Last night I took in a spirited political debate. McCain/Obama? No. I went to see the candidates for my city supervisor seat duke it out at a historic theater in the neighborhood. There were hisses, boos, applause, and plenty of opinions from the audience members. Years-old grudges were aired, making me, a relative newcomer to the city, feel frankly ignorant about San Francisco politics. But it was fun, and invigorating too. One candidate said there was no other place like San Francisco's District 9 anywhere in the country, and another candidate talked about how grateful he was for San Francisco values, certainly not something you'd hear at a political forum anywhere else. And after two years being bombarded with an endless and oftentimes uninspiring presidential campaign, it's great to be able to make a choice in a race where I get to meet all the candidates, and where "reaching across the aisle" is what a Green party member pledges he will do if elected.
I know that several contributors to this blog are very active in local politics. I am thinking of Bimbo and Koko specifically, but I'm sure there are others. So I'm hoping you can help me answer a question that drives me nuts: why is it that so many well-educated people who closely follow national politics have little interest or involvement at the local level? I invited about a dozen friends to go to the debate last night and only one showed up, and he didn't even live in the district. Many of them probably wanted to watch the presidential debate, but all of them are certainly voting for Obama and won't be swayed at this point, whereas many of them don't even know who the candidates are in the local race. This used to bother me a lot when I lived in DC, where many people I knew didn't even read the Washington Post, in my opinion the country's best newspaper and one that provides top-notch local coverage of a very troubled city. Yet they define themselves as politically engaged and are often active on the national level.
I include myself in this criticism: I'm far less informed about local politics than I should be, but the longer I live in a place the more attached I get. Is it because our generation is so transient that we haven't put down the roots that would give us an investment in local issues? Or have national affairs become a sort of entertainment that we follow for fun, without considering the ramifications all the way down chain?