Do Local Elections Matter?

Voter turnout is awful in national elections and diving in local elections.

I live in a relatively well-off community but come from a blue collar family and would not consider myself wealthy.  My kids have nice things, do nice things, get fed and have a place to sleep.  We do the typical local vacation down the shore and maybe travel somewhere nice (like Disney World) once every five years.  Like most American families, we’re one or two crises away from things not being so great.  We’re doing okay but mainly that’s because things are going okay.

There are some families, in my community that are near or in crisis.   They want to stay in our community because it’s safe, has good schools and really cool things for kids to do. These are people that have invested in the community, paid their taxes, volunteered, watched their neighbors kids etc.  The campaigns (more like campaign mouthpieces planted on social media) haven’t been about the issues these families care about. They haven’t been about how local government can re-examine spending priorities to ease the burden of property taxes or how it can implement services that might allow families to save in other areas. No. The election narrative on our town’s community page, this week, was dominated by two things.

  1. A lawsuit filed against the town over an open information request that some took to be clear evidence of a candidate’s hatred of children, families, puppies and elderly nuns.
  2. A video clip of a councilmember being rude to a resident that many argued was clear evidence of him being a card-carrying member of the KKK, despite nothing remotely racist or sexist being said.

Do members of the KKK carry cards?  I would be interested in knowing that.

I should add, I’m being a bit hyperbolic.

Both camps probably feel that their candidates are best for the town and maybe (?) can articulate why – but they don’t, they spend their time on nonsense.  Last I checked, there were really only 60 people following each post if we were to use “likes” and comments as evidence.

Those of us who have to work 60+ hours a week to make a life and have families to raise don’t have the time to attend every town meeting.  The political season is our opportunity to hear about town decisions that can shape our lives. The adversarial process surrounding elections educate us because they work to expose the most vulnerable points of each candidate’s position on an issue as well as their strengths.  The issue isn’t whether the two candidates should engage in an adversarial dialogue. Of course, they should – but it should be about meaningful differences on issues that matter.

When campaigns become a contest to determine which candidate is most likely to club a baby seal, we check out, that has nothing to do with how our lives work.

So, maybe voter apathy is not about a disinterested citizenry that is willing to give away its rights or too lazy to cast a simple ballot.  Maybe it’s more about a pay to play process that has become out of touch, irrelevant to the average person and usually ends with insiders rewarding each other.

I don’t need to tell you the name of the town I live in,  you probably didn’t even need to know which country I live in – I’m almost sure you have experienced this phenomenon yourself.

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