race may be the most glaring capitulation. When Councilman Bill Peduto pulled out of the Democratic primary against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the lack of a Republican challenger in the fall became more embarrassing. This week, the local Republicans seemed to awake from their slumbers. They rallied around a write-in campaign.
To those who think Pittsburgh deserves a real mayoral campaign, this was good news, albeit very late in the day. Still, it might work because it takes only 250 write-ins to get a candidate on the ballot.
Unfortunately, the person chosen by the Republican Committee of Allegheny County as their standard-bearer, Mark DeSantis, a 47-year-old technology consultant, got all coy. He wouldn't confirm that he might run, thus undercutting the committee chairman, Robert Glancy, who said he was the party's choice. Here was embarrassment heaped upon embarrassment. The gang that couldn't shoot straight couldn't even get its ammunition straight.
It is past time for the Republican State Committee to read the local party the riot act and insist on change. Yes, local Republicans face a daunting disadvantage in party registration, but that should be the challenge, not the excuse. Other Democratic strongholds have elected Republican leaders -- Massachusetts elected Mitt Romney as governor, and New York City elected Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as mayors.
If Republicans want to win Pennsylvania in a presidential election, the key is Allegheny County, where the walking dead of the local party need the kiss of life. This requires organization, money and, above all, the will. Good candidates attract good support -- sacrificial lambs won't fill the bill.
As a more common person than Lord Acton said, you got to be in it to win it. Republicans are too often not in it. The local party is pathetic. How pathetic? A liberal-leaning editorial board has to call for a conservative revival for the benefit of the local democratic system.