All politics is local is a phrase often attributed to former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O'Neill, although he did not originate it.
But is it true? Maybe not.
If we look at voting behavior, the turnout for strictly local elections is alarmingly low. It is the U.S. presidential election cycle that drives greater voter turnout, not local issues. An example of the impact of the presidential election on local voting is evidenced by the vote totals for Red Bank commissioner over the past two elections. In 2018, there were 3,856 votes cast for an at-large position. In comparison, the 2020 election (with a presidential election) saw 4,714 total votes cast for an at-large seat. The vote increased by 22 percent and the winner in this race won by only 21 votes.
There are a few reasons why folks are reticent to become involved, or even interested in, local politics:
There are many people who simply do not know how the various levels of government function. Multiple research studies show that a disturbing number of Americans are unaware of the functional roles of city and county government. Eliminating civics from the school curriculum has had an impact.
The second negative force comes from the “mainstream” news media. Starting with the arrival of cable news, the political focus is most often on national-level or state-level races and issues. Local elections are covered only if there is a hotly contested race or when a candidate draws some notoriety.
Finally, the advent of social media has contributed to a general distrust of all levels of government. Those who get their news from social media or who watch only their pre-filtered sources live in their echo chamber. Again, the focus is usually on Washington, not at home.
Why don’t we turn that dynamic on its head? While gridlock in Washington is as American as apple pie, at the local level we all can make a difference. Polarizing issues get the most clicks on social media and views on tv, but local issues are much more likely to directly impact our communities. The local level is also where we each can make the greatest difference. Apathy and low turnout should not continue to define local elections.
Engaging at races close to home brings tremendous benefits, including: educating the public about the forms and functions of government that most impact our daily lives; building the habit of voting and cultivating the knowledge of the voting processes; and developing a pathway for aspiring political leaders by winning county, municipal and school board races.
If you are interested in making a difference in your community, consider engaging with a local campaign as a volunteer. Better yet, think about running for a local position. In a local race, you don’t need huge amounts of money. Successful candidates build committed campaign teams, knock on doors, and personally engage with voters.
At the local level, true democracy is possible and perfectly doable. If we don’t participate, democracy inevitably turns into tyranny. The People rule any democracy and, together, we can work to create communities where elected political leaders are truly of the people, by the people and for the people.
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Mr. Lawrence Miller makes some good points in the captioned article above. More participation and closer examination of local potential candidates is needed. What will these future candidates advocate in their candidacy? What are their positions, are they clear, understandable, realistic? Will they seek office to serve or for personal gain?
However, this should not draw us away from what is now happening in our country at the federal level. Need we be reminded of the federal agencies that are failing to serve our legally voting citizenry. Can we not do better than Nancy Pelosi's tyrannical rule?
Mr. Miller's article should not mask the past and continuing disasters President Joe Biden and his "behind the scenes" leftist managers has and continues to put on this country that does effect all of us locally.
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Mr. Miller, I could not agree more. Local government is vitally important to our day to day lives in ways we often don't think about. Various branches of local government work together to manage our schools, police force, park system, land use regulations, utility systems, and more. And oftentimes it is local governments that are responsible for implementing federal programs like COVID testing and vaccine distribution. But how many people even know their local representative's name?
Unfortunately good information on local government is hard to come by. This leads to apathetic voters. Apathetic voters don't ask their media outlets to cover local elections, which leads to less information, and so on it goes in a vicious cycle. That's why I started Chattanooga Civics, a podcast and newsletter dedicated to non-partisan coverage of local civic issues. That's why I encourage my friends and family to join their local neighborhood associations, introduce themselves to their city council rep, and get involved with local advocacy groups on issues that matter to them.
Thank you for your important message, Mr. Miller.
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Kudos to Mr. Miller for an excellent letter.
However, the response by Mr. Presley added nothing to Mr. Miller commentary.
I have found that many, many Republican responses fall into the following categories, as does Mr. Presley's:
1. When you have nothing to add, or can't defend a position, change the subject.
2. When you refute, do so only with your opinions or the Bible. Never, ever use facts with supporting documentation. (The Bible is not law, only beliefs)
3. When you can't do anything, blame or insult Biden, Pelosi, or the Democrats.