People despise politics, myself include, to such a degree that it’s considered by many Americas to be taboo. Bringing it up in the workplace offends co-workers, discussing it at the dinner table upsets family members, mentioning it on a date is considered a turn-off, and friends will often find it a downer. It’s something Americans don’t like to talk about.
It’s understandable to want to avoid an unpleasant and divisive subject. I don’t blame anyone for not liking politics. It’s natural to want to pretend it doesn’t exist and go obliviously on with your day. And that’s the catch, because politics is going to impact your entire day whether you participate in the outcome or not.
The quality of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the safety standards of the vehicles we drive, the bridges and roads we use, the affordability of health care, K-12 education standards, firefighters, NASA, pell grants for college, defense, food stamps, medicare, medicaid, social security… nobody is immune. If you live in a country and that country has a government then politics will directly or indirectly determine the quality of your future. This isn’t an opinion. This is an inescapable, albeit unfortunate, reality.
This is why it is so vital to have competent representation in office, why it’s so important to vote and to know what you’re voting for. If Americans ignore engagement in politics then we’ll continue to get shittier and shittier politicians in power that will pass shittier and shittier laws resulting in the people having shittier and shittier lives.
“People” includes YOU, princess.
Let’s look at the consequences of what happens when half the country doesn’t pay attention to politics. 2000 is a perfect and traumatic example.
President Bush was objectively a colossal disaster. I hope at this point we can all broadly agree on that assessment. Between failing to heed the intelligence memos warning about 9-11 (yes, it was very preventable), putting two wars on the credit card (trillions added to the debt), cutting taxes for the wealthy (more trillions of debt), ignoring the housing bubble (slamming middle-class home owners), the near-collapse of the entire global financial system (THE PURGE), the bailout bullshit (trillions of middle-class dollars funneled to the wealthy) and total inaction on climate change (because who cares if we go extinct, right?)… yeah, I think it’s fair to say that Bush set the country back a bit. Or a tad. Which is bigger, a bit or a tad?
No one can say with certainty that Al Gore would have been a great President, but at least we knew with that he’d have been on the right side of SCIENCE. At least he’d have prioritized tackling climate change (the greatest threat to mankind) instead of… y’know, killing Muslims for oil. Bush was simple like that. But how much better overall would Gore have really been? Who knows, but definitely better. Nobody can honestly argue otherwise with a straight face.
How many Americans of voting age bothered to exercise their right to vote in 2000? 50.3%. That election carried major consequences, some foreseeable and some that were unexpected. And half the country didn’t care.
Even after 9-11, after failing to capture/kill bin Laden, after committing war crimes, after the CIA was revealed to be committing acts of rendition and torture with White House approval, and… oh, I’m forgetting something… oh yeah, after the IRAQ WAR had been exposed as a complete fabrication… Bush won re-election. It was absurd at that point to imagine Bush winning “Most-Improved” in the 3rd grade, but a second term? As President? Of the United States??
That’s when I woke up and started to pay attention. When my government convinced me that going to war was necessary and then it turned out to be complete horseshit and everyone had only died for the sake of corporate profits, that’s when I saw the wolves and stopped being a sheep.
You’d think more Americans would still have been furious that Bush was clearing brush at his Texas ranch instead of making efforts to prevent 9-11 even though he’d been thoroughly warned of a credible, impending attack by Osama bin Laden specifically regarding planes flying into buildings in NYC that would later kill 3,000 people. You’d think Americans would be furious that the Bush Administration intentionally lied it’s way into a war killed thousands more of our young people, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis civilians, and 2 million displaced civilians that later would become the ISIS we know and love today. #GoogleIt
Everyone should have taken to the streets at that point and rushed to vote, elbowing each other in line as if it were Black goddamn Friday just to make sure that the next person in the Oval Office was ANYONE else BUT an incompetent, mentally-challenged war criminal. Granted John Kerry would indeed take part in war crimes while Secretary of State under Obama, but that would triple the word count of this post.
And behold, the voter turn-out increased to…!
(((( SPOILER ALERT ))))
…55.7%. Wow, a whole 5.4% bump.
Okay, so pointing out only the 2000 and 2004 elections to shine a light on widespread, long-term voter apathy is admittedly too small a sample size, so let’s take a look at the percent of eligible-Americans that voted in every Presidential election since 1968. Fair enough?
