The term "small-town politics" makes me cringe when I hear it describe local government. The three simple words downgrade the importance of our local government and insinuate a small-town government is only capable of corruption or being "the good old boys club."
Although 2022 is a non-presidential election year, if the above narrative resonates, this election allows constituents to focus on our local government candidacies and make their voice heard in our hometowns. The primary election is quickly approaching, and now is the time to recognize every vote cast is a catalyst to change the narrative of your community. Suppose you believe local government is corrupt or limited to a particular class of citizens. As unfair as it seems, it is still the citizens of our communities' responsibility to hold our government officials accountable. Our vote is one of the most possible and significant ways to ensure accountability.
Candidates should earn their constituents' votes. These individuals, if elected, represent you and me and should be a direct reflection of what we believe. Thomas Jefferson said unapologetically, "The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors."
By now, most candidates have provided the public with a general press release, and campaigns are in full swing. In turn, we are gaining the opportunity to learn more about how these candidacies will go to work for us. As the campaigns continue, I urge voters to learn about the person behind the name on the yard sign you see daily driving to work. What are the main components of their platform? Do they make sense? Does the candidate have a plan of how to achieve their platform goals?
When conversing, do they listen to you? Are they taking notes and asking follow-up questions to understand your beliefs. Candidates should always be on the lookout for the opportunity to involve constituents in the decision-making process. Further, don't be afraid to ask tough questions or have hard conversations. As Jefferson stated, "Government exists for the interest of the governed..." A candidate that doesn't value community input, couldn't possibly be successful.
If we step into polling booths in May uneducated about the candidates before us, what do we base our vote on? I remember the first election I voted in. I was 18 and was eager to exercise the right to vote. I was nervous, and I remember my hand shaking as I carefully reviewed the ballot and made my selections. I was impressed with myself as I confidently cast my first few votes. Then my local district candidacy positions were there in front of me. I was ill-prepared and didn't know what half of the elected officials would be responsible for if elected.
I didn't know what to do, and I was disappointed. As I read over the names on the ballot, it would have been easy to pick candidates based on name recognition living in a small town. Ultimately I chose not to vote for the candidacies I had not informed myself on. Instead, I let the other constituents of Franklin County make that decision for me. I have never gone to the polling booths unarmed of information since.
"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant." -Maximilien de Robespierre