The Importance of Local Elections
Op-Ed by Caleb Backholm April 27, 2020
COVID-19 continues to dominate national headlines, as President Trump and his team give us daily updates. But as we’re seeing, it’s not just national leadership that matters, but also local leadership — and local elections.
States, and even cities and counties, are handling this crisis in very different ways, and the differences may become even more pronounced in the coming weeks as people become desperate to earn an income, or even just get out of the house again.
A couple of weeks back, President Trump generated quite a stir from conservatives and liberals alike when he said that he had the ultimate authority to reopen the states. Whatever he may have meant exactly, a few days later he made it clear that in fact, these day to day affairs will be managed at the local levels.
A diversity of approaches is being seen across the country. Tennessee, Georgia, South Dakota, and Colorado are among the states opening things up more quickly than most. On the other side, a Virginia state health official stated that he believes the state could see significant restrictions for up to two years.
It’s not just a question of state to state flexibility either. Sometimes it’s city to city. Consider these two stories, both from the state of Texas.
Two women in Laredo were recently arrested. Police found out about their activities and set up an undercover sting operation. They sent undercover officers to meet with them and then arrested the women, booking them both into jail. What was their crime? They were running beauty salons from their homes, an activity that is currently “prohibited under the emergency ordinance.”
Meanwhile, upstate in Colleyville, a Dallas suburb, the city has announced they are allowing salons to open back up, as well as restaurants that have outdoor seating.
One state, two cities, two very different approaches.
Another thing to watch is the restrictions on religious and individual liberty. It’s been rightly pointed out that the Bill of Rights does not have a pandemic exclusion, and that nearly all atrocities carried out by modern governments have been done in the name of the “public good.” So how do the officials respond in cases of real emergency? How do leaders explain their decisions? If liquor and marijuana stores are essential for people to access, are parking-lot church services really of less importance?
It’s interesting that while some states banned church services, and some didn’t, nearly all churches still voluntarily stopped their gatherings during this crisis. It seems the bans were unnecessary. Most law-abiding people are capable of wise decisions on their own accord, and there is value in having elected officials who show great reluctance to take away the basic freedoms of citizens, even in crisis.
How states and cities respond to the Coronavirus outbreak will have massive ramifications on citizens’ lives and their quality of life.
Some cities are letting prisoners out to minimize their risk of catching the virus. It is highly ironic that while innocent citizens are being quarantined due to Coronavirus, dangerous criminals are being released due to that same virus. In Washington state, the State Supreme Court recently voted 5-4 against releasing a massive list of criminals. However, the governor is still releasing a smaller group that includes sex offenders, burglars, drug dealers, and repeat DUI offenders. Harm to the community isn’t just foreseeable, it’s already happened.
In New York, a man recently released due to COVID-19 concerns has just been arrested again, charged with the rape of a 58-year-old woman in a school parking lot. What an awful outcome!
It is likely that in some areas, the “solutions” being utilized by some elected officials are even worse than the potential harm of the Coronavirus. Wise leaders are more important than ever at times like this.
And again, none of this is coming from the President. The focus this November will be on whether Donald Trump wins reelection, or the Democrats are able to unseat him. And that is an important race. But we need to remember that for many things that affect our day-to-day lives, it is the state, county, and city races that have an even greater effect.
Be sure to pay attention to who the local candidates are. Use resources to learn their positions on the issues. What is their view of government, of business, and of individual and religious liberty? These races are very important and sometimes decided by a very small number of votes. As Americans and Christians, we the people ARE the government, and we have been given a task to lead our nation rightly. This fall is our next chance to do so.
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