Get your caucus here!
Funny, isn’t it, that we celebrate the beginnings of sport seasons – Week One of the NFL season is always a big day in my house – but we don’t get as excited about political seasons. I’m wondering: why is that?
Sports are meant to entertain us. The games are usually pretty exciting, but their outcomes have no real impact on our daily lives. I’m just gonna step over all a y’all Steelers fans, here, because you’re crazy 24/7/365. But honestly, what is most important, the thing we should really pay Super Bowl or World Cup level attention to, if not our political system; who runs it, and what the hell they’re doing with our money?
Say you pay $200 or $600 for a ticket to see your favorite team play, or watch your favorite band in concert. You expect them to put on a damn good show. You expect quality for that money. You expect to feel like, even if your team didn’t win, it was a damn good game. Those are reasonable expectations. Why don’t we have those same expectations in politics?
Nobody’s going to lose their job as a result of a poorly executed tennis serve, but a few tens of thousands might as a result of a poorly executed debate. Why is it so much less important to us? Why are there twelve ESPN stations and CSpan has, like, three? And they’re way up in the high numbers where nobody accidentally scrolls (FYI, I checked my cable provider’s website for the exact channel numbers for CSPAN and found a 1/3 page ad for ESPN’s streaming service on the homepage… I already feel a little vindicated.)
So how are we going to change this? I say WE because I assume, if you’ve read this far you do care about this stuff. So, how?
- Register to vote.Voter turnout numbers in the US are pitiful. We’re a republic, which means we elect our political officials to be our hearts and voices in our political system. With voter turnouts as low as 27.8% (I’m looking at you Indiana) and only as high as 58.1% (Go Maine!) we’re not represented evenly, fairly, or honestly. For once I’m not blaming our elected officials for it, either. That’s totally on us. On a side note: Don’t spend your time complaining about how our country’s going to a flaming, broiling hell, then tell me you never vote because what’s the point? That’s just stupid.
- Educate yourself about the issues.This is getting tougher and tougher, thanks to the ad nauseous number of links Google lists after you click the search button. As a test, I googled the term “two party system.” I got back 245,000,000 results in about a 1/2 a second. That’s overwhelming; it would take me more than THREE BILLION MINUTES to read just the summary of each of those pages.
What to do? First off, let me say, DO NOT rely on some political meme you found on Facebook, no matter how funny or real it looks. That’s also stupid. What you should do is learn from lots of different sources. Read them, and then find out something about the organization that published the material.
Everyone has an agenda. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But you should know what their agenda is before you go embracing their data, conclusions, and politics. Mom and Dad used to tell us to wait a half hour after lunch to go back in the water at the beach. Their agenda probably had more to do with them wanting just a half hour of relaxation than it did cramps. Here’s Politico’s About Us page. I found it by scrolling down to the bottom of their homepage. I also like Snopes to debunk stories that sound either too good or too bad to be true (see political memes above). Some sites, like FactCheck.Org even publish how they’re funded. FactCheck, is a resource I like, but it is commonly cited as having a liberal bias. Finally, don’t forget to check the politicians’ websites. Fingers crossed they list clear information about where your politicians stand on the issues and what they’re doing in your name.
- Pick a side. What issues matter most? Obviously, that depends on who you are and where you’re from. My top three are equality, health care, and education. The environment and foreign policy are a close #4 and 5, but we have to prioritize, right? Pick what matters to you, personally. It’s a good place to start. What gets you all riled up? Government waste? Poverty? Land use and conservation? If you’re homeless, regulations that have been popping up all over the country, that ultimately ban the homeless from living outdoors, will have a huge impact on your living situation. As a woman, abortion regulations have a direct impact on what can and cannot happen inside of my own uterus. That matters to me on a very personal level.
Spend a little time considering what you really care about, then research what’s happening in your community (local, state, and national). Then research your candidates so you can pick one who most matches your concerns.
You can take it slow. And maybe you should; it’s not easy. I like what Rand Paul has to say about staying out of foreign conflicts, but I would never vote for a man who said if you believe that every American has the right to quality health care “You’re basically saying you believe in slavery.” Things get messy in politics, but that doesn’t mean we should opt out.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Contribute to the campaign of the politician(s) who support your ideologies. This I can’t emphasize enough. (Here I’m stepping up on my soapbox.) We need campaign finance reform. It’s not right, fair, or responsible to allow individuals and corporations – NO, I do not consider a corporation to be an individual – to hide who they support and how much they’ve contributed. And contribution $$$ matter because if you only have $2,000 to run a campaign you’re obviously not playing in the same sandbox with the guys and gals who have $2,000,000. Do it. Contribute. I never throw a lot of money at my candidates of choice, but I throw enough to make me feel like I’ve done something. Whatever that number is for you, that’s what you should contribute. (…And now I’ll step off.)
- Put your time where your mouth is. Support your local food bank. Or your local school by volunteering for career day. Or write an opinion piece for publication. Or go clean up your local state park. My dad helped count the horseshoe crabs on a local Delaware beach. The long and short of this part is: it’s not up to our politicians to make our communities into what we envision them to be. That’s our job.
Did you notice in any of the above where I told you what you should think and why? You didn’t. Well. Maybe the part about campaign finance reform, but okay. That’s not my point. Of course I care if my candidates win or lose, but I care more that we become involved. This is my country. It is your country. If you’re not willing to stand up and be FOR us, work FOR us, then you shouldn’t call yourself an American. Not being involved has resulted in one current presidential candidate leading in the popular polls. That he can spout his filthy rhetoric and retain his popularity is beyond me. I find it frightening, but I also believe he is a direct result of our disinvolvement in the political system.
Hell yes, I want America to be a great country. But I’m more interested in watching a good game in the elections. A fair one. One that involves the best of the best political players. Any other scenario, in my mind anyway, is pointless.