The Athens City Council and Mayoral debates seem light-years away from the 2020 national races. From the small crowds gathering into local libraries to the plastic folding tables, those elections seem like an entirely alien form of politics. But there is a lot to be learned from local races.
Somewhere along the line, presidential debates became less about candidates debating their political philosophies and more about putting on a Super Bowl-esque experience for the nation to obsess over.
There is an overwhelming lack of humanity in national politics. When Athen natives participate in local elections, the candidates we vote for are stakeholders in the community, but very few presidential candidates can say they are impacted by the well-being of middle America.
Looking for a candidate that feels the way Athens City Council feels is a great first step to bridging the gap between local and national politics. Regardless of policy, it’s easy to see how Bernie Sanders seems more like a local representative than Joe Biden or Cory Booker.
That is the source of Donald Trump’s success in 2016 — he went to marginalized communities in “flyover country” and spoke to them the way a representative from their town might. Sherrod Brown also maintains his success by presenting himself as an everyday Ohioan who truly has value in the well-being of the state.
The current mayoral race — and city council, to some degree — reflects the state of national Democratic politics. Mayor Steve Patterson is seen as an establishment Democrat by more progressive Athenians, and Damon Krane is the social democrat candidate. Those same strains are present on the Democratic National Committee with candidates like Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Tulsi Gabbard running for the same nomination as Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Local politics don’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, all levels of government directly impact one another. If voters want to impact change, organizing locally is a strong start, but an unfortunately slow path to take.
If the direct lines to national politics aren’t enough to convince voters, Brookings conducted a study in Washington, D.C., that shows how local elections can literally be life or death in some cases. How policy is put into place has a serious impact on voters within a local district.
Information about local elections is harder to gather, and opinions are harder to form, so engagement tends to be lower. There isn’t a massive 24-hour news cycle covering small, local elections like there are congressional and presidential elections.
Regardless of what lens the races are being viewed through, local, state and national elections are all connected and important. Low voter turnout in local elections may have more adverse effect than any presidential race can. Whether it's this November or 2020, voting with local interests in mind makes for stronger communities.
Noah Wright is a junior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.