by Linda Vega (re-posted with permission of the author and Latinos Ready to Vote)
Voting participation in the U.S. is a call for members of society to be engaged and active in their community. Through voting we maintain the structure of American society and our institution of government. And it is through voting, then, that we structure our manifestation of participation and responsibilities for our society and the American political system. It is a right that is specifically granted, by the way of the 14thand 19th Amendment, to all Americans. However, possessing the right does not necessarily mean that people partake in the opportunity. In fact, there has been a decline in the voter participation at the polls because voters feel discontent with a law, a political system and candidates. As a result, this apathy is contributing to the decline of the American dream.
In our current political climate, we have recognized our parties to be The Republicans or Conservatives, and the Democrats or Liberals. The Conservative Party has long ruled as the protector of the Constitution and the protector of the American People. The Liberal Party has proclaimed itself to be the defender of the poor, and thus, used the machinery of government to remedy any social ailment while disregarding personal accountability and individualism.
Many contend that both parties have steered away from issues important to The People in the last few years. Where the Republicans have been accused of, and with good reason, with wanting things to remain in the status quo in which few rule the Party and forget to represent The People, or change the party’s platform to “include” a more diversified pool of vote. But the democrats are the same. They too have created a hostile atmosphere or disdain for that pool of the population that they claim to protect since the Obama administration has deported over 1.2 million of immigrants (who were mostly Latino) in the last two years. As a result, this tug of war has created confusion to the average voter, so much that voters now seek to retaliate by doing nothing. It has created disdain for voting.
Current political candidates are including language never before used to incite attention to their issues; perhaps because no one is interested in the candidates themselves so they create this “shock factor” to attract attention. Additionally, voters may not be able to connect with the candidate. Romney, for example, speaks to an audience as though they were children. He gives them morsels of positive pride on what it means to be an American, but offers no real solutions to our problems. Nor does he exclaim that the road to becoming successful in this country is through voter participation. That is he fails to encourage the people to speak up for their ideas and elect politicians to “be your voice for your American rights.” Rather, he competes with the current President who sings to his crowd to avoid any discussion of the issues, or how well thought out solutions could unite a country and motivate that apathy in the non-voter.
Furthermore, the only time there is movement in the average American voter is when there is a malicious name calling event that distracts us from the issues ailing this country. In essence, we have succumbed to name calling as a way to motivate and cause that apathy to hopefully get potential voter stirred enough to partake in the elections.
Philosopher and writer, Henry David Thoreau advocated for a non-participation in government when laws were incorrect or immoral. In his essay, Civil Disobedience, Thoreau wrote that government is best when it is least intrusive and eventually when it does not govern at all. He believed that citizens must be governed by a chosen group of people who will adequately represent their interests in the best possible means available. People participate in government by choosing the strongest to lead them, according to Thoreau.
Although Thoreau wrote the essay as a disagreement to slavery and the Mexican-American war, the arguments of his essay were later used to fight injustices by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil disobedience, then, was the absence of partaking in government if laws were immoral or unjust, as Thoreau believed. Bad poor laws, candidates, and loud and offensive political discourse, therefore, have created apathy among voters, which can interpreted as a self-inflicted wound on our political system and society. Thus, our current system is forcing American voters into an unwarranted type of Civil Disobedience that is driving us to a moral and political decline.
There is, without a doubt, voter fatigue in America because there is confusion over issues, and it is creating a type of Civil Disobedience. And consequently, as we surrender to this confusion when we allow the few to dictate our taxes and social values. For instance, the Obama Administration wants to dictate what we are supposed to provide for the average American woman (as in birth control). When we allow this, we create this illusion that it is for the common good of our society. It is not. It is illusionary to think that we ought to pay for any person’s right to have or not to have contraceptives, that is not what our government and its policies are supposed to protect. Moreover, the religious freedom that is protected by the Constitution is being chipped away with those policies that dictate individual rights over the freedom of religion.
Voters are confused. So much that we are allowing distractions to help direct our decisions for a candidate but these candidates are creating such bewilderment that we cannot deliver a justification on why we should or should not vote.
There are those who say that to sit by the sidelines and wait for either party to ask for ourvote is the correct method. In other words, we should make the parties work for our vote. But to do so gives the rise to selfish tendencies and lack of a conviction rather than a united demonstration for a solution. For instance, those who believe that our current immigration laws are unjust and are arbitrarily applied to one group have a tendency to speak up in a hostile manner by both Political parties and many grassroot groups. Yet, while these laws are antiquated at this point and they should be changed, voters are still confused about which party holds the best solution. So those not participating are acting on civil disobedience refusing to act until better language is used, a better reform is considered, but the opportunity passes and the desired vote for this group diminishes until they become obsolete.
A better compromise is to take part in either party and work toward a change in the policy and the application of a just law. Better yet on the issue of immigration reform, how should the average voter participate in civil disobedience on this issue? A recent article demonstrates that one groups that will be negatively impact by voter apathy is the Latino community. As this is an unintentional Civil Disobedience, it can have consequences to either party. Whereas Republicans talk about upholding the law and deporting all of those who are “illegal”, they are in no position to act upon their rhetoric since they have control of Congress, and business Republicans will never support this type of legislations. And while they do attempt to create laws at the state level that would allow deportations, those laws are almost always stricken as unconstitutional in courts. On the other hand, Democrats are acting on these laws by deporting many Latinos through the Secured Communities program, and thus, affecting many a family all under a legal law that allows this to happen. The Obama Administration is, in essence, following what many say is an unjust law to appeal to those against immigration.
Voters are weary and disengaging from the political movement that has been stained with false issues, poor candidates, heated rhetoric, and few real solutions. How do we make them fight for that liberty that is crucial to our United States? The issues have become interlocked with unnecessary comparisons and distractions. So much that we are not certain what is important in this election. In following Thoreau’s advice, who stood up to the slavery movement, at what point does the average voter dare to participate or not, so as to voice their desire to fight for the American Dream?
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