We are fast approaching an off year election. We are not electing a president or a new congress. That means most people won’t bother to vote and that’s just wrong. Off year elections have a huge impact on our day to day lives. They are when we elect our mayors, our town councils and our boards of education. They are when we decide local issues like whether to build a new town hall or make a change to the zoning rules. Some places elect judges in the off years. They may not have the star power of presidential and mid term elections, but off year elections are where the action is.
All it takes to see what I mean is a look at our current situation. Last year, we had a presidential election. There was tons and tons of news coverage. People got all fired up about it. We elected the worst possible candidate and now we’re living in the Trump Administration. This administration has been an unmitigated disaster so far. It has been incompetent, corrupt, stupid and pathetic. I feel a little weird saying this since I usually believe it takes 20-25 years to properly assess a presidency, but Trump is the worst president we’ve ever had. Yet, for most Americans, our day to day lives haven’t changed very much. We still get up every morning and work too hard for too little. We spend time with our families and friends. We go to the movies. We watch TV. For most of us, life goes on.
This is just the nature of the American system. Trump has tried to make significant changes, but he has failed, so far. Obamacare repeal can’t get through Congress. The travel ban and the transgender military ban have both been blocked by the courts. There is no wall along the Mexican border. We haven’t gotten into any new wars, there is no need to restart the draft. Trump has even appointed a new Supreme Court Justice, but abortion is still protected. None of this is to say that we should be complacent. Trump and his administration are fundamentally immoral and should be fought at every opportunity. Despite their incompetence, they might get some of these things through if we lose our vigilance. What it is meant to say is, as I said before, the federal system is set up in a way that preserves the status quo.
Most real change, at least the kind that impacts most Americans from day to day, happens at the local level. Betsy DeVos is a high profile, easy target, but she doesn’t decide what your kids’ school is going to be like. That’s up to your town’s board of education. It’s the local governments that decide which roads will get repaired and where to put the stop signs. It’s the local governments that decide what to do with those blighted buildings. It’s the local governments that police us and put out our fires. They create the zoning rules. They handle the nitty-gritty work in a crisis by setting up shelters and organizing evacuations. Not a day goes by without a local government’s decision impacting you or someone you care about. These are the things that we can all see, hear and feel. They are the important things.
I believe people should vote in every election, big and small. But, if you decide you’re only going to vote in the important elections, make it the off year elections. These are the elections where your voice matters and where things get done. Make an important difference, go out and vote.