The Cattleman’s Corner OPINION: For Good or Bad, All Politics Are Local

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By Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Cattlemans corner Austin Snedden
Austin Snedden

Could three city commissioners in Philadelphia decide whether a farmer in California’s Central Valley gets water? Election integrity has been in the forefront in recent months. Pennsylvania has garnered a lot of attention as it has played a pivotal role in the electoral college deciding whom will be our next president. Philadelphia has a less than stellar reputation when it comes to voter fraud over the last many decades. Three city commissioners direct the voting in Philadelphia (Philadelphia County has no county government; it was absorbed by the city.) When the electoral count comes down to Pennsylvania and the precincts left to report comes down to Philadelphia, the integrity of three city commissioners and the staff they have appointed can decide a presidential election.

Local elected officials from many places in the country can place their thumb on the scale and shift the direction of national politics. An elected county official in a presidential swing state can shift us down the path of “the green new deal,” an expanded Endangered Species Act, or a further empowered EPA. These policies can irrefutably lead to farmers thousands of miles away with no water. Local interference in a swing state may lead to a ban on fossil fuels, leaving an oilfield worker standing by a lifeless pump jack and farmers trying to figure out how to charge their tractors. A local elected activist in a swing state could result in an expansion in estate tax, putting a faceless farmer on the other side of the country out of a multi-generational business.

Why are we so polarized about a presidential choice? The federal government has gotten so enormous that the effects of its direction affect almost every part of our life. If we had a federal government more aligned with the Constitution, the president wouldn’t pick the financial winners and losers, the president wouldn’t pick which industry is “clean,” the Federal government wouldn’t have agencies that turn off pumps because of fish, or remove cattle because of frogs. Polarization is natural when a governing body becomes so large that every citizen is either a subject of its regulation or a subject of its entitlements. Given the enormity of the federal government and the interaction it has with local governments, it becomes even more critical the caliber of people we elect locally.

Aside from national issues that have attracted all of our eyes, the local ones are just as important, if not more. The people you elect for city council, county supervisor, district attorney, sheriff, registrar of voters, and tax assessor will shape not only your government, but the type of people that either choose to move in or move out. You could elect a city council or board of supervisors that is “homeless friendly.” Besides the obvious costs of cleaning up after the homeless, the unseen cost of decent citizens moving away that don’t want to deal with the panhandling and public defecation will be felt later. You can elect a city council or board of supervisors that will stand up for your fundamental rights when an out of control governor tells you how many family members you can have over to your home for a holiday. You can elect a city council or board of supervisors that believes in property rights. You can elect a sheriff that believes in your right to protect yourself and property.

Just like in Philadelphia, everywhere across the country local elected officials are making decisions on what ballots to use, what machines to tabulate the votes, what software makes the tallies. Contractors are pitching their products to local elected officials in hopes that their machine or software gets chosen. We need to ensure that our electoral process is sound locally and beyond, and that process begins with electing people with character locally.