Tuesday, November 7, is Election Day, and you should vote. No, it’s not a presidential election year and the House and Senate aren’t up for grabs, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that elections for municipal government and other local races don’t matter. 

Who represents our communities on pressing local matters like public safety, housing, education, healthcare, and transportation has a huge impact on our daily lives. And as we’ve seen time and again, it’s candidates who cut their teeth in neighborhood politics who end up on the ballot for statewide and national races for years down the line. Local elections shape the issues, decide the future of our communities, and create a pipeline for higher office.

For many years, the Republican Party has, through its Tea Party and now MAGA iterations, cultivated power by focusing on local elections. We’ve seen, for example, a concerted Republican effort recently to take over school boards in districts nationwide, using fearmongering about “critical race theory” and trying to keep books out of libraries that tell the truth about our nation’s complex history of racism, slavery, genocide, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and so on. These initiatives are backed by dark-money PACs that wield tremendous power and resources.

The selection last month of Rep. Mike Johnson as our new speaker of the House was the latest marker of the ascendance of the extreme right and its ability to win power, despite lacking a coherent or popular governing agenda. Every House Republican—including those in New York’s swing districts who fashion themselves as “moderates”—voted for a politician with a truly reprehensible voting record. He voted to gut nutrition programs for children, criminalize abortion, end Social Security, and eliminate the Violence Against Women Act. He voted against the Workplace Violence in Health Care Act and against legislation to prevent discrimination against pregnant workers and older workers. He voted against supplemental funding for the 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program. And he helped lead the charge to try to overturn the will of the American people in the 2020 election.

Our pushback against this extremist agenda cannot wait. It is easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged and choose to disconnect from politics—but this is a huge mistake. As the saying goes, “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics doesn’t take an interest in you.” Decisions made at election time affect all of us, whether we like it or not. And at this critical time, we are facing existential threats to the future of our democracy and the bedrock principles of justice and equality we hold dear.  

Let’s turn out on Election Day and send a clear message of where our communities stand. To find out your New York City polling place, early voting hours and locations, visit www.vote.nyc.

George Gresham is president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union of healthcare workers in the United States.

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