“Why bother, they’re (politicians) all corrupt and the system is rigged. They don’t care what the public wants.”
I’ve heard remarks similar to and exactly like this enough times that it seems to be a common thought among people.
To some extent, it shocks me that people don’t want to be involved and fix something they call broken; but I get it, it’s difficult to be optimistic. It’s hard to think that volunteering for a few hours a week or even a month plays any role in the big picture, or that by organizing and protesting you can force lawmakers to change. While it’s much easier to be cynical and say politics is all garbage and your voice has no real power.
But as Noam Chomsky once said, “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
Stepping away from politics because the system isn’t perfect would be like leaving your car on the side of a road because it has a few dents and chips in it. Yeah it’s not in the best shape, but you can call someone to fix it or learn how to do it yourself.
The world of politics may seem like an everyday nuisance that you can’t escape from, and you can’t, but having an engaged and informed citizenry is vitally important for a stable democracy.
What happens at school boards, city councils, state legislatures and at the federal level will affect you or someone you know. It may be regulations put in place to make sure your food isn’t contaminated with chemicals; government departments and agencies being downsized or cut completely for budget purposes; or policies in regard to education spending and so on.
Let me be clear, ideology doesn’t matter to me when it comes to political engagement. The only thing that does matter is the percentage of people who are actually engaged.
A Pew Research study in 2012 shows of U.S. adults who were registered to vote (84.3 percent), only 53.6 percent actually voted. And that was during a presidential election, which has the highest voter turnout of any year.
Another study by Pew, done in 2009, estimates that during a 12 month period, only 63 percent of U.S. adults were politically active. Some of the activities people participated in were as simple as signing a petition, while others were volunteering for a party or candidate and attending a town hall meeting.
It only takes five minutes to call your representative and voice your opinion. I know because I’ve done it on several occasions. Before anyone tells you that calling your representatives doesn’t do any good, just look at the recent case of Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who are now going to vote against Betsy DeVos because they had so many constituents calling their offices to voice their concerns.
So, instead of spending energy complaining about how the system is broken, government is doing a bad job, and legislators are out of touch with their constituents, get involved and try to fix it. Call your representatives, run for the school board, serve on committee boards for the city. The options are endless.
Caleb Snider is a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.