Following national politics can be entertaining. You can yell things at the TV when one joker or another gets up and says something that is invariably out of touch and, usually, just downright stupid. They are terrible at committing crimes and who doesn’t love the footage of a lawmaker doing the perp walk after he hung his constituents out to dry. If you have the money to get elected to a job in Washington, you probably aren’t familiar with day-to-day struggles of real people.
But, fortunately, the schmucks in Washington really have little say in what we do in our lives back here in reality. Sure, they can screw up health care on a regular basis – but who really cares about that? It’s only one-sixth of the economy – and if they have a personal vendetta somewhere in the world, they send our young people off to bomb some other young people. Other than that, though, their problems are our entertainment.
At home, however, our local leaders are the ones we need to pay attention to. It’s a plus, however. The people on village boards and city councils, along with occupying county offices, are people we know. They’re our friends and neighbors. You are much more likely to see your alderman in the grocery store than you are to see your congressman. You’re much more likely to have known your county board representative in high school than your state representative.
Those local representatives are the ones who affect your daily life. Your property taxes are decided by local bodies. Whether a new factory or distribution facility comes to town is based on the decisions they make, and often times, they are responsible for bringing them to town – or discouraging. Your kids’ educations are determined by school boards, made up of people who pay taxes like the rest of us.
I go to a lot of these meetings and have for years. One thing that has consistently baffled me is there is rarely a member of the public there. Multi-million dollar budgets are discussed and passed, and while members of the board are there to represent the public, no one else comes to chime in.
These are the decisions that can impact your life far more often than whatever Washington or Springfield do. Sure, the city council is not empowered to send your kids off to war, but those property tax rates determine how much of a house you can purchase and, after that, if you’re going to Florida or the Wisconsin Dells for vacation each year.
The elections this November are not terribly sexy. No president or senators are on the ballot and while Illinois will be choosing a governor, I, for one, know I won’t be voting for one candidate in that race so much as voting against the other.
We are picking those local offices that have a big say in those mundane things we take for granted and overlook, but nonetheless make up the fabric of our lives.
I don’t care who you vote for. I do care that you educate yourself on the candidates and vote for someone.
Each election, “did not vote” would run away with every office if they were a candidate. In recent years, voter turnout has increased, but we can’t rely on an Obama or a Trump to fire up a base and drive traffic to the polls. Some years, we’re going to have to have average candidates and we still need to vote.
I’ll always be in favor of Election Day being a national holiday – and a real one like Thanksgiving and not a fake one like Valentine’s Day. There needs to be more early voting, more protections for people to take time off of work to vote, and someday, there will have to be a massive public transportation network open to make sure everyone can get to the polls when they need to. You’ll never hear me get hot and bothered about singing the national anthem or standing for the flag or the pledge, but I’ll unabashedly lecture a stranger in a bar for saying they don’t vote.
Literally everything else in this country flows from filling in a bubble on a ballot. Even submitting a blank ballot is a way to have your voice heard.
What would happen if we all voted for no one for governor? President? I’d imagine we’d get a better class of leader than we’ve had.
But it all comes down to that ballot and participating in the process. Vote for anyone in November, but vote.