8 Reasons to Pay Attention to State Politics
- State laws directly affect our daily lives. From firearm regulations to DUI, from tax code to community property, the vast majority of laws that affect our daily lives are not federal, but state laws. The feds may get more media attention, but our state lawmakers have the money and influence to decide our state’s priorities — and they are directly responsible for serving us.
- Our state leads the way when the feds don’t. For four years, with Trump and DeVos in Washington, federal education reform was stalled — but state governments held the reins on school funding (and continue to do so), along with public health, transportation, and water policy. Want teachers paid better? Prefer your roads with fewer potholes? Hoping Arizona’s faucets don’t suddenly run dry? Those are all state-level issues.
- State lawmakers are more accessible. Each of Arizona’s federal senators represents the entire state, about 7 million people. Your state senator, by contrast, represents 200,000 people. If you’ve ever struggled in vain to get the attention of a federal lawmaker, you’ll immediately see the value here: a phone call or an in-person meeting with a state lawmaker is actually within the average person’s reach.
- Local politics shape national change. Many now-landmark federal policies, like women’s suffrage, minimum wage, environmental protection and marriage equality, all started at the local level. By communicating regularly with our state lawmakers — and then holding them accountable — we can help create innovative policies that directly affect us.
- It’s easier to stop bad policies locally. When special interests tried to use Arizona as a testing ground for the nation’s largest school voucher experiment, citizens rose up to stop SB1431, the bill that became Prop 305. Contrast this with SB1070, the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law. After the bill passed in Arizona, its nativist author took his policy ideas to the federal level, demanding immigrants’ cell phone contacts and social media passwords, attempting to form a national registry of Muslims, and banning refugees and asylum-seekers outright.
- States act as incubators for national policies. Many other states draw their legislative districts to purposely give one party an unfair advantage. But, thanks to Arizona’s (voter-created) Independent Redistricting Commission, our district lines are among the least skewed in the nation, providing representation that closely mirrors voters’ intent. Arizona’s system has become a model, with five new states approving the creation of similar commissions this year, and two others with plans in the works.
- When national politics are the problem, states can be a solution. Our federal government is often polarized into gridlock, but the partisan balance of our 2021-22 state Legislature is closer than it’s been in decades. That creates a climate where compromise and common-ground solutions can take root. State officials can influence, challenge or protest national policy by passing laws at home — the ideas that don’t succeed in Washington just might work when tested out on a smaller level.
- Arizona’s Constitution protects us. We the People have safeguards: the right to overturn bad laws through public vote, the right to recall lawmakers who aren’t serving us, and the right to make our own laws via initiative. Each of these measures allows regular folk to make sure the laws that affect us most also represent us well. And these are not just options: each of these safeguards has happened in the past 10 years. Further progress will take all of us working together. Who knows what the next 10 years have in store?
Run for Something!!
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Save the Post Office!
The Postal Service is in danger. The change in the daily patterns of life brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has hit USPS revenue especially hard, but Americans depend on the USPS more than ever in these troubled times. As a result, the Postal Service and its more-than-600,000 employees are looking at financial insolvency by September.
The federal government could do something to help, but President Trump refuses to do so. His administration has actually threatened to veto pandemic relief legislation if it helps the Post Office. Let me just say that again in larger type:
The Trump administration has threatened to veto pandemic relief legislation if it supports the Post Office.
It’s challenging to overstate how crazy this is. The Post Office enables the social distancing efforts that have brought millions of Americans together to help contain the spread of COVID-19. They’re delivering letters to grandma, bills, tax-payments, even toilet paper. In fact, the Post Office is so vital it’s one of the few functions of government that’s called out by name in the Constitution: Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 empowers Congress to “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.”
So why is the Trump administration opposed to helping out the Post Office? There are two possible reasons and they’re both infuriating.
First, Trump has a long-standing grudge against both Jeff Bezos and the Postal Service. Bezos owns Amazon as well as the Washington Post and the Post hasn’t hesitated to call out the President for his incompetence, corruption, and fundamental indecency. Trump has long harbored a conspiracy theory that the Post Office gives Amazon unreasonably preferential rates for… reasons… and that many of the Post Office’s financial problems could be solved by raising rates.
Second, and perhaps more relevant to our current situation, you can’t do vote-by-mail without a Post Office. Vote-by-mail seems to be a logical way to hold elections in this time of pandemic but everyone understands that this will increase voter turnout. Even Republicans acknowledge that voter-turnout is bad for the GOP, so sabotaging the Post Office provides a great way to prevent a national vote-by-mail campaign from gaining traction by November.
The result will be a repeat of Wisconsin — where more than 90% of urban (read Democrat-leaning) polling places are closed and turnout is suppressed by pandemic fears. Many of those who do turn out to vote will get sick. Some will die. And the GOP leadership will happily accept this outcome if it leads to electoral victories for Republicans.
What Can I Do?
Text Resistbot on iMessage or text USPS to 50409
You can write Congress and demand that it stand up to President Trump. If Trump wants to hold the entire country hostage because he’s unwilling to help the Post Office out — an institution beloved, especially now, by millions of Americans — then the least Congress can do is give him the opportunity to do so.
Democrats must commit now to fully supporting the Post Office and a national vote by mail campaign. You can join more than 100,000 of your fellow citizens and ask Congress to support the Post Office by texting, messaging, or tweeting USPS to Resistbot on SMS at 50409, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or Twitter.