The state of politics is in utter disarray. Candidates and leaders on both sides are waging war against one another, and with the impending presidential election, hostilities have only continued to rise. At this point in time, it is of little surprise to anyone that the American public has backed away from political discussion. I must admit that I have found myself backing off from the toxic deluge that has engulfed the media in terms of politics. But I write today not to discuss the state of politics, but the importance of political engagement. Not only is it the right of every American citizen to vote, but it is the duty and burden of all to ensure the wellbeing of our country.
The right to vote has not always been granted to all citizens in the United States. Minority groups and women did not have rights to vote until the 15th and 19th amendment were written into law. This alone should testify the importance of voting to all. We often times forget that the foundation of our government is based off of the civil engagement of the people. The very word “democracy” comes from the Greek words “Demos” (people) and “Kratos” (rule). This idea of the people ruling remains the pinnacle of American politics. We, the people, are the ones who decide what leaders we want to run the various positions in Congress. The purpose of our elected officials is to serve us, not their own personal agendas. If a member of Congress or the president does not follow the beliefs of their constituents, then it is the burden of the people to vote that person out of office and vote for a leader who is willing to follow those ideals. Sadly, it would appear that the American populus does not believe in the idea of the people having a say in government anymore. Last presidential election cycle, only 61.4% of the American public was reported to have voted in the election. This means that 38.6% of the population was not engaged in their duties as citizens. This cannot stand this next election cycle. If we wish to see change, we must become more active in choosing our elected officials.
This must also mean that individuals take time to research and learn the basics of our political system and candidates policies. Now, I am not advocating for every individual to be an Ivy league professor in politics, but it is important to understand basic aspects of the various different offices in our government. This does mean taking time to explore various different news sources and political commentators. I always urge colleagues and family to stay away from sources such as CNN and Fox News, as they tend to give very polarized and biased views on different stories that are inaccurate and misleading to the public. Sources I highly recommend to read are The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the LA Times, BBC News, and Al Jazeera. I have found them all to have good, reasonable sources of information that are skewed in one aspect or another, but not overtly biased. With this also means discussing politics and being able to do so properly. Politics in recent years has lost a sense of decorum and civility, with certain candidates saying detestable thoughts on women and minorities. It is more important than ever that all of us do not stoop to that level. What must be the driving force for any political conversation is respect. It is fully acceptable to disagree with the opinion of a colleague or public official, so long as it is done with respect. The end goal should always be that while there may be discourse, each party respects the thoughts of the other.
It is time to end the toxicity that is polluting our political system. But it is not possible without the proper engagement from each citizen of the United States. There will always be candidates that one person may not always agree with. But the burden remains that voting is a necessity. There is no greater duty or honor to be able to serve one’s country than by deciding who should run it. Do your duty, get active. And above all else, exercise your right to vote. Your voice matters.