Tuesday’s presidential election couldn’t be more critical to the well-being of our nation. But don’t forget state and local races! In some ways, these elections affect our lives as much as who’s living in the White House.
When it comes to addressing public issues, local governments are often more successful at making a difference and more responsive to our particular points of view.
After people across the U.S. spoke out against police abuse of force earlier this year, 42 of the nation’s 50 biggest cities adopted new restrictions on abuses by the police, according to a New York Times article citing Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska Omaha. Cities and towns across the country continue to consider these changes, along with budgetary shifts to more effectively address safety issues.
Earlier this year, as the COVID-19 epidemic unfolded, the federal government could offer only advice (which flip-flopped) and moral support. City and county public health officials were the ones implementing health orders, gathering supplies and providing testing. And this is not only the case during this Administration; city and county health agencies are always the frontline providers.
Similarly, local governments around the country are taking action on climate change even as the federal government—under both Republican and Democrat administrations—has failed to act, often due to Congress dragging its heels. Local governments are also acting on immigration, becoming “Welcoming Cities” or even “Sanctuary Cities.”
The well-worn quote of former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, that “all politics are local” could be adjusted for today’s reality: politics are national; problem-solving is local.
As the author of “The Big Sort,” Bill Bishop, points out, Americans are increasingly voting with their feet, moving to places that best satisfy their needs and desires, at least when they are able to choose. As a result, our states, cities and even neighborhoods increasingly reflect our personal values, which has its disadvantages as well as benefits. Increasingly, one can find a city like Boulder, Colorado, which calls itself a green, sanctuary city and nuclear free zone, or Colorado Springs, just 100 miles south, which keeps taxes at a minimum and elects Republicans to most offices.
This steady migration of people to communities that share their values and the increased civic engagement that has become standard practice for cities result in people living in places that more closely align with their political, social and economic interests, creating government by the people, for the people and especially with the people.
When you wake up on election day (or at some future point when the elections are actually decided) and you don’t see who you want in the White House, remember that many of the problems we face are still getting solved, not by the occupant of the White House, but by the mayor who lives down the block, working with you and your neighbors to create the kind of community you want.