Author: Brennan E. Wells
Your ancestors died so you would have the right to vote, so go out and vote. If you do not vote, then you do not have the right to complain. If you do not vote, then you do not have a say so in your community. Do you want the other person to win? You have to vote! Your vote is your say-so in your government and it is too important to throw away. These statements among others come around in conversation every four or two years. For the half of America that heeds these words, for on average only 50% of Americans vote in presidential elections, they expect a return on their investment. That investment is their vote of confidence in a politician who presumably will aid that city, state or nation. So what do, you or I say to those persons who vote, yet nothing changes for them?
All politics are local:
Too many students I believe take civic and government classes to be an easy A. A class that is mandated by a government authority to broaden an educational experience. But somewhere in the depths of these classes and lessons, one learns that all politics are local. This basically means, that politics begin and end on the local level. The delegates in the Electoral College are more often than not (delegates for the Electoral College are chosen differently depending on your state) chosen at the state level. The delegates that choose presidential primary winners are chosen at state conventions.
The trend is the same throughout the American political system. The biggest difference you can make is at home. The processes for laws and ordinances pass at a much quicker rate at your local city council. If you want a pothole fixed, you go to your city council. If you would like to have speed limit amended, this can be done through your city council. Additionally, state governments more often enact laws that affect you directly at a much quicker pace. State income taxes, education funding, increasing jobs, all of these issues are handled at the state level. Yes, the federal government does touch on these subjects, but I will touch on that later. All in all, if you want quick impactful change, start with city, county, and state government.
Lack of political activism:
When I mention political activism I am not merely speaking about protestors in the streets. Your activism does not have to leave the screen on your cell phone, though I recommend that it should. I was fortunate enough to have interned in the United States House of Representatives, and I have seen for myself how the wheels of politics turn and who gets the attention of government. So I will say this time and time again, that voting is not enough. Through research, I have come to find that the average American spends eight minutes a month dealing with politics!! This may be from discussing politics, conducting research regarding politics or being involved politically, but the amount of time stays the same.
To see long-lasting change in your community, you must be engaged year round, from: 1) contacting your representatives through social media 2) Sending your representatives a letter 3) calling your representatives 4) visiting your representatives in person 5) starting a petition 6) joining a political organization 7) publishing written material for political purposes 8) organizing community members to get behind a cause, then taking those efforts in front of your representatives 9) political protesting 10) donating money to a particular candidate you agree with 11) supporting political conscious art and/or music
To be seen is to be heard, so if we truly want more than attention every four or two years, then our engagement must be year round.
Federal elections are good, but not great:
When we consider the legislative process, voting for a representative that will speak to the issues that you care about in Washington D.C. takes on a cumbersome process. Depending on who has the majority in Congress (U.S. House & U.S. Senate), the political climate at the time and the issues that have the ear of Congress, your individual issues may or may not be addressed. Remembering that it is the Executive Branch that actually implements the laws Congress makes, takes on a whole new challenge since it is up to the Executive Branch to implement laws in their own interpretation. This is all presuming that the Supreme Court does not have to factor in, because of a lawsuit. So I say again, all politics are local.
The United States has been around officially since 1776 and our system of government has not changed all that much (excluding extreme examples). Therefore, the process to have your issues and concerns heard before decision makers has not been dramatically altered either. By following these simple, yet effective, rules for the road you will be all that much closer to having a government that reflects the will of the people.