These days, I have a specific routine every morning when I wake up: groggily stab at my phone screen until my alarm stops blaring, stumble out of bed and into the shower, dry my hair, and turn on NPR’s Up First podcast, where I’m immediately updated on major news events. If a new episode of the NPR Politics Podcast has been released, I’ll listen to it as I put my makeup on.
It seems like more people (myself included) have started paying closer attention to current events now that the constant turmoil in our political sector and our newsfeeds has reached a high. Although fixating on national and global political news isn’t misguided in the slightest, there is an opportunity to enact change that most of us are overlooking: local politics. As unglamorous as it may seem at first glance, keeping up with and voting in local elections is just as critical as voting in presidential elections.
The recent special election in Georgia is a prime example of the importance of local politics. Jon Ossoff, a Democratic candidate for the Congressional seat vacated by Tom Price, has been the object of recent national interest. Ossoff won the Democratic primary for the seat on April 19th, and is set to run against Republican primary winner Karen Handel in June. The massive amount of attention this election is receiving is seen as a direct response to the current presidential administration.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee even released a radio ad in which Samuel L. Jackson encourages those who live in the district of the Congressional race to vote for the Democratic candidate. It isn’t the belief that electing one politician will change the trajectory of the nation that is fueling this enthusiasm; rather, it’s what electing one person signifies. For those who disapprove of President Trump, the possibility of electing a Democrat in a usually Republican district would be a huge indication of voters’ unhappiness with the direction his administration is headed. It’s a way to voice their thoughts and embark on the uphill climb to make the changes they want to see.
According to a piece on The Hill, those who hold local office have more influence on government than most people think. Elected officials, such as members of school boards and local judges, have a direct impact on the way individual communities operate. Changes made to the government on the local level, such as specific community policies, some education reforms, and local taxes, tend to have a more noticeable effect on people’s lives.
In addition to directly local politicians, Senators and Congresspeople play an enormous and oftentimes overlooked role in our government. These elected officials actually create and vote on laws, and as easy as it may be to assume that voting in their elections is inconsequential, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
For many of us, the first person who pops into our heads when we think of being passionate about local politics is the ever-enthusiastic Lesley Knope. Thankfully, staying informed about regional matters doesn’t involve her energy levels or waffle consumption. I’ve found that my state has a podcast that discusses local political news, and I’m guessing many other states (or even large cities) have something similar. There’s a fantastic website that allows you to type in your zip code and discover all sorts of events (town hall meetings, office hours, ticketed events, etc) in your area. If peaceful protesting appeals to you, check out what’s happening in your city. As for actual voting, this Wikipedia article lists the elections that are happening in 2017 on a state-level, and even includes some mayoral elections.
While you religiously keep up with the goings-on in today’s national political realm, don’t forget about staying up-to-date with local events. Paying attention to politics on a regional level promotes informed voting, allows your voice to be heard, and spurs immediate changes to be made. Beginning with your local area is the first step to seeing a nationwide difference.