Opinion | How a single vote can save America: take notice of issues
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 22:09
With an excessive national debt, a national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, and a tax code that’s thousands of pages long, one could argue that there are a lot of things wrong with America.
While those are certainly some of the biggest issues facing our nation, perhaps a bigger problem is the current state of our political system.
A system marked by issues like extreme partisanship and low participation, which unless we deal with them will come to define our generation.
To see just how big of a problem partisanship is, one only needs to look at the last three years in which Congress has failed to pass a budget. This however is not just a reflection of our unsound fiscal policy but rather a part of a larger problem – our inability compromise.
Gone are the days where Republicans and Democrats reach across the aisle and come to an agreement on legislation.
And in its place are the days of party infighting, where it is simply unacceptable to work with the other side. A point best illustrated by Richard Murdoch’s successful primary challenge of Senator Dick Lugar earlier this year.
This tactic of criticizing those willing to compromise might be great for energizing the bases, but at some point we must all take a step back and ask ourselves, what are the effects this is having on our nation?
One answer is that this extreme partisanship has led to the extinction of healthy discourse.
It’s a shame, but unfortunately we live in a time where a person’s political persuasion and their views about issues as complex as government spending, healthcare, and abortion, can be gleaned by their views on global warming.
Practices like these, the result of partisanship, have eliminated the need for serious discussions and are precisely why healthy discourse is dead.
Instead of holding serious discussions about the complex issues we as a nation face, elected officials like Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, go before the national media and accuse other elected officials and dedicated public servants of being members of radical Islamic organizations.
Congressmen can now use both the words “rape” and “legitimate” in the same sentence. And if you thought the blame rested solely on the shoulders of the Republican Party, let me remind you of Bill Burton, whose pro-Obama political action committee accused Mitt Romney of killing another man’s wife.
These wild accusations, which can only be described as noise pollution, fill the airwaves and the pages of our most acclaimed media outlets and have amplified the issues facing our nation.
Perhaps, this lack of discourse is not only the cause of our unproductive government but also the cause of our extremely low participation rates.
Perhaps, if we elevated the level of discourse beyond 140 character cheap shots on twitter to that of a serious national debate, participation in the democratic process would rise.
Or perhaps, if participation increased and candidates were forced to speak to a larger audience, the level of discourse would shift away from the political extremes and relocate itself more closely towards the middle.
Whether this happens in the near future or not, one thing is certain, at some point participation rates must increase.
We cannot forget the sacrifices our ancestors made when they forged this nation or the countless number of brave men and women who have laid down their lives to preserve this democracy and take for granted that most basic right of participating in the electoral process.
If we do this, and move from participation rates around 20 percent up to say 80 percent, we will hopefully solve the problem of extreme partisanship and move on to address the larger problems facing our nation such as getting our fiscal house in order.
We can do this in either one of two ways, make voting compulsory, as is the case in Australia, where citizens are charged a fee if they chose not to participate, or we can all take the initiative on our own and remember to do our civic duty and to also remind our fellow citizens to do the same. For the foreseeable future, voting will not be compulsory and it will be up to concerned citizens to drive up turnout.
That’s why it is important though, that come this November, we as a nation go to the polls and cast our votes and help save our political system.