Originally posted on the Huffington Post.
As a marketing and PR professional, I’m a strong advocate of the phrase “Local is the new global.” (I am not, however, a huge fan of the jargon-y term for that idea—”glocal”—even though I used to toss it around promiscuously in the late 1990s.) If you meet me at a conference or symposium, ask me why I feel so strongly about the sway of local and hyperlocal. I enjoy expounding on the subject, because I’ve seen its truth: connectedness. Make that stickiness.
I’ve yet to find an arena where local isn’t the most important way to engage consumers, uncover trends and address issues. And with the midterm elections looming (they’re less than two weeks away!), I believe that attention to the local and hyperlocal could, quite literally, save our nation. We find ourselves—once again—at a crucial crossroads. There is still so much work to be done to set the U.S. back on track, still so much progress to make. And while the 2008 elections swept this nation along on a wave of optimism and hope, during this election cycle the mind and mood of the country has been so angry. Good people are being bashed, and the public financing option means loud big (read: rich) candidates are drowning out small ones.
This money-and-politics business is insanity. I’ve lived in Connecticut for almost six years, so naturally its political races mean a great deal to me. Our Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Linda McMahon, is willing to spend upward of $50 million of her own money—and has reportedly spent $41.5 million already—the second-highest amount in Senate campaign history after Jon Corzine’s $60 million in 2000. Come on. Barack Obama raised a total of $750 million for his presidential campaign, which was a lot, yes, but if you’re lucky to be of the age where you got a good early-childhood education when that was important in our country, you’ll know it’s only 15 times what McMahon herself wants to spend (not counting other fundraising)—and he was representing 50 states to her one. We cannot let this continue. We need to talk with our votes and usher in candidates who won’t let this crazy spending continue.
I’m also closely watching the race for Connecticut’s governor, for many (other) reasons. Governors are CEOs, and I’m a big believer that the embrace of change, innovative thinking and integrity all flow down from the man or woman sitting on top of the mountain. I’ve been a fan of Dan Malloy for some time, mostly because I watch thriving Stamford and contrast its reboot with Bridgeport, a city I’ve driven through for 25 years, wondering when someone will bother to restore it. No plan, no constructive evolution; just a rotting spot along Long Island Sound.
I’ve been loosely engaged in Dan’s campaign, including co-hosting a fundraiser (citizen’s style, as he got ready to qualify for public financing) for him this past spring for more than 50 supporters so that we could hear his perspective on leadership, the economy and taxes, job creation and the future of the state. At the time, Dan was the underdog candidate; one of the primary reasons I was drawn to him was his strong grassroots (i.e., local) inclinations. Now he is the Democratic candidate for governor, and I’m pleased to report that he’s leading his opponent in the polls and just recently picked up the endorsement of the state’s police and firefighters. (On a personal note, as a brain tumor survivor, the election of his opponent could spell disaster, since his rewritten health-care plan would eliminate state support for screening tests I need and might make me uninsurable, because my brain cancer history makes me a dire risk.)
I covered the state Democratic convention last spring as a blogger and wrote two posts for this site (you can read them here and here), and I find myself increasingly more engaged in local causes, from supporting community bookstores and theater to empowering public schools. And really, there’s nothing more hyperlocal than this: Every single vote matters. This cannot be emphasized enough, especially for an election cycle like this, when Americans are tired, they’re angry, they’re disappointed. And they have many reasons to be—but they are being led down a misguided path by a proliferation of attack ads funded by anonymous donors that are obfuscating the real issues that we need to consider.
It’s in this spirit of the importance of the local that I’m encouraging each and every U.S. citizen to learn about the candidates in his or her own town and state, find out who is funding the attack ads that are intensifying as Election Day gets closer and learn the facts. Don’t settle for knowing what the shadowy groups underwriting these smear tactics want you to think you know. (And because we’re talking about transparency…the PR agency I run, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, is proud to be serving as the agency behind “They Win. U Lose.”—an effort to keep big business honest in the election business.)
President Obama’s victory in 2008 was historic—and young and impassioned voters working tirelessly at the local levels made it so. The extraordinary power of the grassroots movement that swept the president into office on a groundswell of hope and trust has been undermined by the ripple effect of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. The personal attacks have never been uglier, the misdirection has never been greater, and it has all been further degraded by the fact that the forces behind these ploys have made their moves anonymously. Let’s not allow these mysterious moneymen to buy our votes. Let’s send them the message that we can’t be bought that cheaply.