As we all watch Congress come to what I would tactfully describe as a “screeching halt,” it’s hard not to question whether the very structure of government doesn’t need to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up.
The system in place now is one that leaves its constituents powerless and ineffective. I had a conversation with a group of people today about whether or not voting is important; in fact, we questioned whether it means anything at all.
Undeniably, the overwhelming national opinion is that it does not. But, I think that measuring the meaning of a vote by its impact on the outcome of the election alone is limiting. I can admit that my vote last year made absolutely no difference to either candidate, but I voted anyway — I went through great pains to vote, actually, since I’m from New Jersey and had to find a way around an entire hurricane to do so. Why did I bother?
For as much as I think that the entire election process is basically a farce, I also think it’s vital for us as a population to participate in every election, regardless of what we expect the outcome to be.
To me, a vote in either direction might not sway a decision, but it sends a clear message: I am here, I am listening, I am engaged and I am paying attention. It lets the winning candidate know that in the next four years, he or she is accountable to me as a citizen. What the elected chooses to do in his or her career may or may not reflect that accountability, but either way, I know that I stood up to be counted.
Voting may not make a difference in the way that it’s supposed to, but it makes a difference in the social infrastructure. Knowing that I would cast a vote in last year’s presidential election, I watched all of the debates, researched both candidates and made sure that my decision was an educated one.
As a result, I had conversations with the people around me, I spread the information I had obtained and I learned new information from other voters that surrounded me.
A voting population is one that exchanges ideas and engages in the issues.
A voting population is an active population, and an active population is one that cannot be ignored by the people who spend their time trying to lead it.
I genuinely believe that a nation with a voter turnout of 100 percent would be a less corrupt, more effective, simply better country than the one in which we live.
I also think that a person who cares about the issues, who stays engaged even though it’s exhausting and frustrating, who has a vested interest in the society he or she lives in is simply better than one who does not.