My Thoughts: Why Politics Matter

I’m tired of people saying Politics doesn’t matter and tuning out of the Political process.  Not only is this an abdication of responsibility, it’s stupid.

Politics does matter and the votes taken in various elected bodies do impact everyone’s  life.

In fact, Political decisions impact almost every aspect of day-to-day life.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Drafting young men during the Vietnam War was a political decision as was ending the Draft.
  2. Going to War with Iraq and Afghanistan was a political decision.
  3. Creating Social Security and Medicare was a political decision.  Destroying them could be, too.
  4. Ending Slavery was a political decision.
  5. Granting Women the right to Vote was a political decision.
  6. How much money your hometown gets for roads and economic development is a political decision.
  7. The books and curriculum used to educate your children in public schools is a political decision.
  8. Financial Aid for College is a political decision.
  9. Whether or not you can park your car in your yard or put a ratty sofa on your front porch is a political decision.
  10. How much you pay in property, sales and income taxes are a political decision.
  11. Whether your food is safe and how this safety is assured is a political decision.
  12. Whether you have adequate Health Care is a Political decision.

These are just a few impacts off the top of my head.  So when I hear people say they aren’t voting or that one side is as bad as the other, or that it just doesn’t matter, it pisses me off.

Admittedly, I am passionate about this…I used to work in Politics and spent a good deal of time in Washington and Richmond.  I have been “behind the curtain.”  I’ve smoked cigarettes over cocktails at the Congressional Club with now Speaker John Boehner and ridden the back roads of Virginia with Senator John Warner.  I know neither side is perfect and I well know how the “other side”-for whom I used to work- manipulates the process and puts out false information.  I’ve seen the decline in civility by both sides and made my well-known choice.

I came to the conclusion that the Republicans look backwards with fear while the Democrats look forward with hope.  I’ve also reached the conclusion the Republicans cater to the wealthy and Corporate elite- as do the Democrats to a lesser degree.  This is an informed, fact-based decision I made as part of my personal journey.  You can disagree with me, but you can’t call me uniformed or accuse me of not thoroughly examining the issues to reach my decisions.

I also think we have a moral obligation in America to ensure our elected officials don’t forget the poor, the sick, the hungry, the elderly, college students hungry for learning but limited in funds and the homeless.  I think one of the main purposes of government is to ensure we have safe, reliable transportations– by road, by air and most urgently by train.  I think the government should level the playing field by allowing those who are born to less have the same opportunities as those who are born with more.  I think the government should ensure our food supply is safe, but not over burden local growers.  I think a lot of things…

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do expect them to be involved and to make fact-based decisions.  I can respect that…

I can’t respect people who tune out facts or don’t do their own due diligence.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Several Elections have been decided recently based on just a few votes difference.
  2. When given the facts, more people support the policies of the Democratic party, but more Republicans vote.
  3. Not voting for the Legislative branch of Government impacts the Executive and Judicial Branches.  Elected officials appoint and approve Supreme Court justices. Sometimes Judges decide Elections.  It’s all connected.
  4. When you vote, you have an obligation to know what the person you are voting for really stands for- not that they are the cutest or most telegenic or that you just know their name or Party.

For Democracy to work, you must have an informed, active electorate.  I hope people are paying attention to what is going on in Washington, the State Houses and the Supreme Court.  These decisions do matter and do impact your lives.

The Elites count on people being confused, misinformed and lazy when-and if- they vote.  It’s up to us to prove them wrong.  We haven’t done a great job the last year or so…

I may be dreaming, but here are a few things that I think would help rectify the situation:

  1. Get the big money out of politics.  Block Corporate donations and self-financing wealthy candidates by leveling the playing field.  Move to Public Financing of Elections with each qualifying Candidate having the same amount of money to spend.
  2. Require the Television and Radio stations to run an equal amount of adds for each qualifying candidate and/or Political Party.  Remember, the airwaves are Public Property that is leased to the media.  We need to make them do their civic duty and not just profit off a broken system.
  3. The media needs to do its job and check facts and call attention to mis-representations of facts- and lies- by all Candidates, Politicians and Parties.  I would love to re-implement the Fairness Doctrine- if for no other reason to put Fox News out of business- but that is impractical.
  4. Separate News from Entertainment.  The line has blurred too much….
  5. End Corporate monopolies of the Media.  Limit the number of media outlets that any one Corporation can own.
  6. Encourage people to check the facts on reputable web sites and from other non-mainstream media sources.  Form non-partisan grass-roots groups to educate them on how to do it…
  7. Enforce the Separation of Church and State.  Churches and Religious organizations who become involved in Politics should lose their tax exempt status.
  8. Encourage the growth of Third-and Fourth- Parties by making it easier for their candidates to get on the ballot and have appropriate funding.
  9. Require a fixed number of debates for all offices.  Don’t let politicians hide behind adds.  Put the public and media spot light on them all.
  10. End the revolving door between elected officials and lobbyists.  Elected Officials should not be able to lobby their former colleagues.  This is how the  insider Boys Club perpetuates itself.
  11. Develop and enforce ethics rules at all levels of Government.  With real, still penalties and not slaps on the hands.  Independent boards should manage inquiries and not political cronies.
  12. In Politics, just like in other areas of life, we need to encourage civility and reasonable debate- not encourage blood sport and boorish behavior.
  13. Make it easier to vote.  We need to find a secure way to vote via the internet.  We need to extend and expand early voting.
  14. We need to be confident all voting machines are secure and not subject to manipulation.
  15. Focus on encouraging more voters, not suppressing voters.

