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Regime Change: Think Globally, Vote Locally
Let’s start with:
In case you didn’t understand:
I will give you a minute to think about these tweets and tell me who Wendy is after. Still need a hint?
Deja vu all over again. If you thought we were done with wars in Europe, think again. If you thought antisemitism is a thing of the past, think again. Zelensky, as you might know, is Jewish. Nothing about this wave of hatred is news since it’s been comprehensively documented, but the source of the hatred is. Wendy Rogers is an Arizona State Rep, not a national politician and her posturing is clearly aimed at her local base.
So why should voters in Arizona care about a war halfway across the world? More importantly, why would they vote on its basis?
There are many reasons, but one is the winner take all nature of media attention in social networks and more importantly, the power of the platforms themselves. Once local newspapers start firing their staff or shutting down because businesses prefer advertising on Google or Facebook, local issues get much less coverage. In contrast, national news can be produced in one place and distributed everywhere. The network effects of social media make it harder (though not impossible) to fight an election on a local ticket. If you’re a local Republican politician, it’s tempting to hang a picture of Trump next to your booth and make Gila county great again.
International events are even better if they can be made to stick in the ballot box. That’s where the immersive, metaverse like character of the Ukraine war is a great test bed, because the nature of the medium makes a distant event vivid and visceral, the kind of experience that might shift your voting behavior. The characters are larger than life, the issues are - literally - world changing. No wonder politicians across the West are A/B testing their Ukraine themed campaign messages
You might have heard of the term ‘locavore’ for people who consume local produce. We need a political version, locavote, for people who vote primarily on local concerns. Of course, it’s possible that local politics are racist/castist/patriarchal but there’s nothing stopping progressive locavoting either. The instabilities caused by the nationalization and internationalization of politics will tear our societies apart.
Useful reference: Daniel J. Moskowitz. 2021. "Local News, Information, and the Nationalization of U.S. Elections." American Political Science Review 115(1): 114-129