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EDITORIAL: Pertinence of local elections eludes voters

State, municipal politics are often ignored by voters

All the grandiosity and pomp exuded from the mainstream media regarding national elections has led to federal politics seizing an inordinate amount of the populace's attention.

The addition of television to the world’s arsenal of information analogs predicated this national obsession with national politics, making politicians mythic figures with cult personalities. 

Former president Ronald Reagan was a strong, forceful hand — a conservative built to run in a decade imbued with reminiscence for the 1950s. Former president George W. Bush played the role of the down-to-earth Texan, stampeding Al Gore and John Kerry in the beer test on his way to two electoral victories. Former president Barack Obama was change exemplified, perfect for a world filled with social unrest and economic insecurity.

And, of course, President Donald J. Trump. His name (and Twitter account) is interchangeable with the word “vulgarity,” a breath of fresh air for some that fit in an age of perceived over-sanitation. 

The cult of personalities behind these illustrious, A-list federal politicians, is potent and unrelenting. Our politicians and media have joined forces to assure that the voter is emotionally stirred to choose the candidate with a perceptively idealistic mythology behind them. 

Put crudely, national politics is alluring. Its allure lies not in the policies of its inhabitants, but in the bombastic figureheads appearing on talk shows to argue with pundits about who can more thoroughly strain their vocal cords (and when that argument finishes, who has the larger yacht). 

Fox News nor CNN is going to come down to every little town in America to provide pinpointed local election coverage. Local news stations rarely provide any sort of nuanced political insight for local elections, and seldom does anyone tune into those channels anyway. 

Consequently, nobody cares about local elections. 

People equate media coverage with importance. Trump dominated the airwaves during the 2016 election cycle, and as a result, he won the election. When the viewer does not see something flash across his eyes from their television, laptop or other viewing device, they discard it as unimportant. Thus, when the mainstream media do not provide coverage for one’s local elections, they discard it as unimportant. 

This shrugging of local elections would be acceptable if, in actuality, they truly were not important. But, for all the flak they generate, the founding fathers intelligently designed the nation to account for its diverse geography and populace, and accordingly, local and state politics hold greater amounts of power than you likely suspect. 

Foremost, public education, an undeniably central tenant to any civilized and productive society, is typically mainly funded by local governments. In fact, 92% of elementary and secondary education funds (i.e. K-12) in the United States come from non-federal sources. That, in and of itself, should compel you to vote. 

In most states, the state legislature holds primary control of redistricting. These men and women are in charge of drawing up district boundaries, including congressional districts. Something as innocuous as redistricting gets abused so frequently that the term “gerrymandering” was coined. Basically, politicians will sketch districts in incredibly odd ways with the intention of tipping the political lean of a district in their party’s favor.

When each district elects a rep to the House of Representatives, sketching them like an artist during an earthquake is wildly irresponsible and destructive. This abuse of power has been used by Republicans in North Carolina and almost impressively blatantly by Democrats in Maryland. 

Further, local communities are inherently more close-knit than larger ones. A town or city council person is always going to understand the pertinent issues of community to an exponentially larger extent than a federal official. The little things that impact us during our day to day lives — where we shop, public parks, roads — are all under the jurisdiction of local politicians.

There is a national, terminal case of confusion right now, as massive amounts of people have been indoctrinated by sensationalism into conflating the responsibilities of the federal government with those of the local. This creates apathy when it comes time to mark your ballot for those small-scale elections.

The responsibilities of becoming a citizen to not rest upon a few angry tweets, nor cynically dismissing every attempt to care about the issues. Being a part of and benefiting from a community comes with a certain set of ethical responsibilities. One of the most important of those responsibilities is exercising democracy in a responsible manner. 

Encouraging voting is noble, but encouraging responsible voting is key. Taking the time to research a local candidate, understanding where they stand on an issue and why they do, looking into their voting records and their plans for your area is how one fully exercises their right to vote.

With elections coming on Nov. 6, there is a great opportunity for you to do so, and truly know what it means to be part of a community. 

While national politics may be appealing to the dramatic side of us, tapping into the pragmatic side and realizing the importance of voting in local elections will make a real, tangible impact.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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