The parallels between national and local concerns about the “what” of government – health care reform, social and economic justice, immigration policy – are unmistakable. Much subtler are the parallels about the “how” of government, which is no less important.

This is especially true of Portland, a progressive city where the left is just as conflicted as it is nationally on the means of progressivism, not just the ends. Although some who recognize this worry that it compromises short-term unity, it’s necessary for long-term leadership that serves people.

Democrats disagree over the cause of our losses in November, but few who are sincerely progressive can say we did all we could – nationally and locally – to represent working and disenfranchised Americans and snatch “populism” away from those whose positions are anything but populist.

Populism is as much about the how as the what. How we fund campaigns. Behave transparently. Model our ideals. I mention this because I’m watching Joey Brunelle’s Portland City Council run with admiration for a man who’s impeccable on the means and the ends.

Already he has tackled the opacities of government by publicly simplifying the city’s impenetrable self-reporting. He’s refusing unlimited out-of-state money. He takes individual stands that weigh the big picture without using it as an excuse for inaction.

Mr. Brunelle is refreshingly principled and unshackled to hidden agendas. This will open him to attack from establishment Democrats who have retreated to the means and ends, the power politics, of the old center-left. We may yet see them, beholden in the ways we need progressives not to be, shake up this race. It’s difficult to yield the floor. But it’s time.

Let’s give Mr. Brunelle our support. And let’s keep an eye not just on the future but on the things we’re willing to do to achieve it.

Joe Pinto

Portland