After the government shutdown this month, a lot of people wanted to do something. Everywhere people were calling for evaluations, regulations, repeals, and refunds from our nation’s ruling body. And while we should be doing something, we should also remember that the members of Congress aren’t the only ones that have been failing to do their part. We, the people, have been shirking our duties as well. If our government is failing, it is because we have allowed it.
We learn that democracy means rule by the people, but that doesn’t mean we should form a torch-carrying mob to run the politicians out of town. There will always be a need to put someone in charge. Leadership is a necessity of civilization. We need politicians, we just need some better ones. The best part of our democracy is that we can replace many of our leaders every two years. The responsibility we hold, as rulers of our nation, is to find politicians capable of being good stewards of our government.
It isn’t a question of whether or not we should vote. Most people know they should, even though they don’t. They’re too busy, or too lazy or they hate the candidates. How can we expect to have good leaders if we can’t take time out of our day once every two years to choose them? The weather, registration, the wait in line, finding parking; none of it should stop us from casting our vote. Some of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents sweat, bled and died to preserve that vote for us.
And to the people who say they don’t vote intentionally, saying all the candidates are rotten and corrupt, isn’t it your duty, as a member of a democracy, to find a suitable candidate? If you truly feel so strongly, don’t give up the only direct effect you have on your government. Cherish it more than ever. Find the candidate that suits you, and vote for them. Maybe they don’t exactly match your opinions, but find the closest one, one better than the guy you’ve assumed will win. The idea that a vote cast not for one of the two major parties is a wasted vote is a lie perpetuated to keep a third party from gaining momentum. Don’t fall for it.
The most important thing any American can do for their country is to educate themselves. Not college, although that would almost certainly help. Actively seek information about the people and issues you’re voting for, and to go about it in an intelligent way. Find multiple sources, and look not only at what a candidate promises to do, but what they’ve done in the past.
If they’ve been in office, does their voting record look about like you’d expect? If they’re new, do they have the kind of experience that would make them a good leader? These decisions should be made while knowing more than a bunch of hollow campaign promises. FactCheck.org or Snopes.com inspect speeches and claims by politicians for accuracy. News articles about important politicians are in every paper and website, and when it comes to local politics, you can usually find a chance to give yourself direct access to talk to candidates at town hall meetings and fundraisers.
Don’t let the collective apathy of a generation disenchanted with politics turn our democracy into an oligarchy, and don’t let the anger at this most recent government failure fade before the next election. Our leaders consistently push problems into the next month, the next year, the next term, counting on us to forget that they’ve been wasting years of time debating the same three issues. Hold them accountable to solving the pressing systemic issues facing us, and
if they can’t make the progress we need, we can and should replace them every other November. If you want to reform the government, vote. Vote with the intention of getting someone into office who has the knowledge and will to make the changes you want with the wisdom and care that this country needs.