For those Americans paying attention to the news, most are consumed by politics at the federal level. There is nothing wrong with this, but as I like to remind young Americans, “Government begins at home.” By this I mean government affects us first and foremost at the municipal and county levels. If you have a fire, you contact the local fire department, not a federal agency; if you want to report a crime, you call the local police or Sheriff’s office, not the Feds; if you have questions about your offspring’s school, you contact the local School Board, not the Department of Education, and; If you have a problem with water and sewer, you contact the local public works/utilities offices. The same is true for road maintenance and traffic, everything begins at the local level, all of which has the greatest impact on us.
Interestingly, few people seem to be aware of this which explains why voters rarely turnout in local elections as opposed to state or federal elections. Because of this voter apathy, it is easier to seize political control at the local level, and quite often, politicians slip a tax increase by in these poorly attended elections.
The notion local government is the bedrock of all government was first observed in 1835 by noted historian and political commentator Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman, as published in his famous book, “Democracy in America,” which was an analysis of our young country as compared to those in Europe. This was based on his travels through America in 1831 and 1832. The book, which is frequently referenced even to this day, contains his observations on the young country, everything from its geographical layout, to its culture, and particularly its new political system as a democratically elected republic, as opposed to a monarchy.
In his book, de Tocqueville observed, “…the strength of free nations resides in the township.” Whereas, European countries at the time consisted of monarchies, and a top-down approach to government, America had employed a bottom-up strategy instead. He also recognized, successful local government officials would likely progress up the ladder to state and federal positions. He wrote, “In France, the government lends its officers to the township – In America, the township lends its officers to the government.” This bottom-up approach is still common to this day, and provides another reason why citizens should pay close attention to local elections. It represents the “farm club” for government at higher levels. Today’s mayors, councilmen, police chiefs, prosecutors, public defenders, fire chiefs, and judges are tomorrow’s governors, attorney generals, congressmen, supreme court justices, and more.
One reason why people do not spend much time understanding local government is because the local news media spends little time covering it with qualified reporters. Most think it is trivial and their time is better served at the state and federal levels. This is why town hall meetings are so important to communicate what exactly is going on locally.
As we approach the 2020 elections, we of course need informed citizens to vote accordingly on major issues, but we also need voters for what appears to be inconsequential local elections in March or throughout the summer. They are every bit as important.
Just remember, local government is the basic building block of our entire government. Support it, don’t ignore it, as it has a great bearing on our lives.
Keep the Faith!
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