Here’s a shocker: According to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, only 28 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, and only 13 percent approve of the way Congress is doing its job. Furthermore, a plurality say they trust neither party to run the federal government, and a whopping 62 percent say that they want someone who isn’t their current Congressional leader to be elected this November. However, come November, what won’t be shocking is the high incumbency rate in Congress. Why? Because Americans simply don’t care enough to vote the good-for-nothing idiots out of office–and because of highly gerry-mandered Congressional districts. But it will be more due to the low voter turnout.
Americans are disgusted and fed-up to the point where complete apathy has set in. After all, what is the point of voting when all politicians are the same? And what is the point of voting if lobbyists and special interests have more power than the people? Both are good questions, but I think the better question is how did we get here? In other words, why doesn’t it matter who is in office (because no matter who it is nothing will change)? And why do lobbyists and special interests have more power than the people?
The answer is quite simple: our democracy is weak because we, the people, are weak. We gave up–a fairly long time ago actually. We don’t fight as much as we should. And we don’t demand accountability from our leaders as much as we should. I’ve said this over, and over, and over, and over again: a democracy gets its strength from the people, because a democracy is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. If we, the people, don’t care anymore then we can only expect our democracy to weaken further. (Note: The United States is technically a Republic. But the U.S. is also considered a democratic Republic, meaning it consists of a government in which the power resides in the people, as it is run by leaders that are directly elected by the people and are bound to “rule” by law.)
Our politicians don’t change because we don’t make them. And lobbyists and special interests have so much power in Washington because we let them. Think about it: if only 40 percent of Americans vote in mid-term elections, and barely 50 percent vote in general elections, we’re not a big threat to politicians jobs’ or to the power lobbyists and special interests have in Washington. This is especially true for younger Americans. We want our leaders to pay attention to the issues that affect us, but we don’t vote. Thus, our leaders have no incentive to listen to us because we don’t threaten their jobs. Older people–who vote in much higher numbers–threaten their jobs, which is why our government spends over four times more money on seniors than it does on the youth. Bottom line: if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.
In a healthy, thriving democracy, the people aren’t ignorant observers who do nothing but complain about how bad things have gotten. The people in a healthy democracy are well-informed of the issues, and when they aren’t happy with how things are going, they actively do something about it. They participate (i.e. vote, protest, right letters/emails to congressional leaders, call their congresstional leaders, attend town hall meetings, etc.). They don’t sit around complaing about things they don’t understand (because they don’t bother to actually learn about them), or about how nothing ever changes. The people in a healthy, thriving democracy understand that they are in charge, and if they give up their power (by becoming complacent and/or apathetic) then they have no one to blame but themselves.
FDR once said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” He also said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” In other words, democracy won’t succeed without a well-informed, participatory public. Our problem is we currently lack both in the United States. We have a very misinformed public (and yes, the mass media is horrible and certainly shares a big chunk of the blame for this, but there are a lot of of other forms of media available today, so one can still read up and get the facts), and we also have a very apathetic public. It’s a double-whammy, and our democracy gets weaker by the day because of it.
As long as we believe that nothing will ever change, instead of actively trying to change things, then yes, nothing will ever change. And as long as we continue to vote in low numbers, thus not threatening the jobs of our leaders or the power that lobbyists and special interests have over them, then again, nothing will ever change. Only when we, the people, realize that change has to first come from us–since we are the true rulers in a democracy–will things begin to get better.
It has been said that in a democracy, the people shouldn’t fear the government, the government should fear the people. Who do you think has more fear in our democracy–the people, or the government? By the results of the poll referenced above, I’d say it’s the people. It’s time we fix that, don’t you think? Ok, good–then come November, get out and VOTE! Just imagine what could happen if instead of a 40 percent voter turnout, there is an 80 percent voter turnout? Do you think then the government might start to fear the people? Just some food for thought for the next 3 months, as you ponder over whether it is worth it to vote or not. (Hint: it is)