My work with Young Democrats of America has proven to me just how vital local politics
"Political corruption and dishonest politicians often begin at the local level, and it's critical Americans start paying more attention to the politics in their home cities."
This post was written by Jasmine Sheena, Pacific Region Director at Young Democrats of America Women's Caucus
During the last few days, many of us have gone about our daily lives, while simultaneously living through one of the biggest historical events in American history. The 2020 election, regardless of its winner, will be chronicled in history as an event that will have a lasting impact on the future of America.
Although Joe Biden and Kamala Harris became America's President and Vice President-elect on Friday, a number of other elections didn't go as well for Democrats. A number of high-profile races, like those of Sara Gideon (D-ME), Jaime Harrison (D-S.C.), and Amy McGrath (D-KY), were lost to Republican candidates, often corrupt Trump-supporting incumbents.
In Georgia, a QAnon-supporting candidate won a House seat. Thanks to general voter disinformation running rampant in the Trump era, a number of problematic candidates have grabbed powerful positions for themselves across all levels of political bureaucracy.
It is important to realize most corrupt politicians have to start somewhere. They often launch their careers in our very own communities. These candidates win a seat in their city, then go on to take state and perhaps even federal positions. Even in a smaller elected seat, an incumbent wields immense power and can shape the course of that microcosm for decades with the ideologies and legislation they back.
Whether you live in a small town, or a bustling metropolis, the politics of your home city are likely much more intricate and nuanced than most people imagine. I myself am a San Francisco resident heavily involved in local politics. Only after immersing myself in various local political organizations, interning at City Hall, and volunteering on political campaigns have I come to grasp of the city's political landscape.
One of the biggest things I've learned in my political work, is the extent of corruption present in San Francisco politics. Certain politicians will take large donations from groups like police unions or big developers, compelling them to favor them in their political agenda in order to sustain money flowing from these groups powering their campaigns.
These same candidates will often use their financial firepower to spend extravagant amounts of money against their opponents; leftist candidates, who usually denounce donations from certain groups that require reform or tend to sway elections. These candidates have to campaign harder and up their interactions with voters to counteract the lies that might be spewed about them in mailers and Facebook ads.
If these same monied candidates win, they often go on to promise reform, and cannot deliver because of the donors they are dependent on. Meanwhile, the everyday San Franciscan is inundated with often misleading media and literature filled with lies or misrepresentations about a candidate.
Since local politics is much less interesting to most people than the presidential race, especially this year, is likely to be swayed by these manipulative communications, voting for candidates with the financial leverage to pay for all the ads and mailers that bash other candidates.
After supporting multiple progressive campaigns, I can confirm only through talking to voters at local events, knocking doors, etc. can less monied candidates truly counteract the dollars against them. My point in bringing all this up is, political corruption and dishonest politicians often begin at the local level, and it's critical Americans start paying more attention to the politics in their home cities.
I know it is significantly easier to understand national politics because one has to focus on one race and learn about only a few candidates given immense media coverage. However, one should also take the time to study key local races on one's ballot as well. There are other ways to engage with politics on a local level as well: join a local political club.
San Francisco, for example, has countless Democratic clubs, with some representing certain neighborhoods, racial groups, or other markers of identity. These organizations engage in critical work in educating their constituents about local measures, candidates, and issues through events, and through supporting campaigns endorsed by the club as a whole.
They're also just a valuable way to meet people, often ones who have similar values to you as well. In a similar vein, volunteering for local campaigns that support your political views is another great way to be civically engaged on a local level. In smaller races, candidates can sometimes win by only a handful of votes, and the extra support volunteers can provide is often critical in a campaign's success.
Take the time to understand that prop measure or rising political figure on your ballot, because local politics shapes our lives in ways that most Americans do not truly recognize.
You can learn more about the work Jasmine and her team implement here.