We need to encourage people to pay attention by restoring trust in the media and elected officials who represent the Public Trust.

This is not a game.

It is not a reality TV show.

Bottom Line:  Get serious, people!

Discuss among yourselves….


Filed under Education, Health Care, History, My Journey, Politics, Race, Religion, Social Commentary, The Economy, The Environment, The South, Virginia

3 responses to “My Thoughts: Why Politics Matter

  1. In the end, there is no way around the fact that politics is a game for politicians, today more centered on the gaining and preserving of power than anything else. There is little that any individual can do with a reasonable amount of effort in order to affect politics—and, frankly, I find myself almost offended by your attitude towards those who have chosen not to vote or engage themselves.

    As for your suggested remedies, I find many of them sensible. However, I would start with the main premise that many (most?) people are too uninformed and unintelligent to make a good decision, and draw conclusions from there. Possible additional solutions based on this could be to ban commercials altogether (these are focused on using emotions and image-building, not facts and arguments), to add a test of critical thinking and basic knowledge of society/politics to winnow out those too open to manipulation, or to move the focus from individual politicians to parties (reducing the impact of how handsome or sympathetic a candidate is, what race/sex (s)he belongs to, and so on).


  2. Renee

    Amen!! Could you suggest some non-partisan websites that I could use to get political facts? Thanks for enlightening me and causing me to think.


  3. Kirk

    Scott, politics definitely matter, but I would add that maintaining our democracy is of even greater importance. One of the underlining reasons for political apathy or reasons why some people decide not to exercise their right to vote, I believe, is that people’s sense of what true democracy really is has eluded them, therefore there isn’t any tangible or real dedication to participate in a process that has become for some just a game. There is no “weight” to hold them to a commitment and/or knowledge of consequences seen at least on a larger scale, if it hasn’t acutely presented itself as imperative. The meaning of what it is to live in a democratic society is lost when it no longer becomes important, or urgent, or if no one cares.

    I don’t agree with that sentiment, but it certainly appears that way especially when there are election cycles that don’t involve POTUS or the legislative branch of our government. There is less involvement in mid-cycle elections(exception 2010) either because of voter apathy or lack of the facts or issues. And, either one political party doesn’t deliver the narrative or there is a distortion of the facts or issues creating a negative engagement.

    Cornell West, wrote a very timely book in 2004 titled “Democracy Matters”, and in chapter 7- Putting On Our Democratic Armor he wrote:

    “In our disillusionment with our politicians and plutocrats-and with our media watchdogs–we have focused on the corruptions of our democratic system and have lost our sense of connection to the vital roles played in any democracy by an enlightened and motivated democratic citizenry, and by the principled coalitions that can so effectively push for democratic change. Democracy is not simply a matter of an electoral system in which citizens get the right to vote and elected officials must compete for the public’s favor(or find ways to manipulate the public into favoring them, or rig the electoral system to limit competition, as is too often the case today in America). All systems set up to enact democracy are subject to corrupt manipulations, and that is why the public commitment to democratic involvement is so vital. Genuine, robust democracy must be brought to life through democratic individuality, democratic community, and democratic society. ”

    He goes on to cite examples of Socratic philosophy, and the ancient Athenians great experiment with democracy. In fact he quotes Demosthenes, a great public orator, with regards to the idea of a motivated democratic citizenry.

    “He who claims your indulgence as having acted for the good of the commonwealth must be shown to possess the spirit of the commonwealth. That spirit is a spirit of compassion for the helpless, and of resistance to the intimidation of the strong and powerful; it does not inspire brutal treatment of the populace, and subservience to the potentates of the day.”

    Indeed ,these words would concur and acknowledge your thoughts Scott, about why politics matter and how democracy has to be a the center of all of it.


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