Politics viewed as an afterthought in student lives for excellent reasons

Keith Kaczmarek

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You probably don’t care about politics. Should you?
Apathy toward politics is at a record high, even among young people who are notoriously disenchanted with politics. In many ways, America is becoming the democracy that chooses to not vote, but is anyone really surprised?
Let’s face it, we aren’t allowed to vote for anything truly important. We were not allowed to vote on the Iraq war, our local or federal budget, or even social issues like privacy laws, abortion or corporate corruption. The great issues of our day are being decided (or avoided) by our elected representatives, and the vote we are given is often between the Coke and Pepsi of political parties.
“But we can vote them out!” you say. “We can elect someone who will represent our interests!”
Can we? We can surely elect new people, but is that going to actually create change? I mean, it’s not like they are obligated to actually vote on the issues they ran on. In fact, the only consequences they face for their voting is that their party can perform token wrist-slaps like giving them the worst office in whatever government building they work in, meaning that the actual consequences for bad politicians is that they might not be reelected after several years of betraying the trust of the people that voted for them. In fact, they might still get reelected since being an incumbent is such an advantage in politics that often candidates can die and still win elections.
If dead men can beat the living in elections purely because they held office previously, I think it’s fair to say that something as hard to track as voting records won’t be enough to get the bad eggs out.
And that’s just for the officials we are allowed to vote for. For example, federal judges are appointed by the current president and serve indefinitely. If you don’t like it, even voting out the president won’t get rid of those individuals.
“But we can form a third party!” you say. To that I can only laugh for the simple reason that the stunning failures of third parties in the last century has proven that a third party vote is worse than no vote at all.
Even protests are ineffective. Recently, voters in Wisconsin laid siege to the state capital for weeks in an effort to protest the governor and state senate from removing the rights of government workers to have a union, and it absolutely did not stop the passage of the bill.
Left with these options, are we powerless?
No. If you want a vote that matters, you need to run for office. Luckily, you don’t even have to vote for any issue you run on, so feel free to take crazy positions like pretending that President Obama is not a citizen or that trickle-down economics is not a discredited and disproven economic theory. After taking office, your tiny vote can actually be cast on important issues, and it will even matter.
I’m often told, “If you don’t vote in elections, you don’t have a right to complain.” My only reply is, “when I’m given a vote that matters, I’ll use it.”

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