Everything You Don’t Know About Small Town Politics

Have you ever heard that time-worn piece of advice, “Focus on the betterment of your own community and leave the national stage alone?” Well, it’s not so easy to implement change in small towns, either, because they suffer from the same roadblocks as our federal legislators. But that’s not to say they get nothing done. After all, people from the same small towns tend to lean the same way politically. And sometimes that’s the biggest problem of all.

One of the biggest disadvantages in small towns is that it’s not necessarily about how hard you work. Like in show business, it’s who you know! Think about it this way. Those living in poverty don’t generally marry into wealthy families — because they live in completely different rungs of the somewhat invisible American caste system, and the wealthy don’t want them. And what do you need to have a shot at the office? Money. Which means you need to already know someone with money or power — or have it yourself.

That’s not to say that anyone is barred from going to town hall meetings or speaking up while you’re there. 

Volusia County attorney John Dawes said, “Half a million people live in Volusia. It’s not a small region. But there are rural areas too, and I’ve worked on behalf of some of those residents. Many are taken advantage of by local business leaders or small town mayors who think they can get away with murder. The power goes to your head faster in a small town. Everyone talks, but there’s nothing anyone can do. There’s no oversight.”

And it’s that lack of oversight that makes politics in small towns more difficult on everyone. It’s also important to realize that most small towns don’t like the idea of government to begin with — which means in order to change anything, first you need to convince the township that you’re just going to go along with the status quo. And that means you’ll never get reelected. You might even get recalled!

That’s one reason why people from rural areas hate big government. While people who live in metropolitan areas are accustomed to seeing and hearing from their political leaders, people who live in smaller communities have very little interaction with the federal government. That entity lives far away, and they don’t see themselves as a part of it. Hint: don’t run as a Democrat in a small community. You will lose.

People who live in tiny towns see and interact with their own mayors, council members, and everyone knows the sheriff. That makes for a great recipe for corruption. For example, the sheriff will sooner or later have to make a choice between arresting or ticketing a friend or simply letting them off the hook even though that isn’t a real option. And mayors and council members are a lot more likely to have individuals’ interests at heart when making big decisions about where taxes are spent. That means that votes are easier to get and incumbency is easier to keep.