Column: The drowned voices: How national narratives overshadowed local politics in America – Dubois County Free Press, Inc.

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In the past, the most critical issues in American politics were those that affected the lives of citizens in their own backyards. Local politics was in the vein of democracy, where a town hall meeting, school board election, or state legislative session could spark vigorous debate and meaningful change. The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill famously expressed a truism that defined American political life for decades: “All politics is local.”

But today we witness a different reality. A local, once-in-a-lifetime platform of immediate concerns, covered at the national level. Political speech is not regulated by local schools, community policing or municipal governments. Instead, it revolves around national controversies and figures, driven by the 24-hour news cycle and polarized social media landscape.

This change is based on several layers of soil – technological developments, changes in media consumption and the political environment characterized by extremes of thought. The internet and social media have nationalized our conversation and highlighted national issues and figures while local concerns have been fighting for air time. The result is a political dialogue in which the local population is not only shadowy, but often completely absent.

The consequences of this change are profound. As national politics seizes our collective attention, the complex, complex realities of local governance are sidelined. The special needs and challenges of communities are turned into mere notes in scripts written far from their streets and homes. This disconnect creates feelings of alienation and frustration, as citizens feel that their intimate, lived experiences have been neglected in the broader national conversation.

In this new era where all politics are national, what have we lost when the local voice is drowned by the national echo? America’s political tapestry is rich in its diversity, the many local narratives that inform and enrich our national history. Perhaps, in our rush to address the national, we should pause and consider what we are missing, realizing that the heart of democracy beats not only in the halls of Congress, but in city halls, schools, and city councils. Nation.

The shift from a local to a national focus in politics reflects profound societal changes. A globalized world, for one, has made international affairs more relevant to the average citizen. But consider economic globalization, a global phenomenon that calls for local action, or immigration, with profound local implications. Although these issues directly affect communities, whether national or global, the discourse surrounding them is often hijacked by national narratives and alienated from their local context.

This division erodes the quality of our democracy. Local governments, once a breeding ground for national leaders, now play host to politicians who are out of touch with local realities and gain prominence on national platforms. This approach undermines democracy, with national actors favoring partisan conflicts rather than community interests.

In addition, the globalization of politics affects citizen participation. The predominance of national issues, especially when these issues seem remote compared to local concerns, renders citizen participation futile. However, national politics offers opportunities to bring people together around issues such as health care reform and economic freedom, fostering national identity and common purpose. But this should not obscure local involvement.

Essentially, in politics we face a balancing act between local and national interests, both of which are critical to a thriving democracy. Local politics, the basis of citizen participation, affects everyday life, while national politics shapes broader societal values ​​and goals.

The challenge is to integrate local and national perspectives, renew local political participation and highlight the importance of local issues. It requires local politicians and media not only to focus on the grand narrative, but also to recognize and emphasize the importance of local stories and solutions.

While “all local politics” may seem outdated, the principle is still relevant. The health of our democracy depends on engagement with both local and national issues. By striving to strike a balance where local and national perspectives can complement each other, we can ensure inclusive, representative political discourse that resonates with the voices of all citizens. Only when this happens, we can say that our democracy is working as it should be, and the voices of all citizens, from small towns to big cities, are being heard and respected.

Joshua Claiborne is an attorney and historian. Visit him online at and at X @JoshuaClaybourn.

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