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Who's in the Video

Ezra Klein

EZRA KLEIN is the editor-at-large and cofounder of Vox, the award-winning explanatory news organization. Launched in 2014, Vox reaches more than fifty million people across its platforms each month. Klein[…]

EZRA KLEIN: I think the single healthiest thing most of us can do for our relationship with politics and for politics would be to deemphasize our connection to national politics and reemphasize our connection to state and local politics. Our political system is not built to be this nationalized. One of the very powerful cross-cutting identities we're supposed to have are our regional and our state and our local identities. James Madison said it was just obvious that state political identities would be preeminent over national identities. He turned out, in the long sweep of American history, to be wrong, but there's a truth to why he said that, a thing that that was supposed to do for the system, which is you're not supposed to be in politics just as a national Republican or Democrat. Even if you are doing that you're supposed to be an Oklahoma Republican or a Missouri Democrat and that there are distinct things your state and your city and your place need not supposed to help discipline just separating into two overwhelming factions. Over time that has weakened; it's probably weakened because the media has become overwhelmingly nationalized. I grew up outside of Los Angeles, California, and we got the LA Times, I listened to KCRW, you know, I could listen to the nightly news, but if I were growing up there now I would probably have an online subscription to The New York Times and I would read or listen to Vox and other national podcasts.

And so this is change. I had a very strong California-oriented political identity growing up; today I probably would have a lot less of one. So, this is sometimes a hard thing to do for ourselves because the media has nationalized, a lot of state and local outlets have gone out of business or have been weakened or gutted, which is a terrible thing that deserves a lot of solutions and thinking of its own. But usually there is a lot more we can do and so one thing you can do is just be intentional about your informational ecosystem. If you are just getting, and you realize you're getting 90 percent of your news is national and international and only ten percent is state and local or sometimes less than that is state and local, think about reconstructing a news diet so it doesn't look that way, sign up for newsletters, subscribe to your local paper, make sure that's on your bookmarks, make sure you're not over-reading all your news through nationalized social media and instead you're going to places that are going to give you these very different things. And then when you're getting involved in politics it's a real big difference between getting involved in politics by tweeting mean things at pundits you don't like, like me on Twitter, and getting involved by organizing people in your local community to make change. Being on Twitter, yelling at the cable news TV screen, is really frustrating; it's not a nourishing way of being in politics because you don't feel listened to, you don't see any affect from what you're doing. Whereas working with people in your community to do things, it really does move things very quickly. Your state representative, your state senator, your city council person they'll probably meet with you, listen to you. They would love it if somebody paid attention to what they were doing and tried to influence them, whereas your congressman, your senator, governor, presidential candidate—it's a lot harder to get their attention.

So, one thing we could all do that would be healthier is to try intentionally to rebuild those state and local political identities and to put down, and I recognize this is against interest for a natural political reporter to say, but to try to deemphasize a bit all that national news and all that national conflict we're consuming. It's just not the case that the only kind of politics worth being involved in is national. And even if you do ultimately want to be involved in national politics, the thing that national candidates need and that thing that national political organizations need are people who know how to organize actual people in their own home communities.