Political Activism in the Era of the Sound Bite

The election season is upon us and this is by no means an ordinary election cycle. Anger and hatred have dominated our political dialogue just two years after hope and change reigned.

As James Carville said, “it’s the economy, stupid.” 10% of the country remains unemployed and that may well be driving the bizarre behavior of the electorate. Yet, despite the irrational and often psychotic movement that calls for religious, racial and ideological purity, a legitimate point arises – our government is broken.

The times when our elected officials would leave session and continue the debate over a beer are over. Instead, they leave session and go to separate war rooms to plot against the opposite party.

Now many point to our system – the 24 hour news cycle, cameras on the floor, primaries seeking idealistic purity… etc.. etc… And there is no question that our system has flaws.
But in an off year election, 50 percent of people show up to the polls.

In a poll conducted by the Economist last April, when asked how best to reduce Federal spending, 71 percent of Americans pointed to the Foreign Aid budget as the best area to cut. Foreign Aid represents less than 1 percent of the Federal budget. I am not a math major but I am certain that cutting 1 percent of a 3.5 trillion dollar budget won’t make a dent in a 14 trillion dollar debt.

My point is that our broken government is not the result of some structural problem or the greed of politicians (though both of those exist). It is broken because we can’t be bothered to pay attention until some moron is shouting “THEY ARE GOING TO KILL YOUR GRANDMOTHER” through a megaphone. And when we do, the only message we buy into is whatever short, alteration filled message scares the crap out of us.

The problems our country faces are massive. A bankrupt health care system, two wars, a growing immigration population, massive debt – but the problem that causes the rest, or at least the one that prevents solutions to the others, is our inability to engage in our political process.

Engaging in our political process means more then just voting. It means understanding the issues, discussing the issues, speaking with your representatives and working on campaigns. Too often people say things like, “well, I am not really political” or “I don’t understand politics” but politics just cannot be the interest of only political science majors.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. We are entering an election cycle, campaigns are looking for volunteers. Go, find a candidate you believe in and knock on some doors or make some phone calls. An hour or two a week and you can have a huge impact on an election.

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