Saturday, August 23, 2008

An Election Without End

As the U.S. presidential election draws near, I am increasingly disgusted by what passes for journalism and democratic participation. It is hard to fathom how such a corrupt and despicable system is not challenged more widely by Americans. Most Americans, liberal and conservative, agree that our government has serious problems. However, instead of addressing them through collective movements, we choose to pick at each other on "hot-button" issues. Responsible and accountable government is not something anyone would oppose. The steps that would need to be taken to create a responsible system are neither easy nor straightforward. Many argue that the presence of massive amounts of money in American politics is the largest source of its problem. While I would argue that money plays a part in making the problems worse, the structure of the legislature and elections also has significant negative effects on representation and public policies that come to be instituted. The current structure enforces the two-party system and the personalization of campaigns. It also greatly hampers the ability to implement reforms. The lack of benefits of voting combined with the lack of risks of not voting create the situation where only around half of eligible voters turn out on presidential years, and even less than that on non-presidential years (let alone the paltry sum that appear for purely local or county elections).

While, for me, some form of proportional representation and changes to the amount of elections we have would be a good start; it is important that other people get engaged with this process. Having people come to understand that democracy requires much more than just voting is important if sustained, realistic change were to be enacted. This isn't something that will be accomplished through a spontaneous uprising of national consciousness. It must be facilitated by groups that people engage with in their daily lives (employers, religious communities, civic organization, NGOs, and the government itself). We as a society have learned to be apathetic, but this social apathy can also be unlearned. Giving people a reason to vote and significant benefits for electing your particular chosen party would create a more vibrant and engaged democracy.

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