There’s a disconnect between the New Jerseyans of Hudson County and the Americans of Hudson County.

This is not two separate groups of people–this is us. We, who turn on the TV and watch a cop kneeling on a man’s neck in Minnesota, and are outraged. And then paint “Black Lives Matter” on the street.

But it isn’t Minnesota or Mississippi that’s most likely to over-incarcerate people of color. It’s us. New Jersey has the largest disparity in the incarceration rates of Blacks and whites, according to the non-profit Sentencing Project.

And yet when Governor Phil Murphy was elected having promised to legalize pot–the drug war being a major culprit in racial injustice–our “liberal” legislature did not act. It fell to the people to legalize pot, years later, via a referendum.

Meanwhile, in red states many Americans are frustrated that the American dream is no longer within reach for them, and yet vote for a Republican party which opposes anything–healthcare, unions, an increase in the minimum wage–

that might offer those struggling an economic hand up. And the influential political voices on the left tell us the problem is the political right, a movement of con men, elected by citizens voting against their interests.

But in New Jersey, are we voting for our interests?

Let’s reframe the question: are our elected employees–politicians–doing the job we would like them to do? The work we want them to do? The hard labor we need them to do?

Well, they didn’t legalize pot.

And are property taxes getting better? How long have they been the number one campaign issue? Any solutions on the horizon?

Property taxes are worse. The cost of housing is up. The cost of living is up. Homelessness is up. All while billion-dollar developers get tax breaks to build on some of the most valuable soil in the world, in the shadow of New York City.

Those who fail to plan, plan to keep raising taxes. And the people now in power have no plan to reduce the tax burden.

By the way, Hudson County Democrats: if small businesses can make a profit building small homes in our area without tax breaks, why on earth would a developer need tax breaks to make money on hundreds of condos on the waterfront?

Of course, there’s a lot to discuss when it comes to the tax burden. The solutions to our toughest political challenges are not simple or short-term. But the solution starts here: with leaders who are trying–leaders who are serving their constituents.

In our state, way too many elections are uncontested or uncompetitive. The winners are too often allies of other politicians instead of allies of their communities.

In a democracy, elections are the accountability. Any political system in which there aren’t independent candidates vying for office will fail to serve its constituency, because the incumbents don’t need to do an honest day’s work to keep their jobs.

Of course, the problem is that political machines in New Jersey are self-perpetuating; they are both the result and the cause of entrenched, unaccountable power.

Where do we even start to address this? At the voting booth on Tuesday. On June 8, 2021, there is an election for the 900 members in the Hudson County Democratic Committee.

There are 57 progressives among the candidates, ready to work for their constituents. On Facebook, you can learn about them by following the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County; and the Hudson County Progressive Alliance.

Let’s break up the political machine. Let’s tell the usual suspects that they have to start doing their jobs, or lose them.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Nicole Keiser is a digital marketing coordinator for a non-profit organization. She is an artist, writer and New Jersey resident.