To the Editor:
I like to joke that being a Libertarian is like being a Jets fan. It’s easier to enjoy the playoffs if you were never a contender.
Nevertheless, I am always disappointed to see Democrats underperform in our local elections. Not because I care for one party over the other, but because society always benefits from the competition of ideas. As described by Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, our local governments serve best as laboratories of democracy.
Perhaps that’s the problem: at the local level, there is little difference between the policies of a Republican and a Democrat. Candidates for local office cannot run realistically on the more divisive issues in our country – guns, abortion, etc. – because they do not fall within the purview of a county commissioner or a town council member.
Yet, it is incredibly hard for most people to get worked up about zoning ordinances and road improvements. What’s to be done? I would recommend that Democrats within Cape May County work to identify a single issue where Republican incumbents have failed and run with it.
Take economic development, for example. Tourism will always receive the lion’s share of attention from both parties, but any attempts to develop other industries have been laughable.
The county’s drone program has missed deadline after deadline, while new companies looking to build in Cape May County have been chased away to keep seasonal wages low. As a result, many young people have moved elsewhere to find better jobs, which has caused the county’s population to shrink and become increasingly older.
Is this a death spiral or the natural progression from resort town to a retirement community? Who knows, but there is a golden opportunity for Democrats to own this issue.
There are many young people who grew up in Cape May County and love it here, but those of us who aspire to work outside of the hospitality and service industries have very few options (especially with property values being what they are).
Furthermore, given that young people are a dependable constituency for their party at the national level, local Democrats would presumably benefit if more 20 and 30-somethings stayed in Cape May County.
All that being said, it may be too late. There might not be enough of us young professionals to make it worthwhile, but I would still encourage Democrats to try. If you ask this Libertarian (or any Jets fan), you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.