There are few things in this world that grind my gears more than hearing someone say that “they don’t care about politics,” or that they “don’t have time to be informed.” The former of those statements is detestable for reasons I will delve into later, and the latter is an excuse that I am just not buying. It is not that we do not have time to be politically savvy, but rather that it is not a priority for most of us. It absolutely blows my mind that so many of us choose to only vote in presidential elections. This is inherently backwards because the reality is that Barack Obama personally is not going to listen to your problems. However, your state representative sure will. I am not suggesting that it does not matter who the President is, but I am suggesting that who the President is might not be the most relevant factor for voters. So why are so many of us only exercising our vote in the sexiest of elections?
We, as American voters, seem to have forgotten our history and our roots as a country. This country fought hard to gain its independence, and for the right to make its own decisions. The sovereignty of this nation was not easily achieved, and I think Americans today forget that. We forget that not everyone in this world has the ability to truly affect government. There are people in this world that are suppressed, and their voices are unheard. If the people that live in this country today would open their eyes to the reality that this right did not come easy, and that other people are a long way away from having it, people would choose to exercise that right.
Sadly, the average citizen does not believe that they have the ability to really make a difference. One of the biggest problems with the way our democracy is functioning today is that everyone pays slight attention around election time, and then forgets about legislators for the next two or four years (depending on the person). That is a serious problem because it means that we are not holding the people that are supposed to be representing us accountable for their actions when they assume office.
The first thing we can do to hold our elected officials accountable is to vote intelligently. Voting for someone based on frivolous reasons, or not voting at all is how the wrong people get into office. It is our duty as the electorate to ensure that we support the best possible officials to govern this nation with integrity and diligence, while always bearing in mind what is best for the people. Another thing that we, as citizens, can do is to write to our legislators. We should be asking them how they plan to act or are acting on issues that are most important to us. That way, we can hold them accountable for the promises that they made to us while they were running. It is easy to get away with things when nobody is looking, but if you have an interested an engaged electorate that pays attention to political activity, legislators are much more likely to act morally, responsibly, and honestly.
It is astounding to me that in this day and age with news being so easily accessed, that people are so uninformed. All it takes is for you to follow a couple of news accounts on twitter, or to watch a thirty-minute program on CNN each night. The most profound piece of advice that I can give you on political participation is to trust yourself. Trust that your opinion is just as valid as the man’s whom you chose to sit in Washington. The citizens of this country need to start making political participation a priority in order for the problems that face this country can have a prayer of seeing improvement. At the end of the day this is our country, and if we are not controlling it, then who is?