I went to a political fundraiser last night for Mike Derrick, who is running for Congress in New York’s sprawling, 15,000-square-mile 21st District on the Canadian border. Derrick is the kind of moderate voice that is disappearing from the political stage. He and his wife are West Point graduates and career officers. He served in a number of capacities, from combat leader to diplomat to stay-at-home dad for five years, taking care of their four children so his wife could complete her career. His opponent, Elise Stefanik, 31, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She managed a 9% environmental score from the League of Conservation Voters, which, sadly, is high for a Republican, but pitiful in a district that encompasses Adirondack Park. As I look at the Republican primary with fear and loathing and the Democrats with unenthusiastic resignation, it’s tempting to retire from the field and throw darts from the sidelines, to become mesmerized by the media coverage and disengaged from the process. In particular, I worry about the young recoiling from a system that seems out of – and beyond their – control. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and hard to know what to do, but perhaps we should start small and go back to the basics:
- Register and vote
- Find out who is running in your area
- Throw a party to raise awareness, build enthusiasm and bundle small donations
- Learn where the swing districts are and support a candidate
All politics may not be local, but that’s where it all begins.