By: Nate Sikora – Staff Writer
“As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State ‘What does it matter to me?’ the State may be given up for lost.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Americans across the country have seen their political participation rejuvenated with the election of Donald Trump. In other words, people today are finally realizing the tragic consequences of political apathy. Categorically, for college students, statistics show we find it difficult to buy into the notion that one ought to be politically active regardless of how much one “cares” about what happens in politics.
In an overall assessment of Americans, however, political apathy is not something new. It has plagued this nation for over a century. The United States ironically prides itself on being a democracy, yet, according to a Pew Research poll, less than 60 percent of Americans provide their voice in how to govern the entire 100 percent.
The reasons for political apathy are multifaceted. For example, the normalization of abusive dialogue in national politics, along with 24/7 news cycles and constant politics on social media, is a turnoff for many.
However, I argue it is self-evident within civilized societies that politics influences all of our actions whether one realizes it or not. Therefore, having a voice in how you can live your life and how society functions is critical to the continuation of humanity. People are finally beginning to realize this once again.
Over the past month, constituent unrest has come to fruition across the country in both the red and blue districts. The aura of Trump’s unstable White House with the Congressional Republicans’ blind eye to Russian interference in our democracy has made many people more skeptical of their elected officials than ever before. The great thing is that members of Congress are beginning to feel the heat of that skepticism.
Specifically, in Ohio, many Republican members of Congress, in response to increased vigilance, have coincidentally turned silent and refuse to hold town hall meetings with voters in their districts.
For example, Representative Jim Renacci (OH-16) tweeted about a “town hall” he held about tax policy, but in fact, it was a closed-door campaign event and the attendees were chosen by campaign staff. Additionally, my representative in northwest Columbus, Representative Pat Tiberi (OH-12), refused to hold a town hall even after over 1,000 constituents in his district signed a petition for a discussion about healthcare.
More well-known Republican leaders, like Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah, held shaky town halls. In a posted video from the event, a 10-year-old girl roasted Chaffetz about his disbelief in climate change and science, where she told him to grow up.
This is in Utah! No wonder Republican members of Congress are weary of facing the music…
It is not only Republicans who are getting backlash for ignoring the American people, but Democrats too. In the Senate, multiple democrats voted for many of Trump’s controversial cabinet picks like Scott Pruitt for the EPA (who does not believe in climate change) and Steve Mnuchin for the Treasury (who ran a business that profited on foreclosing on homes during the 2008 financial collapse).
Essentially, all members of Congress now feel intimidated by the exponential increase in the vocal magnitude of the American people. For example, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island held a town hall that overflowed by hundreds of people who wanted answers to his “Yes” votes on multiple Trump’s cabinet picks. News reports and videos captured the large crowds chanting, “Just say No!” Members of Congress be forewarned – the people are watching.
There is no certainty of how long the heightened observance of Congress will last, but for now, anyone with an appreciation for civic engagement should be happy with the influx of more people watching the actions of the U.S. government.
Americans, regardless of political affiliation must get involved. The health of our democracy depends on it.
In the midst of the political upheaval that is the Trump era, Bill Maher provides a healthy dose of reality: “Freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that ‘Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,’ as if that makes you somehow cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable.”
Photo Courtesy of businessinsider.com