I, like most, started paying attention to the national political scene long before I knew anything about my local politics. This seems to often be the case, and many people interested in, or even obsessed by, national politics know little to nothing about local politics.
We may know our state governor, maybe our house leader, but in general, we don't know our state representatives and are absolutely clueless about who our county council is. This is actually funny because you probably run into the latter on a regular basis without even knowing it.
But I have come to the conclusion that this is the equivalent of trickle-down politics, that obsessing about big leaders is in a sense elitist, celebrity-obsessed, when good local politics leads to all the real, local ramifications we need. And as with politics, trickle down doesn't work. What works is "fertilize up".
I've also come to the conclusion that if you don't agree I'll leave forever and you won't have me to kick around anymore.
I think it would be far better if political interest were to always start locally. It would be superior to know your local councils and mayors and not be able to answer who the president was, than vice versa.
It is the local government that has the most impact on you. Consider: the police work for the county and the city. The county and city decide if you have access to this beach, that formerly public land, and where you can recreate, hunt, work. What developments are built and what service they will have to perform for the community.
Healthcare? Counties build clinics. Education also is tremendously subject to the whims of these local leaders.
Also, it's fun, you wouldn't believe the nutty characters that have these jobs, nor the well known skeletons that miraculously don't sink their careers. It's a lot more interesting than you might think if you have a sense of humor about the political animal.
Further, you have access to these people, you can meet them, get to know them, and the people that have known them all their lives in many cases.
In the last few years of focusing locally I have been involved in getting a public financing trial program for our county offices, which is the first use ever made of the voluntarily provided ($2 check box on state tax forms) funds which have been accruing without a program to use them for decades in this and many other states.
Then recently, my gf, who was crucial to that work, got a job as campaign manager for a publicly financed county council candidate. The candidate had a ridiculous amount of money because the amount is pegged at the average of what was spent the previous cycle, and it happens that she's running against a guy that spent $70,000 unseating a long time council member whereas usually these campaigns cost from $500-$10000, with the latter being a rather rare maximum. The job, by the way, pays about $35K/yr.
The hope was to drive the incumbent into the runnoff. The main county election is held during the primary, but if the top candidate does not get over 50%, the general is used as a runnoff for the top two. We did that and one better, she actually won the plurality and the incumbent is now running catch up. He even had to break from his position of not talking to either of the two papers in our county (I told you they were interesting nuts, can you imagine?!).
There is nearly no day-to-day issue that a local county or city official cannot address positively in a much shorter time period than getting a good president and waiting for it to trickle down can.
So, that is my case for local politics.
Basically, if you don't know who's on your county council, then perhaps you are not interested in politics so much, but something else. I've been there so it's not a criticism, I know your interest is genuine, I'm saying you have been distracted, that knowing national politics gives you a larger group of people to discuss your political ideas with due to the binding tie of celebrity.
My advice is to know who is on your city council before you invest so much of yourself in what is largely a distraction. Don't get me wrong, I want people to be just as involved as ever helping the big candidates, for one, to slow them down and check them, but if you ignore the local scene, you are to a degree, fooling yourself about politics that matter.
And if you can't see that... well then I'm going to leave the site forever and never ever come back even if you ask real nice (which I'm sure you will).