One of the more frustrating things about being a political junkie is that every election cycle we are all subject to the whims of the uninformed voter. We all have the friends who pay absolutely zero attention to what is going on in politics until its time to vote. Some even wait until election day to decide on who they are voting for in the less than “sexy” races.
Unfortunately, even I’ve found myself looking blankly at the back of the ballot at times. Because like most voters, even informed ones, I find myself becoming so wrapped up in the races that I find important that I forget to focus on the rest. Interestingly enough, those less noticed races are usually the ones that have the most and more immediate impact on our lives.
What we have to realize is that the candidate for county clerk today will be the candidate for Congress tomorrow. If we continue to make bad choices locally, then we will only have bad candidates to choose from at the state and national level. City Council is the training ground, and much of the bad policy we have in this country develops at that level.
With that, we end up with Presidential primary elections with 35 candidates many of whom shouldn’t have qualified as dog catcher early in their careers. Because voters at the local level didn’t vet them properly now, we have to deal with them nationwide. Local politics aren’t any different that the national version in that way. Most of the time it comes down to money, party affiliation, and charisma in front of a crowd.
So how does this relate to 2020? Pretty simple. You have to be involved in politics at all levels if you expect them to get better. You simply can’t wait for the next magical politician to come along and solve all that ails you. The only power to fix it resides with the voter.
1. Pay Attention- It’s as easy as understanding who your representatives are. An unhealthy number of American’s don’t know how government even works. I’ve met more than a few neighbors who have no idea who our Congressional rep is. Even less that know the name of our city council representative. If you are reading this and can’t answer those question yourself, it’s time to start paying attention.
2. Attend Meetings- One real eye-opener for me was several years ago when I started attending City Council meetings regularly. You can learn so much about the health of a government body by just sitting and listening to how they handle the normal business that happens on a regular basis. You can also get a much better grasp on the politicians real motivations and beliefs by doing this than you ever will at a stump speech. This goes for all open government meetings and work sessions. It’s important that we hold their feet to the fire somewhere besides the ballot box every two to four years.
3. Read the Bills– Or the ordinances or the referendums. They are all important no matter how trivial you may think. Don’t take anyone’s word, especially the politician, for what they say. Remember that everything that gets voted on, every bill passed or defeated, has an impact on someone’s life. Even yours.
4. Contact Your Representatives- Let them hear from you, let them know you’re watching. You don’t have to call them just to complain or when you’re encouraging them on which way to vote, although that is imperative. Talk to them about what is important to you. When they hold a forum, go. When they ask for input, give it to them. Stop treating them like celebrities and begin to realize that they are public servants that answer to you.
5. Run For Office- I encourage everyone with the desire to serve others, to at least consider running. I ran for office some years ago, and it opened my eyes to so much that goes on within government, and also to the mindset of most voters. Some good and some depressing. However, until more good, quality, dedicated, and honest people get involved our choices will remain abysmal. As I filled out my ballot this year, I was completely deflated by the number of incumbents running unopposed. In my mind that should never happen, everyone elected official needs to be challenged, if for nothing more than to keep them in front of their constituents.
So yes this election is important, but so are all the other ones. We need to recognize the value of voting in every election that comes along, not just Presidential years. Once Tuesday rolls around, and we have a new President-elect the work needs to begin on holding whoever that is accountable. We don’t need to wait until the next cycle. What is important to you in deciding your representative needs to be just as important after they take office.
If you’re exhausted from this cycle, and you are disgusted by where we are politically perhaps it’s time to look at yourself. Do something now to make 2018 and 2020 better, more civilized elections. Because if you wait until the next “most important election in history” rolls around it will be too late.