In politics, think local

When living in Donald Trump’s America, it is easy for progressive voters to lose sight on what is achievable change. Every day, there is a gush of bad news coming out of Washington, D.C. From the revelations of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, to the ongoing Republican struggle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, to the partisan fight over Judge Neil Gorsuch’s ascension to the United States Supreme Court. There are many who believe that Trump’s first 70-plus days have been so hectic because his administration wants us, the progressives, to founder amid all of the chaos. I personally wonder how much longer we can keep this up.

But what really concerns me is that my progressive friends, who are fighting their best against this new administration and a Republican-controlled Congress, seem to forget the fight that is happening right under our nose. I lay my head down every night in a deep red state. South Carolina’s legislature will have more impact on our lives than anything that inches its way through in the District. I would argue that the majority of our state legislators have become accustomed to being voted into office unopposed and then governing at will, without the input of their constituents.

And most of my friends admit readily that they are very unaware as to what happens at their city hall. I live in Charleston, which is a speck of blue in a sea of red. My guess is that most take for granted that our seemingly progressive government will do “the right thing” and govern the way that we wish.

We risk a lot when we do that. The power of our voices are so much more powerful at home than in Washington, D.C., and yet that’s where we’ve fixed our focus. Progressive voters have a horrible track record of coming out to the polls in years where there isn’t a presidential candidate on the ballot. And are we attending the public meetings? Sometimes it’s difficult for the average voter to find out who represents them. For example, in the last two homes I’ve bought, they have been outside of confines of the City of Charleston. But the neighbor to my left was a city resident and had a totally different set of elected local officials. That not only makes it confusing to the homeowner when faced with a question about their property, but it confuses the government too. In my old West Ashley neighborhood, the city boundary lines were so jagged and inconsistent, the county’s 911 center had a hard time figuring out if they needed to send a Charleston police officer or a county deputy in response to an emergency call. Is that good government?

There are so many local and statewide issues that aren’t being given the proper attention because of the eyesore that is the Trump administration. I will always argue that if we turned that focus more toward our local government, we could create a microcosm of change that could then ripple across the country. If you look to the Christian Coalition and the Republican Party of the late 1970s and early 1980s, they did exactly that. They focused their efforts on local government and school boards, and then they slowly worked their way up to Congress and the White House.

This is not a sprint to the finish line. Progressives need to be patient, they need to start small and they need to vote. They need to continue to take notes from the conservative playbook and utilize them when the time is right. Many people forget that there is an election on Nov. 7, 2017. Several municipal seats will be up for reelection throughout the Lowcountry. Start doing your research now, and consider whether you should run.

For me, I’ll be doing my part. I hope you’ll do yours.