As the political climate undergoes more rapid warming than the planet which hosts it, we experienced an already long election drawn out further by a president that did not want to leave. Away from the complex politics of the electoral college and claims of corruption I went to New Hampshire to escape the undying heat of Miami and engage in local politics. While there, I met a man named John who had just finished his second and last term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. John was a simple machinist and accountant in a small town who had chosen to join the House of Representatives on the back of a simple policy. John stepped aside four years later, having moved his bill through the house, to allow his successor to make whatever change he felt necessary to the great state of New Hampshire.
This act of statesmanship reminded me of the story of Cincinnatus, the 15 day dictator of Rome. Cincinnatus was taken from his farm on the banks of the river Tiber and given complete control in an effort to win the ongoing war against Aequi. After a short fifteen days, the war was won and Cincinnatus returned to his farm. He is often looked to as the idea of a model citizen: someone who could look past his own lust for power to simply serve and serve well. His feats also echo the actions of George Washington, who voluntarily gave up the presidency and did not stand for re-election after his second term in office. Not only did he reject an indefinite democratic rule, but also a kingship shortly after winning the revolution.
As the top level of the political system is over encumbered with career politicians acting not on a principle and a position, but a simple draw to power, it is refreshing to see that there are still people who know when it is “time to leave”. It seems the US has reached the point where the voter must choose the least-worst candidate for the highest ranking office (for all the good that Joe Biden may or may not do he was in no way an inspiring candidate for the presidency). Thus, it falls to the local politician, the small town hero to effectively make change. The men and women running for mayor, local councillor, or state house representative are the people who care most about their communities. In New Hampshire, a state house representative makes $100 a year; this is not a career someone gets into for money. Furthermore, local elections are where people make the most bipartisan vote. At the local level people understand a candidate’s platforms and ideas as they aren’t some pseudo celebrity who is the mouthpiece of what is essentially the party line. Rather, they are someone they would bump into at the shops or who’s business they would frequent.
It may sound needlessly romantic to say that true change happens in local politics, but it is at the most local level where meaningful change can be made, where budgets and decisions truly make a difference to your daily life. There is so much polarisation on the national level between the left and the right that it is particularly amazing to see people from both camps meet at a town hall, to have their ideas swayed by the answers of politicians, who are elected due to their actions, rather than where on the political spectrum they lie. When people like John, Jim and Matt are running for their local office they are not simply the republican, democratic or independent candidate but people who are locally active and popular.
When looking to make a positive change in your community look local, find a candidate you love and know, and help them in their campaign as much as possible. While the people at the top may look bleak there is sure to be a passionate statesman somewhere in your town. A citizen not unlike Cincinnatus who works, not for themselves, but for their home.
The opinions expressed in the article are the author’s own and may not reflect the values of The Liberty Club