If you’re wondering how our country has gone so wrong— how an ignorant, intemperate, immature liar became President of the United States—think local. While we Democrats were congratulating ourselves on becoming what we thought was an unbeatable national party that could win the White House every four years, Republicans were quietly taking control of the levers of government from the ground up.

We need to wrest those levers back. And it starts right here and right now.

If Democrats don’t vote in local elections and off-year Congressional elections, then they won’t turn out in the numbers necessary to win the White House in presidential years. Worse, when Democrats cede state, local, and off year elections to Republicans, gerrymandering – and even voter-suppression legislation – often ensue, diluting Democratic votes in every future election.

Here are the disturbing statistics: “Republicans now control the governor’s office in 33 states, amounting to 60 percent of the population, while Democrats control just 16 states with 40 percent of the population. (Alaska has an independent governor supported by the Democrats.)” (http:// wwwdailykos.com/story/2016/11/14/1598918/-Republicans-now-dominate-state-government-with-32-legislaturesand-33-governors).

And it gets worse. In 25 of the 33 states with Republican governors, Republicans also control the state legislature. The same is true for Democrats in only six states. Moreover, in two of the 16 states with Democratic governors, Republicans have veto-proof majorities in the legislature. (In case you were wondering, Illinois’ Democratic-controlled legislature is NOT veto proof.)

With control of state government, Republicans set in motion whatever they need to win national elections. They make it harder for young people, poor people, and people of color—traditional Democratic constituencies—to vote. They gerrymander congressional districts. And they weaken unions, depriving Democrats of not only a major source of contributions but also a reliable get-out-the- vote force.

So how do Democrats regain control of state government and rebuild from the ground up? It starts right here and right now.

Every one of us must vote in the upcoming local elections and work to turn out our family, friends, and neighbors. It’s hard to imagine someone voting in local elections and then staying home for an off-year congressional election. Voting in every single election thus should become a habit—an unbreakable commitment—for every citizen.

Besides, who wins local elections really matters. As Cook County Clerk David Orr has written in support of his office’s Be Vocal. # Vote Local campaign, “People who vote in local elections have the power to directly impact the decisions being made in their communities. Those who do not vote concede that power to those who do.”

There’s one more reason why it’s important for us Democrats to turn out for local elections. Local offices are the parties’ “farm systems.” They are where candidates learn how to run for office and how to serve effectively.

Today’s park district commissioner is tomorrow’s mayor and next year’s governor or congressman. Although many local offices are contested without party identification, that is not universally the case. Within the 10th Congressional District, Republicans as well as Democrats are running slates for offices in several Townships, including Moraine, Vernon, Warren, and West Deerfield. And every one of these Democratic slates is opposed by a Republican slate. Don’t be fooled; the slates may have bland names like “United for Warren” or “Vernon Township Citizens Party.” But each of these entities is a local unit of the Republican Party— a wolf in sheep’s clothing, shall we say?

We’re putting out this special issue of Tenth News to encourage you to vote and to make it easier for you to identify the candidates you should support. On pages 8 and 9, we provide a calendar of key dates and information about registering to vote or changing an address; and we introduce you to many of the Democrats running for local office.

So be sure to vote. Do it in person on Election Day, April 4, or during early voting, which began on March 20. Or get a mail-in ballot and send it in any time from March 20 through April 4. It doesn’t matter how you vote. Just make sure you do it.