Everyone wants to talk about President Trump. Even when the President isn’t focusing the media attention on himself (which is pretty rare), people want to discuss what he’s doing or not doing. If you wander onto social media, the overwhelming number of political posts are about President Trump, followed by Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.
Given all that focus, you would think that the President has an outsized influence in our daily lives. But unless you work in the federal government, that’s not really true. In fact, your local judges and politicians have a far greater impact on your daily life, and yet most people can’t name but a handful of them.
Let’s look at your average day. After you get up, you drive into work. The roads are managed at the state level, with some states spending significantly more in administrative costs than others. Your gas tax varies widely from state to state. Whether your hair stylist or braider needs a license is mainly state controlled. Whether you can buy alcohol on Sunday, or at night, or from a private store, is controlled by your state.
The COVID-19 responses in your state are mostly controlled by the governor. While Michigan and New York have capitalized on media coverage, the reality is that most governors seem to have done OK. I’m not a fan of our governor, but his response to COVID-19 and the restrictions he put in place made sense. I can still shop and get take-out from restaurants, without getting pulled over by the police and having my trunk checked for essential items.
The rules in place get funded and reinforced by the state legislature, and yet I struggle to find people who know anything, even the name, of their state representative. These people have a huge influence on your daily life, and people actually get to choose them every few years, and yet most have no idea who they are.
Schools are even worse. School board elections are so mundane, and yet most people figured out that despite the administrative costs paid by your property taxes, most schools couldn’t build a distance education plan to save their lives. I’m having to teach my kids math and science because the math and science teachers aren’t allowed to lecture more than an hour a week because of the school administration. After having that stupid rule explained to me, I’ve taken a larger interest in school board elections.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a chance for many people to reevaluate portions of their life. Could you spend long periods of time at home? Could you stay connected with others when you couldn’t travel? But perhaps most importantly, it exposed most of us to how well or not well our local elected officials run our government. That experience should drive your vote this year.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.