Looking Beyond the Circus


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This 2024 is a presidential election year. Over the next eleven months, electoral politics will increasingly dominate the news, sidelining other topics.

We are likely facing Donald Trump’s third presidential campaign in as many cycles, and it promises to be more exhausting than ever. From the onset of his political career, the former president has relished controversy, engaging in conflicts almost for the sheer thrill of it. His strategy in 2016 and 2020 was to create as much noise as possible, seize the spotlight, and turn politics into a three-ring circus with him as the main act. This cycle, thanks to his 91 criminal charges in four separate trials, allegations of fraud, litigation over his eligibility for the presidency after his coup attempt trying to overturn an election, and his increasingly erratic conduct, his media presence will be even more pervasive.

I won’t dwell too much on why a man charged with 91 offenses and who attempted to overturn an election by inciting a mob against his vice president and the government itself should never win an election. I will remind you, however, of all the other significant elections this year, just beneath the presidential level. This November’s ballot will list many names beyond Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and these elections are almost as vital.

First, we have the United States Congress. For all the presidency’s visibility, laws are crafted in the House of Representatives and the Senate, not the White House. The vast majority of the country’s challenges require legislative solutions, so which party controls Congress is tremendously important. Lately, Republicans have seemed more invested in internal squabbles than in governance, so getting a new Democratic majority should be a priority for anyone that cares about addressing inequality and expanding democracy.

The control of the House of Representatives hinges on a few competitive districts. Connecticut’s Fifth, held by Representative Jahana Hayes, is on that list. Hayes represents the state’s northwest corner (including New Britain, Danbury, and Waterbury), and was re-elected in 2022 by a narrow margin (just two thousand votes). Without Hayes’ vote, initiatives like the infrastructure plan, capping insulin prices, or the first significant firearm regulation in three decades wouldn’t have passed. Her continued presence in Congress is essential.

Beyond the federal elections, we can’t ignore what’s happening right here in Connecticut. While presidential and congressional battles often capture most of the attention, numerous issues that directly affect our daily lives can only be addressed in Hartford, not Washington.

Consider housing costs, one of my recurring obsessions. Matters of urban planning, rent, zoning, affordable housing, or transit oriented development are all determined at the state level. If rising rents concern you, the legislative elections in Connecticut are where your focus should be, not exclusively Trump’s latest antics. If you care about sick leave, predictable work hours, minimum wages, quality health insurance, or protecting abortion rights, these are also primarily state issues. Our Hartford legislators wield substantial influence over our lives, and it’s crucial that we give them the attention they deserve.

Let’s be clear: this year’s presidential election is critical. Trump poses a real threat to democracy (remember: he did attempt a coup) and he is really facing 91 criminal charges. Yet, the other elections are equally worth your time or attention. Don’t let the circus distract you; we have plenty to vote and worry for this year.