Reviews | Laugh at the SNL school board skit, take your local politics seriously.

Angry activists have requisitioned so many routine school board meetings in recent months that “Saturday Night Live” – ​​which usually r...


Angry activists have requisitioned so many routine school board meetings in recent months that “Saturday Night Live” – ​​which usually reserves its political satire for politicians on the national stage – recently devoted a segment satirizing one of those noisy meetings. Less humorous, attorney general Merrick garland launched a campaign to address the nationwide rise in violent threats against school board members, teachers and public school employees.

This week, the communities Across the country vote in school board and other local elections. Americans should remember that despite all the ways in which our political discourse has nationalized, the structure of our democratic institutions continues to confer enormous power on local governments.

Between protests against Covid policies and protests against critical race theory, the infusion of national politics into local meetings may appear to be the latest iteration of conservative activism. The Obama years saw the rise of the Tea Party. National surveys show that during Obama’s first term, Republicans were more likely to attend a local meeting than Democrats. But during the Trump years, liberal organizations like Indivisible and other “resistance” groups were those who sought to galvanize residents at the local level. With Democrats regaining control of the federal government, grassroots energy is now shifting to conservatives, as Republicans look to local meetings to channel their frustrations over critical race theory and hide mandates.

Local town halls are easy to dismiss: they can alternate between boring and chaotic. They can be dominated by extremists, by special interests or by people with too much free time. But anyone who thinks local democracy is below them is making a big mistake. Not only are the related decisions taken at public meetings; local democracy holds the secret to countering the endemic problem of partisan polarization. In fact, it offers the possibility for interesting new coalitions to emerge, challenging the ordinary dividing lines of partisan politics.

Local political activism on both left and right dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when suburban residents across the ideological spectrum and across the country found an outlet for national political concerns in their own backyards. In the suburbs of Boston, for example, liberal residents launched local organizations that deal with issues ranging from civil rights and affordable housing to environmentalism and peace. They urged their communities to pass local ordinances and modify existing policies based on these priorities. In Southern California, conservative commuters campaigned against school board members whom they feared would indoctrinate students with Communist curricula.

The post-war era had a much higher rate of civic engagement. Many commuters have found a way to build community in local politics. Today, however, what seems to motivate residents to get involved at the local level is less a generalized sense of civic duty than dissatisfaction with the status quo. Today’s media environment exacerbates tensions at local meetings. Participants echo the talking points they hear on social media or cable news, gleaned either from conservative circles (eg, in the case of critical race theory) or progressive ones (eg. example, in the case of police reform).

Our political culture is more nationalized than before. And yet the structure of politics is more local than ever. Today, as in the post-war years, when commuters first looked to local government to push for change, Americans recognize that the local level is where they could. exercise some control and influence over the political system. Whether it’s schools, the police, public health, homelessness or the environment, local governments affect public policy in ways that directly affect our lives.

Despite the promise of local politics, however, this can seem like a troubling avenue for resolving political differences, as the loudest and most reactionary voices can wield the power to disrupt or derail proceedings. On the one hand, the elected representatives at the front of the room are often part-time or voluntary. In addition, local elected officials are often in office thanks to elections in which the overwhelming majority of voters failed to vote.

Attending public meetings can be time consuming and inconvenient. Nightly meetings lasting several hours are not a realistic option for many people. The burdens of participation mean that those who present themselves are often white, wealthy and elderly owners.

Despite all that is problematic in local political activism, it can nonetheless be an antidote to political polarization and other civic concerns. On many issues, local political struggles do not properly follow national ideological or partisan positions. A municipal union aligned with Democrats in national politics can oppose local progressive activists. A business owner aligned with Republicans in national politics may oppose anti-mask conservatives on the streets.

In a liberal community, the strongest supporters and fiercest opponents of police reform, affordable housing, and equal education can all be registered Democrats. In a conservative community, a local Republican election official or health authority trying to hold an election or implement health precautions may have Republican detractors as well as Republican supporters.

The strange bedfellows and intra-party conflicts that accompany local politics create a rare space for the formation of coalitions different from those of Washington, DC politics. Non-partisan or bipartisan coalitions that form in the absence of parties present a model of what politics can look like without so much partisan polarization. Admittedly, this is not necessarily a warm and fuzzy model for respectful civic dialogue, but separating passionate political conflicts from partisan identity can be a step in the right direction in dealing with the current crisis of democracy.

The merits or faults of local democracy, however, are a bit irrelevant. Local politics is the place to go for ordinary citizens if they want to exercise control over the political process. When the turnout is only 10 to 20 percent, it doesn’t take a lot of organization to win an election. When decisions are made in public hearings, 20 passionate residents can make a big difference in policy. When local residents become active because of an issue they hold dear – their children’s school, climate change, economic development – activists on other immediate issues have the opportunity to recruit them into involvement. deeper policy.

Anytime a viral video makes the rounds of a chaotic local meeting, national news junkies can poke fun at local politics and all its warts. But these videos reveal an open secret to viewers: Every day, local meetings in the United States are a place where the powerful make decisions that affect some of America’s most serious problems. Write them at your own risk.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Reviews | Laugh at the SNL school board skit, take your local politics seriously.
Reviews | Laugh at the SNL school board skit, take your local politics seriously.
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