Thursday, May 19, 2005

You must unlearn what you have learned: The old saying goes, "All politics is local." I'm not so sure that's true anymore. In fact, I'm ready to declare, "All politics is national."

I realized this when I got a message on my answering machine from a recording that was reminding me of the important school board election coming up on Saturday. This is a crucial election, the message said, and I should remember to get out to vote.

The funny thing was, I had no idea up until that point that a campaign was underway and that an election was imminent. I do read the newspaper -- several of them, in fact -- every day. I'm sure if I dug through the Metro sections of WashPost or WashTimes, I would have found a couple stories of an upcoming Arlington, Virginia, election. But I don't remember any stories getting any sort of prominence.

Contrast that with the Terri Schiavo "issue". I'm pretty certain nobody beyond immediate friends and family cared one way or the other until the story was turned into a national soap opera. Something that was about as local as a story can get was deemed important based on what kind of national exposure it could garner.

It amazes me that people get so wrapped up in national issues and ignore local ones. The fate of the filibuster is not going to affect your day-to-day life. Local zoning ordinances, as boring as that may be, actually do.

Typically in national surveys, when people are asked to name which issues are most important to them, education ranks pretty high on the list. But most of the people who answer that way probably couldn't name one elected member of their local school board. Instead, they ask the national government to make sure that no child is left behind in their hometown school district.

Based on the number of voters alone, you're more likely to have a significant impact on a local election than a national one, simply because your vote ends up being a bigger percentage of the total. But local elections are seen as a waste of time. So voter turnouts are much larger for national elections, about issues that don't concern most people, than for local ones -- making your vote even more valuable for municipal tallies.

Apparently, though, I'm as guilty about this issue as everyone else. But I think it's dangerous to expect the national government to solve everyone's everyday problems.

I recall soon after Bush was elected and he was proposing his tax increases, some critics would trash the idea by saying, "Like we couldn't use that money to fix more potholes." Excuse me, but federal tax dollars don't fix potholes. Talk to your city council about that. Now people blame Bush for recent closings of fire houses in major cities. That, my friends, is decided locally. The President of the United States gets no say in such matters.

I would like to say the answer to this problem is to get the news media to pay more attention to local issues. But considering all the trash reporting that goes on with national coverage, I don't think I want that to be extended to the local venue, where the topics really are important.

Probably the best thing for us to do is to become more involved in our own communities, especially in our schools. Maybe more adults could volunteer spending time with students in classrooms. That would help our school systems out much more than anything President Bush can sign into law.

As for me, I'm going to start out by learning as much as I can about this upcoming election before I vote on Saturday.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Staunch Moderate
Using Caribou Theme | Bloggerized by Themescook