- 1968 – 60.7% (Crooky McCrookerton elected President)
- 1972 – 55.1% (I Don’t Want to Be President Anymore, I Quit re-elected)
- 1976 – 53.6% (Jimmy “Carebear” Carter elected President)
- 1980 – 52.8% (Ronny McRib elected President)
- 1984 – 53.3% (Ronald Wait What’s My Name re-elected)
- 1988 – 50.3% (Big Boy H.W. Bush elected President)
- 1992 – 55.2% (My Sax Brings All the Blacks to the Yard elected President)
- 1996 – 49.0% (And My Sack Brought All the Interns re-elected)
- 2000 – 50.3% (Little Dubya That Couldn’t Even elected President)
- 2004 – 55.7% (“Snake in My Boot” Woody the War Criminal re-elected)
- 2008 – 57.1% (Wall Street’s Black Friend elected President)
- 2012 – 54.9% (Mitt Romney re-elected)
- 2016 – 54.5% (I’ll Take a Cheese Doodle Over Hillary elected President)
You would think that 100% of Americans would care about their own futures, right? If you bet on that before you are clearly out of luck now. Even when voters were at their civic best, 40% of eligible-voters haven’t bothered to show up at the polls since 1968.
Then there are the mid-term elections which have an average turnout of being 20% LOWER than the Presidential elections! That’s… that’s just embarrassing. And we wonder why democracy is slipping away? It’s like a muscle. You’ve gotta use it or it atrophies.
Compare the voter turnouts above to the 81.8% of eligible Americans that voted in 1876. Yes, 1876. While we were still barbarically slicing off Native American scalps and riding horses on dirt roads we somehow maintained a healthy civic-duty to vote en masse.
Our corporate-owned government is quite pleased with recent developments, don’t worry about that. You’ll never hear them complain since it allowed for a very rapid consolidation of power.
The most-effective and more recent method of voter suppression, by far, has been denying felons the right to vote.
Between 1996 and 2008 twenty-eight states changed their laws, leaving 5.3 million American citizens ineligible. 38% of those disenfranchised voters happen to be African Americans despite blacks being only 13% of the U.S. population. That’s discrimination no matter how you slice it. But hey, slavery was gone and Jim Crow was fading fast and blacks had the right to vote and goddammit White America needed something to keep those pesky folks from exercising it because they’d lean-heavily for the Democrats. President Lyndon B. Johnson championing the Civil Rights Act while Republican-challenger Barry “Take Yer Hands off ma’ Meta-Slaves!” Goldwater voting against it. That certainly didn’t earn any favors with the black community.
This method of incarceration to racially suppress the vote also evolved into a highly-profitable private prison industry which must be fed more and more inmates to keep their shareholders fired up so HEY why not kill two birds with one stone, eh?
Angry yet? You should be.
Remember to save a good slice of that anger for the voters because if they hadn’t voted for racist state lawmakers in the first place then voter suppression laws wouldn’t exist. See what happens when half the country takes their political eye off the ball?
Voting in larger numbers alone still won’t be enough if Americans remain ill-informed of the issues they’re voting on. How do we increase our understanding? Don’t rely on the news for that. Just talk about it. All of it. With everyone. The death penalty, foreign policy, the drug war, climate change, health care, i ncome inequality… these impact every single one of us either directly and/or morally and the stakes can mean the difference between living and dying for millions of people.
Shouldn’t these be important conversations to have with people you care about, the very people that are being impacted? I get that these topics aren’t easy to bring up, but that’s only because we’ve gotten soft and complacent. There’s a vulnerability that comes with expressing and discussing politics that’s not always comfortable. But there’s also a vulnerability that comes with bending over and getting your ass reamed by the government and that sure as hell isn’t comfortable either.
If we all try to have more of these heavier but necessary conversations then the burden could be spread more thinly. It could even become the norm. We must, we need, and we will begin to lift our fair shares. And I can say this with certainty because there simply isn’t an alternative anymore. The continuation of the species depends on it.
How so? Take into account the following facts about our world today that could all have been prevented if we were all actively engaged in the political system. Not opinions. Facts:
- 67% of all species that were alive in 1970 are forecast to be extinct by 2020 (source).
- 50% of Americans today are either poor or in poverty. Half. In the wealthiest nation ever in history (source).
- By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish (source).
- In the span of under four decades American voters somehow managed to elect Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump to be leaders of the free world for the most advanced species on the planet.
- Human life expectancy was recently reduced for the first time. (source).
- The amount of carbon in the air has reached over 400 parts per million, putting us already beyond the tipping point according to many climate scientists (source).
- The top 1% will own more wealth than the other 99% as of 2017 (source). Yes, 2017.
- And already the world’s 85 richest people are wealthier than the poorest three billion (source).
Oh, but somehow we can’t afford paid maternity leave, a $15 minimum wage, universal college education, high-speed rail, or single-payer healthcare? Right. And now the government wants to ditch Medicare because it’s such a drain on the system (source), unlike the Pentagon apparently…
Are you feeling that clenching feeling right about now? That’s justified outrage. That’s the anger we need to point in a constructive direction. That’s the rebellion we need to foster. That’s the fire we need to keep alive and strengthen.