Living out here on the far end of Long Island, there is some degree of buffer between our daily lives and the national political situation. There’s something about our disconnect from the mainland that makes many of our political debates more provincial than they might be in the contiguous land mass of the United States.
Unless you happen to work for Brookhaven National Laboratory or Plum Island, the Air Force or the Coast Guard or the Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge, it’s unlikely that federal issues affect your daily life as much as local zoning, traffic or county health department regulations.
Even seemingly national issues like health care, voter registration and environmental regulations, are buffered here by New York’s own state regulations.
Our state ranked 36th in the nation in terms of voter participation last year. That low turnout makes sense in a national electoral college system that always turns our state blue. But it also has an ancillary effect of stifling voter interest in contests that don’t involve the President of the United States.
Local election season is now upon us, though you won’t really see the candidates pounding the pavement until kids go back to school in September.
Small town newspaper people live in a rarified world of people who care passionately about town elections, and it’s easy for us to forget that most people living here don’t vote in local races and often can’t name their local elected officials. The big quadrennial political show was last year. What’s in it for us this year?
The truth is that there’s a lot more in it for us in local races than we might think. The people who manage our towns have a direct impact, not just on potholes and taxes, but on visioning our communities for the years ahead.
At a time when the East End has never faced more pressures as a tourist destination, now is the time for visionary hometown leadership that both honors the past and looks clear-eyed at the unsustainable future our region is facing and proposes real, workable solutions.
We’re expecting a hearty debate on these issues in the months to come, and we remain ever-hopeful for high voter turnout on November 7 of this year and in contests next year, and the year after that.
It’s not enough to just show up for the headline act. We all need to show up and be involved in the process at a level where we are eye-to-eye with our neighbors, talking about what matters in our daily lives, in a realm of political life that has little to do with the partisan rancor blaring from our television sets.