Embrace Your Role In Local Races
This Op-Ed was written by Adam Crain and was published in The Spartanburg Herald-Journal on 7/31/16.
Despite this tumultuous national election season, you can be certain the Republican candidate for president will win South Carolina in November.
Other than the election of 1976 when we helped catapult fellow Southerner Jimmy Carter to the White House, South Carolina has voted for the Republican nominee for president ever since Barry Goldwater ran in 1964. This year won’t be a Jimmy Carter election year — South Carolina will be red in November.
If you lean left, you will likely be disappointed in the presidential winner of the Palmetto State. If you lean right, your joy will last all of 15 seconds while the news networks predictably paint South Carolina red the moment the polls close on Nov. 8. Everyone will know their vote technically counted, but the change you seek will not come from Washington. And here’s the thing: it was never meant to.
Many conservative commentators have bemoaned the rise of Donald Trump as a consequence of an out-of-touch political class in Washington and a false hope for his loyal supporters who are taken with his “America first” platform. Likewise, Hillary Clinton is the least popular presumptive Democratic Party nominee in decades.
A still more powerful president, seemingly unconcerned with the limits of presidential power, is not what Americans really need — no matter the political agenda they claim to represent. After all, more centralization of power in the executive branch means ever-diminishing personal liberty. It’s no wonder South Carolinians feel disconnected from the federal government.
South Carolinians are looking for stable jobs, quality education that provides opportunity for their children, safe neighborhoods to live in, quality health care facilities and reliable infrastructure to keep the economy growing. The strength of these initiatives and many others is not grounded in the politics of Washington. Despite the promises — and oftentimes obstacles — from Washington, those in state and local office have incredible impact on your daily life.
Yet turnout in state and local elections in non-federal election years is often embarrassingly low. In 2014, according to the Office of the Secretary of State, only 43 percent of registered voters cast votes — the lowest voter turnout in decades by South Carolinians despite the fact that there was a statewide gubernatorial race.
So this election cycle, already knowing that Trump will win South Carolina, why not direct more energy and focus to beefing up your knowledge of local officials? Before you stop me, I know there may not be rock-star drama or a mad rush of excitement surrounding your mayoral race, county council campaigns or school board elections. But please don’t discount their importance.
The zoning laws your City Council passes and your mayor enforces keep strip clubs out of your backyard. The quality of the roads and bridges leading to your house is primarily the responsibility of the state government to maintain. Likewise, it is the local school board and your state representative who determine much of the education policy in your child’s district. And your local sheriff implements the guidelines for policing you and your neighbors in your community.
Local politicians care what you think. In local elections, your vote can truly make or break their campaign or their incumbency. As you make decisions about their political fate, realize that if elected, they will make decisions that directly affect your daily life.
For those of you disillusioned with Washington, recognize that you have much power to wield on a local level. Just ask Charlotte, N.C., how much power a city council has — it has turned the issue of transgender bathroom rights into part of the national conversation!
For those of you enthusiastically interested in national politics, stay that way. But recognize that Trump and Clinton will not be the only two names on the ballot in November. Some of the names farther down the ballot will have far more of an effect on you and your family.
Your informed participation in local elections can shape a better future for every South Carolinian, town by town.