Circulating through the community is a mailing called "Democrats for David Sabbagh." A curious instrument, it lists 18 individuals, all self-proclaimed Democrats, who nonetheless feel the need to throw off the yoke of political party identity and cross the street to cast a vote for the candidate from the other side.

And they want to tell you about it, in the hopes of getting you to do likewise.

Linguist George Lakoff (pronounced "Jackoff," by Rush Limbaugh) describes the difference between the conservative and liberal mindset and the ways the two outlooks tend to frame the world around them.

Conservatives place the world into an authoritarian frame, preferring to understand truth as an absolute and something that can be revealed directly by one's superior. The dictates of an angry father, a book of supernatural and eternal rules discovered in a middle-eastern cave.

Liberals, on the other hand, prefer a softer approach. Sparing the rod to spoil the child, the liberal considers it part of his or her being to consider truth objectively. That there may be two, or three, or four sides to a story. That a person can be wrong, but that that wrong isn't indicative of a moral failure, but simply a lack of proper education.

And that's the mindset that allows something like "Democrats for Sabbagh" to exist in the first place. And explains why a "Republicans for Kruzan" is always an impossibility.

And it explains why the outer limits of the local Republican party have never been able to brook Sabbagh. From rogue realtor Bud Bermitt to the party's chairman, Franklin Andrew, Sabbagh has always been an untouchable. Not enough Bible-thumping and too much of the big-city effete.

Until now, that is, where, as Lakoff says they must, they all have fallen into line. When the rubber hits the road, there's no dissention within conservative ranks. Schisms snap shut, and a "Sabbagh for Mayor" sign goes up in every yard of every Republican, no matter how much they can't stand the man.

Open-minded to a fault

Not so for liberals. The core of liberal being is liberalness, a condition that manifests itself by the aggressive absence of concrete rules. The liberal is always on a crusade to discover truth, not have it revealed by authority. Hence the liberal's drive to prove his liberalness to others, and to himself.

What does that mean? It means what I, and you, have heard time and time again. "I don't vote along party lines, I vote for the candidate." That's the essence that drives something like "Democrats for Sabbagh." It's what makes it possible in the first place.

Sure, of the 18 individuals listed on the mailings, direct motivations can be found for many. Some, like Linda Runkle, have been occupationally harmed by Kruzan (Runkle was the city's attorney under the previous administration, canned by Kruzan when he took office).

Others are members of the real-estate and development coalition, like signatory Randy Lloyd, who was John Fernandez's economic development officer, before he joined developer First Capital as a partner.

Kruzan's administration, shall we say, hasn't exactly continued the free-wheeling access policies for land interests that the previous mayor had made a signature of his administration.

But that still leaves a large number of individuals, all named on the mailing, who are there for no other reason than to prove their liberalness.

To show that they're open-minded, to a fault.

Change for change's sake

"Time for a change" goes the progressive mantra, in contrast to William F. Buckley's admonition that conservatives must stand astride history, and yell "Stop!"

But "time for a change" isn't good enough, because change for change's sake has never been good enough, no matter how much cold intellectual comfort it may bring to the liberal mind.

That's because, while we may like to take refuge in "voting for the individual," and while it may make us feel better about ourselves to prove our open-mindedness by voting for the other side, and bragging about it at the next cocktail party, labels matter.

Ultimately the test of human progress, the test of our greatness, is aesthetic. "Economic development" isn't a function of how many building permits we issue, it's a function of the character of those buildings. The character of place.

We will be remembered, and judged, by the city we leave behind, not by the personality traits of our elected officials. I'm not oblivious to Kruzan's faults. They're manifold and human. Has he disappointed? Of course, but I don't know anyone who hasn't.

But the issue isn't about the man. It's about the vision. What will Bloomington look like four years from now? What do we want it to look like?

The Republican mindset, and the Republican candidate, are dissatisfied with the aesthetic. They prefer a bigger city (but are apparently too lazy to just move to one). And "Democrats for Sabbagh" are casting their lot for that.

More people, more cars, more congestion, more conflict, more real-estate deals. More of everything. Less like Bloomington, more like somewhere else (where?).

Time for a change? This liberal doesn't think so. Labels matter, and I believe in the Democratic label, not in spite of, but precisely because I am a liberal.

Time for another mailing: Democrats for Democrats.

Gregory Travis can be reached at