Something to Think About: Politics Matter
September 7, 2015
For a lot of people, it’s a dirty word. When they hear it, they think of taxes, over-regulation, corruption.
If you’re under 18, however, your first thought is probably of that lecture that you slept through in government class freshman year.
But who can blame you, really?
You were probably thinking, “Who cares about the difference between a liberal and a libertarian? Why does it matter that Clinton was impeached? And what the heck is gerrymandering?”
It’s seems pointless. Especially when you remember that you can’t even vote.
That’s the one I hear the most.
Why should I care? I can’t even vote.
Well, the answer is pretty simple.
One day you will.
The first time I really became politically aware was during the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Bush was leaving office and the race was wide open. McCain vs. Obama. I was about nine years old. I remember hearing the name Barack Obama and not knowing where his first name ended and his last name began. For the longest time, I thought the future leader of the free world was called Baracko Bama.
Let me remind you. Nine years old.
I remember being surprised at how big of a deal it was that a woman was running.
And then I remember becoming a full-fledged Hillary fan.
I mean, what kind of a name is Baracko anyway?
After Obama won the primaries, I started to notice a change. The country was picking sides: Obama vs. McCain, Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Conservative. I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I could already see the divisive nature of politics. I heard someone one day criticizing Obama for not wearing an American Flag pin during his speeches, proving that he was unpatriotic. Even though I was nine, I thought that was ridiculous.
Fast-forward to 2012, I was entering the entering the eighth grade and President Obama was running for a second term. One morning during that summer, I walked into my living room and found my older brother watching previous night’s episode of The Daily Show. Having woken up last, I’d surrendered my right to the remote (you snooze you lose, as they say), so I sat down on the couch and watched along with him. There was a lot of complaining at first. Most of the jokes went over my head. But I kept watching. In Jon Stewart’s jokes, I saw the same kind of (literally) laughable divisiveness that I had seen four years earlier.
But this time was different. Behind, the jokes about Mitt Romney’s mom jeans, I saw real frustration about real issues. Why is the VA so backed up? Why doesn’t Congress get anything done? Why is health insurance so expensive?
I’d heard that people hated politics. That it was petty, messy and discouraging. But in the years since I watched that first episode of The Daily Show, I’ve uncovered something else about it. Politics make things happen.
If you feel that your neighborhood park isn’t safe for your children, who do you talk to? Your mayor or city councilman.
If you think standardized test are being administered unfairly, who do you talk to? Your governor.
If you think that gun laws need to be stricter, who do you talk to? Your legislator.
And if none of those people listen to you, what do you do? You vote them out of office.
That’s how democracy works. And it’s impossible to separate democracy from politics.
Our politicians are the ones with the ability to make things happen. But only because we give them that power. Not only through our votes, but through our thoughts and our opinions.
Public opinion spurs political action. It always has.
So, no, you can’t vote. But that doesn’t matter. You can think.
Which is why you need to be able to think about politics.
The difference between a liberal and a libertarian is that liberals love government and libertarians hate it.
Clinton’s impeachment matters because now no one thinks of a balanced budget when they think of him, but of Monica Lewinsky.
And gerrymandering is just a messed-up way of making sure you get reelected by redrawing a district.
It may seem messy and divisive and maybe even boring, but it matters. And it matters to you.