We have a collective government on purpose.
We are a collective, and we perhaps too often forget the power of our collective governance. Especially in the middle of a presidential election, we so often overlook the value of every piece and moving part of our governmental systems — the system we fought for. We might do well to acknowledge that politicians are a brand, composed of countless figures behind them navigating their speeches, their PR, their tweets, their choices, and their campaigns. Let us remember that by and large, our policies are moved through the system and only finally, finally approved by the top — not solely the result of the top. Let us remember that the civil rights movement happened on the backs of millions of people pressing endlessly, often for years upon years, before it even began to see legislation begin to move. We are a collective, and our government is the result of a thousand hands working endlessly and oftentimes without acknowledgment.
I get frustrated with the presidential voting cycle firstly because of its sheer oversaturation, but secondly because I think it truly sends a convoluted message as to what our political system is and how it operates. We do not have a monarchy. Unequivocally, and on purpose. Yes, our figurehead of the President is important, and yes, the opportunity to discuss the issues of the day during the election cycle is valuable. But I fear, congruous to the general fame-mongering of our culture, that we psychologically fall into the trap of forgetting the vitality of our congressional and representative system. We obfuscate the full picture of our law-making systems, and the true power that a President does or doesn’t have (or at least should). In this way, we forget to move as a collective, to fight on a local level, and to remain engaged. This cycle seems to train our brains and attention into feeling that it’s the big game or no game. We also fall so deeply into tribalism that we feel as if we cannot possibly healthily critique our candidates or Presidents as long as they are on our “team,” because we are endlessly engaged in a falsified game of political football.
We are innately drawn to hero-worshipping and to assigning stories to one focus point, but political change more often happens as the result of a large swell of many, many people all moving and protesting and fighting and organizing towards change, as opposed to solely resting on the back of one important historical figure. History is littered with far fewer monoliths of political change than we’d like to imagine. So much social and political change has been galvanized in the past century due to the organization of the people inspiring a swell of movement that finally changed things at the top. And our democratic political system at least should function by and large with the slow and ceaseless work of bills being carried up the ranks, creating change from a group of voices ideally working across the aisle, rather than a few tyrants at the top. We must preserve and fight for the dream of this democracy.
And now more than ever, as fears towards the rights of our collective government might be taken away, now is a more important time than ever to vote. We must fight to maintain these structures that hopefully, over time, can be filled with genuine grassroots activists. There are so many important grassroots fights being fought (and won) across the country, and we cannot slide towards dictatorship or towards apathy for these races because the parade of the presidential race is too obscene. Local government is important. Local laws and decisions may affect your life more than anything else, and we cannot forget it. Local government can also ideally move groundswells over time. In times that seem hopeless, perhaps the only place to look to is from the bottom up – over time, and with persistent engagement.
We should never fall back asleep, even if our own “team” wins — we must keep up the nuanced conversations, we must stay engaged and continue protesting. We must continue grassroots organizing from the bottom up. Legislation is a long and complex process, and it has nothing to do with the competition-pageant-reality-show that often becomes our presidential election processes. There is power in our representative government, especially if we fight to make it actually represent us. There are some politicians and organizers out there fighting the good fight, and we need to allow them the opportunity to continue, as well as add to their ranks. So all this critique on our presidential election process is to say that we need to vote, now more than ever, and we need to recognize that every position is vital everywhere across the country. We need to vote for and be engaged with every seat on the ballot. You can be disillusioned and still vote. You can be unsure of the path forward and still vote. Over time, perhaps we can change the landscape of our political system through the new voices of tomorrow and move towards a better, more activated, and connected system. It does not begin and end with a presidential race only. But we must at least begin here, now, in this vitally important moment.