Politics 102: Complacency, Representative Democracy & You

Image via rockthevote.com

Image via rockthevote.com

Here we go, another round of stuff you should probably already know but most people act like they don’t. Again, this applies to everybody, some more than others, because we’re all citizens and we all have a stake.

#1 – Just Because There’s Not A Presidential Election, That’s No Excuse Not To Vote. Complacency brought us the joys of 2010, liberals; keep that in mind, because that was all thanks to our miserable showing. Off-year elections are notoriously low-turnout, possibly because there isn’t one single banner or figurehead to rally behind (unless you’re the kind to vote single-ticket always; see my previous commentary on that), and GOP voting laws will make it worse this time around. If you can vote, do it, unless you’re happy with the franchise being further constricted by those responsible staying in office. Even if you’re a conservative, I encourage you to vote, because it’s our job as Americans. The people elected during the off-years will have as much influence over the course of our country as those who sweep into office on the coat tails of a presidential election. And remember, if you don’t vote, you have zero right to complain.

#2 – The Job Doesn’t Stop After The Voting Is Over. Several times, I’ve been told, “You can lay off, the election is over.” This buys into the fallacy that politics “ends” when the votes are tabulated. I know that burn-out sets in, and I understand that people want a break, but the simple fact is that being part of a system that involves its citizens requires constant engagement. If you prefer to live somewhere where you can tune out and stop caring, Russia or Myanmar would be good places for you; they can make sure that it doesn’t matter who you voted for or if you voted at all, because the “right” person will win every time. If you’re going to stick around here, you need to pay attention and do your job as a citizen by holding your officials to their words and ethics. Increasingly, we cannot depend on our media to do this, since too much attention to such things is bad for their corporate business model, so we have to do it ourselves. Pay attention, stay informed, don’t buy the spin, write to your representatives, and get ready for the next round early. It’s never too early to know the facts and issues.

#3 – Elections Are Not About Winning A Vote. The way that a lot of people treat an election, and the way we’ve been letting politicians treat them, is that all that matters is winning, getting that 50% + 1. It’s one of the reasons things have gotten so partisan; if all you have to do is get slightly over half the vote, why spend the effort to appeal to the whole electorate by being moderate? In point of fact, the win is just a gateway to the REAL point: governing. If the person elected refuses to engage in the process of governing the nation, then the whole point of election is moot. Well, except for the part where they get $174,000 for working 159 days a year (2013) as a part of Congress, and that’s if they even bother to show up for votes. That’s great for them, but not for the rest of us. For that kind of money, and that kind of freedom, we can rightfully expect that they would engage in the job for which they’ve been “hired”. That’s why the do-nothing Congress is such grit in the gears of our country. The House would rather hold symbolic votes against the PPACA and stick poison-pill amendments into legislation than actually do work. Yes, conservatives, I’m picking on you here, but even in the Senate, you guys are the problem. Get off your representatives off their oil-company-funded posteriors and require them to work for the country, for crying out loud. It’s their freaking JOB. And it’s OUR job as the citizenry to kick them in the ass when they won’t do theirs, either to give them a jump-start to get going or to boot them out of the seat so that someone who WILL can take over.

#4 – Local Elections Matter As Much If Not More Than National Ones. I am forever hearing about how the federal government is too big, too invasive, etc. The fact of the matter is that, unless you’re engaging in sedition/treason, forging money, or refusing to pay your taxes, the federal government in general could give two flips about what you’re doing. You may think you’re a special snowflake, but the reality is that you don’t register on their radar. The people who DO care are the people who are elected to wield power over your immediate environment, be it your state or your county or your town/city. Many conservatives consider Eric Holder to be a prime bogeyman, but the local sheriff is much more likely to be the one who comes busting in your door (right or wrong) than the FBI. You may feel concerned about the politics of Justice Thomas or Scalia creeping into their rulings in the Supreme Court, but your chances of dealing with a locally-elected judge are thousands of times higher. Local legislatures will be far more active in the regulation and taxation of homes and businesses than Congress ever will be. Given the more direct and personal effect these positions will have on your life, can you really justify NOT taking part in deciding who is going to be exercising that power?

During World War 2, part of the effort at home was an urging to “Do Your Part!”, whether that meant rationing your gas, working in a war factory, growing your own food, or recycling metal. Today, it’s just as vital to the health of the country that we all “Do Our Part” for our nation and our community. Whether it’s supporting the administration that is in office or being part of a loyal opposition, it’s up to us to be informed, be active, and above all else VOTE!

Jason Francis

Jason Francis is a red-state liberal, residing in the heart of Dixie where he gets to watch the train wreck of conservative politics up close and personal on a regular basis. He's lived in affluence and poverty, in both urban and rural settings, attended both public and private schools, and has visited most of the US at one point or another.


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