Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post-election thoughts

The days just after the general election always bother me. It's like we've decided that the single, most important act we can do as citizens of this country is to vote. We say, "You're a good American, as long as you vote. We don't care what you do for the rest of the four years, but if you vote, you are an amazing person."

So, we wait in line for a few hours, vote, get a sticker, and post on Facebook, "See? I voted!" And we think our civic duty has just been completed.

If our guy loses, we lean back in our chairs, smack our hands together, and say, "I wash my hands of this mess. The next four years isn't my fault or my problem." In fact, when our guy loses, we secretly want things to go badly so we can say, "See, I told you so" and get our guy in office next go-round.

If our guy wins, we lean back in our chairs, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, "Whew, my job here is done. I elected the right guy, and he'll take care of the rest for us."

But voting is not the most important thing we can do as Americans. Honestly, if we don't live in Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, or Florida, our vote probably was meaningless. But if we're searching for a way to truly impact lives around us, perhaps we should take a moment to actually look around us.

If we cared as much about local politics as we do about the general election, imagine the good we could do for our neighbors.

But I know local politics is difficult for us in our 20s and 30s to get excited about. Our generation is on the move. My husband and I have lived in Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, New Jersey, and New York. I'm not even sure I knew the mayors of more than half of the cities in which I've lived. (And I'm not even counting study abroad or working abroad experiences.)

In fact, let me fess up to how my moving lifestyle has affected my own political actions. I wasn't even registered to vote in NY. I still had my NJ license. I remembered checking the box when getting my NJ license to automatically register me to vote, but I guess it didn't go through because NJ didn't have me on the books as a registered voter. So, I didn't even vote this election. The pressure to vote in the general election is so great that I haven't even admitted this to most of my friends. But, the rational side of me knows that my vote wouldn't have even mattered in NJ or NY.

If I don't stay in one city or state long enough to ensure that I'm licensed to drive there and registered to vote there, how can I possibly say that I'm going to get involved with local politics?

And all I can think about is how badly I want to move back to Texas.

So, how can our generation, so open to moving, so transitory, how can we focus more on local politics, which is where we can make the most difference?

I don't know, and I'm trying to figure this out for myself. How do you get involved with your local politics or communities or churches? How do you plug in with your neighborhood? This migratory girl is looking for some feedback/suggestions and hoping to inspire you to plug in locally too.

P.S. Like the new color scheme? Hoping to make more changes soon.


  1. My feelings exactly! It's one reason why I'm ready to stay in Austin for a long time. I wish you lived here (or I was still in Brooklyn) so that we could talk more about this. I'm forwarding this to my husband because he is going to love it. Particularly the line about "So, how can our generation, so open to moving, so transitory, how can we focus more on local politics, which is where we can make the most difference?"

    He is pretty disinterested in politics, but runs a meetup group called Austin Community Living that meets and discusses how to encourage and cultivate community in a culture that tends to isolate and disconnect. But it's a pretty hard idea to talk to people about in our generation, or even our parents. My dad moved wherever there was a job and doesn't understand why we don't want to do the same.

    Here's Rigel's blog:

    Also, I totally understand the apathy you felt towards voting. I was scrambling up until the last minute to catch up on the local elections (I only ended up reading a few, but figured that was better than none). And I only did that because I felt obligated. When it's not election time, I could care less about local politics, unfortunately.

    1. Thanks, Polly!
      I love that you and Rigel have made the joint decision to move to a neighborhood and foster community there. I think that's awesome.

      I struggle with always thinking about our next move. We were in Hoboken for a few months before we decided we'd rather live in Brooklyn, so we didn't really make friends or invest in Hoboken. Now that we're in Brooklyn, we're anticipating moving to Texas, so we aren't really making friends or investing in Brooklyn.

      I'm realizing now that this is a problem. I keep thinking that I'll move to a neighborhood where people are more similar to me and so I'll like them better - community will come naturally! But, the fact is, maybe instead of hoping to live near people that I just happen to like, I should work on loving the people who are around me now.

      That said, I'm so not into community gardening, lol! I see the way our neighbors treat our communal garbage cans, and there's no way I'm letting them near my tomato plants. Haha, so I still want some separation... But maybe I should be open to less...

      Bringing it back around to politics, when our focus is on national politics, we feel very little responsibility for how things work out. The politicians in Washington are handling things. Maybe we'd feel more responsibility (and so invest more time and resources) into politics if we felt immediate impacts. Something for our generation to think about.

      Also, Rigel's blog is fantastic - thanks for sharing it!

  2. Ah! Apparently it's been long enough since you posted that you weren't in my RSS reader anymore. Not sure how that happened, actually, since I now see that there are several more posts that I've missed, but on the bright side, now I have some archive-catching-up to do!

    Anyway, I was thinking about that as I was voting straight party. I used to bill myself a Dixiecrat in college. I think that was mainly just because I was friends with all the cool Democrats in high school, but it was a totally unexamined thing. I got to college, realized I wasn't really a Democrat, and looked for an explanation that made me look the least stupid.

    Anyway, I understand how the party platform plays out on a grand scale, but I'm not actually sure that I do on a local level. What does it mean that I voted for a Republican school board representative? Waste management commissioner? Surely one's pro-life bona fides don't really come into play for many of these positions.

    Back to the original question, I don't have any good ideas, but I'm willing to listen to suggestions too.

  3. Yeah, I'm not even sure how parties play out on the large scale. If we vote for a Congressional member because s/he's a Republican, explicitly pro-life or for shrinking the government, but s/he doesn't actually do anything to reduce abortions or government spending - s/he usually gets to stay in office anyway and no one says a thing about it. If we vote Democrate because the rep says s/he will help bring an end to the war or promote electric cars or whatever but things just proceed as they would have already - Obama brought Iraq troops home the same day Bush would have, but surprise troops are still over there! And now drones too. Yet, they stay in office because they're "Democrats" and so is their district.

    It's like each party has a "platform" that's mostly words and no accountability. The only thing they're really "for" is keeping themselves and their friends in power.

    But, yeah, those "platforms" seem irrelevant on the small scale. What's Republican or Democratic about a school board rep? I have no idea.

    It's hard for me to not get disheartened by the large-scale politics so much that I become uninterested in what's going on in my own neighborhood too.