We Democrats are feeling pretty good these days. The Republicans appear to be on the verge of self-destruction. The party establishment seems to have lost control and playing out a classic case of the tale wagging the dog. While we would all agree that the GOP presidential frontrunner has moved out of the clown car, there is also a consensus that his bombastic, outrageous and self-serving pronouncements will to be a nonstarter in a general election against his Democratic rival. Yet, those candidates who might be more presentable, from the perspective of the party establishment, are all polling in single digits and starting to fall off of the campaign trail. Our joy continues as we watch the Republican House majority struggle to provide even a semblance of order and leadership. The public nature of the internal battle being waged for control simply feeds the perception of those who question the viability of the GOP and its ability to govern. Yes, it seems that we Democrats have many reasons to rejoice, that is unless we begin to use our peripheral vision.
If we keep looking exclusively at what seems to be center stage, Washington D.C. and the presidential nominating contest, we will continue to miss what are perhaps the most important events taking place around the country. While what is happening in Washington D.C. and the campaign trail is entertaining, what is happening at the state and local level impacts on our daily lives and the future of our country. It almost feels like the magician has been working to divert our attention while the real action is elsewhere. There are a few basic facts that create a very different view of the GOP. First, while we laugh at their seeming ineptness in the congress, they have effectively blocked a massive amount of legislation, a record number of nominations and created havoc for the Democratic presidential frontrunner. In addition they do control a majority of the nation’s statehouses and state legislatures. Finally, they have made impressive inroads into local school boards and county governments.
Those of us who are concerned with gun control, climate change, historical and scientific revisionism in the classroom, womens’ health, immigration, pay equity, equitable congressional districts, minimum wage and voting rights had better be concerned about the facts stated above. While we are led to believe that all of the meaningful action on these issues is centered in Washington, the reality is that much of the action is on the state and local level. Let’s not forget the number of recent state laws that restrict a woman’s access to healthcare or restrict a citizen’s access to the polls. Let’s not be oblivious to the many laws passed by states during the last few years that ease restrictions on gun access and ignore the hazards of climate change. Perhaps most insidious and long-lasting are the changes made in school curricula that corrupt historical truth and ignore scientific fact. These children will grow to be misinformed and ignorant adults. How do you think they will vote?
Local elections have notoriously low turnouts. It seems that only the party faithful and family and friends of the candidates turn out. That is a reality discovered by the GOP many years ago. By taking advantage of this fact they have successfully inserted themselves in important leadership positions in the very bodies that can impact on our daily lives the most. City and state governmental bodies tax, regulate and appoint officials who implement their wishes. School boards select text books, approve curricula and hire school officials that carry out their wishes. In cities, counties and states across the nation our lives are being governed by those whose values and visions are contrary to ours. We may be amused and enjoy the Republican debacle in Washington D.C., but who will have the last laugh?