Sure, it is easy and more fun to only think about national politics every four years, but we are all a part of our local communities. And if you found yourself feeling frustrated after the 2016 election, feeling as if your vote didn't matter, listen up - if you want to see real change, there is a very real way to make it happen. But you have to be willing to dig in and do more than just post things on Facebook to rile up your Breitbart-loving, crazy, MAGA hat-wearing uncle.
Let's go back to 2010 - the mid-term election that arguably had the biggest political consequence in modern history. Along with the 2010 census, a massive gerrymandering operation was put into place by the state legislatures of key political states. These state legislatures had the power to re-draw their districting maps; to essentially reset the system and set Republicans up for a wave of success for the next decade. This strategy even had a name: REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project), and was created out of the realization that by flipping the local state legislatures in states that were starting to lean democratic, re-drawing the state and federal lines would help these states eventually lean to the right. And this would have massive national consequences in key states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania - the states we always look at over and over after every election. Republicans spent $30 million on state races in 2010, taking advantage of the fact that Democratic turnout is typically very low in mid-term elections, and when voter turnout is low, it almost always favors Republicans. Thus, with a little bit of money, at the right time, when Democrats weren't looking (although they should have - Karl Rove basically revealed this plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed), blue states went deep red on the local level, setting up a major shift in the national political landscape. By redrawing the local districts, Republicans essentially shoved all the Democratic leaning areas into the cities and turned all of the surrounding areas into Republican leaning districts. How this plays out is that while more votes for Democratic candidates might be cast in a large population center, such as Philadelphia, those votes are essentially capped, because even though 100,000 people might have voted for a Democrat, that city only represents a small percentage of the legislative seats up for grabs when the lines are re-drawn to isolate the city centers from the rest of the state. Gerrymandering basically negates the idea that the party that gets the most votes wins the election.
*A great resource on the consequences of the 2010 elections and gerrymandering is the book "Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy," by David Daley.*
The big lesson to take away from this? Pay attention to your local elections and participate in them, because they have very big consequences. The best way to change a rigged game is to understand how it operates and work against it on the ground level to disrupt the basic operation - this means getting involved in grass-roots organizations and understanding the issues important to your community. And most of all, it means voting in every single election.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the El Dorado County Democrats, where Congressional candidate Jessica Morse, was going to speak. Morse is looking to challenge Republican Tom McClintock in the 2018 election, and has been campaigning relentlessly across the CA04 district. During the meeting, the members noted that more candidates were needed in positions such as the local school board, as even it had been taken over by Republicans with special interests in potentially changing educational materials, along with shifting federal funds away from public schools. This is why local elections matter.
After addressing the business of the group, Jessica Morse was introduced and spoke for nearly an hour on the issues facing the CA04 district and our country. Morse has literally walked the district from top to bottom, with her family living in the district for multiple generations. In the time that she spoke, Morse exemplified a qualified candidate that knows the challenges and the issues facing this district, but also understands global issues, and can point to how local and global issues connect. I was honestly inspired by her deep understanding of the effects of the logging industry and her knowledge of the agricultural issues facing the district. Jessica pointed to her service in the State Department and her time serving in Iraq at the height of the war, where she saw first hand how political decisions here in the United States impacted people across the globe. She was responsible for handling multi-billion dollar budgets at the State Department, offering solutions to help eliminate debt, while maintaining resources necessary for positive diplomatic operations.
Jessica Morse is the real deal. I can tell you that as I sat and listened to her share her heart for the people of CA04, I also saw her heart to serve the American people, and the people who suffer all over the world. She spoke of the time she recently spent helping folks whose lives had been devastated by the recent Detwiler wildfires, and steps she was able to take with local officials to help these people in time of desperate need. She didn't wait for news cameras to show up...she went and served, and has been back to help that community multiple times, because the people needed action. A servant-leader is the best way to describe Jessica Morse. She is the leader and the voice that CA04 needs, and is a challenger that McClintock should find terrifying, as she is the voice of a generation that is tired of do-nothing politicians.
After hearing Jessica Morse speak, I felt the way that Josh Lyman felt after hearing Jed Bartlett speak in the T.V. show, The West Wing. I felt that I saw someone who can create real change for the people, and I felt actual hope in a candidate.
To learn more about Jessica Morse, please visit https://www.morse4congress.com/
And for the love of everything that is good, dig in to your local elections, volunteer, and VOTE!