Campaigns Will Soon Be Over. What’s Next?

Last week’s Courier Herald column:

I’ve been remiss in getting some of these posted. I’ll aim to have this week’s column posted tomorrow. – cbh

In about three weeks the votes will be counted for the 2022 General election, and then it will all be over.  Or most of it will.  If there’s a need for runoffs, those races will conclude on December 6th.

By then, we’ll know who will be Governor, who will preside over the Georgia Senate as Lieutenant Governor.  Races for Attorney General, Secretary of State, State School Superintendent, Commissioners of Insurance, Agriculture, and Labor.  We’ll select 236 members of the Georgia General Assembly. 

We’ll know who will have a six-year term to represent Georgia in the United States Senate, and which party will have control of that body.  Georgia voters will select 14 members of Congress, which may lead to a new Speaker of the House. 

County Commissioners, local school board members, and other local races will be settled.  I have thus far spared you a column on the hotly contested four-way battle to be my next Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.  You’re welcome.

So then it will be over.  What’s next? 

That’s not a rhetorical question.  Think about your answer before continuing to read.

I’m guessing a lot of you are looking ahead to the 2024 Presidential election.  Republicans are already speculating and aligning behind a return of Donald Trump, the emergence of Ron DeSantis as a potential front runner, or considering former Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Nikki Haley, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, or a host of other dream list candidates.

Democrats, meanwhile, are grappling with the decision of whether to stick with their current ticket or start over.  California Governor Gavin Newsome is already hosting fundraisers, and would-be Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams has said publicly that a presidential run is a possibility. 

When this election is a lot of media and voter attention will immediately turn to the 2024 race.  If this is your answer and your intention, you’re doing it wrong.

What is the point of these elections, after all?  We’re selecting those to represent us in positions of power, at all levels of government.  This is the basis of a republic.

Our involvement in this process has devolved with a distinct myopia on the campaign.  We completely skip over the part where those we elect are supposed to govern.

That’s completely backwards.  Doing things backwards is why so many of us too often feel we’re going in the wrong direction.

We make mistakes when we exclusively focus on the President.  That office controls one branch of the federal government.  Granted, it has an outsized influence on both the other branches and the other levels of government. 

Too many ignore the importance of the checks and balances of the two other federal branches.  Many seem oblivious to the separate roles and responsibilities of the states and their elected representatives.  Same for county commissions, school boards, and other local officials.

Presidents don’t fill pot holes.  They don’t decide on the curriculum taught in our public schools.  They don’t hire and fire the policemen that keep our communities safe.  I’m sure they don’t do whatever my Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor does and I’ll try to verify that before I cast my ballot.

To be fair, there’s a lot of blame to go around here. Candidates at all levels have been told to focus on platitudes, as specifics on how to solve problems only gives opponents something to attack.  Fewer and fewer are running on the specifics they can actually accomplish in office.

Media, and how voters consume their news, share some blame here.  Too many voters mix the entertainment offered by dueling pundits on Fox or MSNBC as “news”.  The outlets that still claim to be journalism too often prioritize their own narrative over actual news.

Too many of us like our politics to be binary. We have devolved a complex process where government at the federal level with three distinct branches, a state level with its own unique rolls and responsibilities, and local governments delegated some of those powers by state charter come down to a choice between two colors.  Then we watch the national news network that keeps us angry at the other side by telling us what we want to hear, constantly keeping us in campaign mode.

Most campaigns will end in November. Some may drag into December. 

Instead of rushing right to the next two years of consultant driven anger management, attend a school board meeting or county commission meeting.  Pull up a live stream of a state capitol committee meeting.  Do anything to better understand the basic blocking and tackling that occurs every day in government outside of Washington DC that directly affects you and your livelihood.

At least then, if you’re still angry, you’ll probably have a better idea of to whom you should be directing your anger.  More likely, you’ll understand that everyday choices come in more flavors than the two colors you are offered every evening on the news.

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