Between Donald Trump and Covid 19 and Black Lives Matter, all of which matter very much, don't forget this prime political maxim:
“All politics are local.”
That is the rubric by which politics, writ large, has operated for years. And for the most part, it has done well for them. It is the people who interest themselves in local politics, in the concerns of the citizens over utilities and streets, zoning laws and school districts, who run for local offices, and it is these same citizens who vote for them. Often it is the people who win these local elections who move on to higher office, supposedly bringing with them the concerns of their original constituents. Nice work if you can get it, and even nicer when it works.
Here's the rub.
Not only do most people not vote, most people don’t know beans about local politics. Unless it affects them directly – sidewalk improvement, for instance – very few folks pay that much attention. As long as everything seems to run along smoothly – the streets get plowed and the toilets flush – folks are just getting on with their lives.
I’m not talking down, here. I’m talking across. Because I, too, can’t find it in myself to give a rap about local politics. I’m a big picture kind of gal. I’m fascinated with the ins and outs of maneuvers on Capitol Hill – the one in Washington, not the Seattle neighborhood - and the movement of chess pieces across the international board of play. But I can’t seem to bring that same interest to a city council meeting. What do these local issues have to do with whirled peas?
I’m not crowing about my lack of interest. Just revealing that it is there. And I suspect I’m not alone.
When I lived in Seattle, I spent the last decade or so as a PCO – Precinct Committee Officer – for the 46th District Democrats. Part of the job was delivering candidate flyers and our official 46th District endorsements to all the voters in my precinct. I would greet my constituents (yes, they had to vote for me, I was on the ballot) with a cheery smile offering “your fair share of propaganda and a list of helpful voting suggestions.” This latter was often more than welcome. In Seattle, not only did we have to vote for school board members and judges we had never heard of, we also had to vote for Port Commissioner. So if we were at all inclined to vote for Democrats, a list of handy voting suggestions from the District was always welcome.
So what am I trying to say here? I’m certainly not trying to say you should not interest yourself in local politics. I guess I’m trying to say that we all should, but how do we get ourselves interested in whether or not new sidewalks go in across town? There’s one in front of my house. Not my problem.
But then, again, it is. New sidewalks across town are, conceptually, directly related to comprehensive health care. They both may benefit people other than yourself, and you will have to help pay for them. But in the long term, it is in your benefit to do so. Because the people you encounter every day will be safer and healthier and more able to go about their business properly if the concerns of everyone in the community was suitably addressed.
So even if you have no pressing problems of your own (Covid-19 excluded), keep half an eye on your local news to see if there is an issue worth a minute or two of your time. Google it. Give it a little thought. In the end, you might have much more influence, much more impact on that little issue than you have on whirled peas. And making a few lives better by giving them a piece of solid footing is much easier than ensuring them comprehensive healthcare. Furthermore, if you learn the process of providing new sidewalks, you learn much about how to accomplish healthcare for all.
So work for new sidewalks, or low-income housing or the preservation of city trees, but don’t give up on healthcare. Or whirled peas. It's all good.