From now until the first Tuesday in November, there are really only two races to focus on — the Gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia.  They are the only two state executive races this year and considered bellwether elections/referendum elections on the current national state of politics.

Americans, in general, are only motivated to vote during presidential elections and even in these races, it’s estimated only 55-60% of the electorate come out to vote. If Trump has done one good thing it’s to motivate many of the masses, and the hope is that that motivation will, at least, result in increased voter turnout in these two “litmus test” elections.

In New Jersey, it’s between Phil Murphy (D) and Kim Guadagno (R).  Murphy is considered in the lead due to Chris Christie’s record low popularity ratings.  Murphy is running against Christie’s legacy and Guadagno is running against taxes Murphy is presumed to raise once in office.

Ironically, a debate last night on CNN between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz focused largely on taxes and what they can or cannot buy. Americans, from a country that started with a stamp tax revolt, have a natural disdain for taxes, yet frequently fail to discuss the positive services that taxes provide from roads without potholes to paid police and fire services, trash collection, and good public schools. In a country where many pride themselves on earning their pay, and paying for themselves, many don’t want to pay for public services.

In Virginia, it’s a closer horse race between democrat Ralph Northam and Republican opponent Ed Gillespie. Gillespie is an ex-chair of the RNC and a Mitt Romney Republican. Northam is a doctor, veteran and current lieutenant governor of Virginia. The race is too close to call. It’s clearly an election where every vote counts.

Northam’s campaign is gaining financial support from Democrats across the country, but if money alone bought an election, young Jon Ossoff from Georgia would already be serving in the House of Representatives. And, iff Americans really believed as they say they do that money should be out of politics, then Northam, a lobbyist in DC, would not be in such a close call race.

50 governors, 34 are Republican governor, 15 are Democrats, and the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands is an Independent. If, as Americans, we really believe in a two-party system, that statistic alone should be of concern.  From gerrymandering to voter suppression and a host of other issues, the two party system is in serious jeopardy especially with a history now of two highly contested presidential elections where the popular vote did not prevail.

What can you do even if you’re not from either state?

  • Encourage friends and relatives who may live in either state to vote.
  • Donate to the contenders in each state. Google the candidate’s and just hit their “Donate” button.
  • If you’re in NJ, consider transferring a donation you might make to Murphy to Northam in VA.  Murphy is well funded and appears to be in the lead. Consider it a general democratic donation toward the closer and more symbolically significant race.
  • Volunteer in some way for election work.  This takes a desire to help out in ways that may be uncomfortable, but you’ll meet some like minded fellow citizens and develop a better sense of community.
  • If you’re in either state, obviously vote in November. Don’t sit this one out. Even if you think Murphy is a shoe-in in NJ-  vote. There are many down ballot races with new Freeholder contenders, new sheriff options, and new state seats with new faces vying for them all over the state.

It’s an interesting time in American politics, with many considering our democracy more fragile than previously thought.  Atlantic magazine’s November 2017 edition questions if the American idea is obsolete and lays out a case for how “The greatest danger facing American democracy is complacence.”  Don’t be complacent.