Civic engagement remains vital after elections

Political commercials dominated TV programming in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election. Media bombarded all Americans with politics. Rallies excited the population and focused everybody’s mind on the subject. Slanderous ads formed deep rifts between political parties.

Political hype increases during every Presidential election. Democratic and Republican voices emerge, louder than usual. But this enthusiasm simmers down in the four years between elections. Citizens gradually lose interest and fall back into their daily routines, placing politics on the back burner.

But what role should citizens play in the government? What is their duty as American citizens?

As the constitution so perfectly states, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice . . .” I’ll stop right there. The word “Union” is fundamental. Americans are unified as one body and one government. We are all citizens of America and have a strong voice in our government.

From this idea, it would follow that uninvolved citizens have no right to complain about any change, or lack thereof.

For example, when President Obama began campaigning for the 2012 presidential elections, some citizens dismissed his previous term, claiming that things were only made worse. To those people, I say: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The economy of the United States has undergone years of destruction to reach its current state.

Obama focused energy into changing little aspects in order to improve unemployment and to advance job creation, such as: pumping money into the auto industry and investing in alternative energy companies to create new jobs. While Obamacare won’t necessarily create more jobs, it will play a crucial role in beginning to help unemployed or underemployed individuals. Millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans are unable to afford insurance without the measures put in place by Obamacare. Obama’s plan insures that the ill, unemployed, underemployed and handicapped people will be taken care of.

These “little” changes are small steps leading to a larger change. We can’t wake up one morning and expect America to be new and all the problems to be fixed if the majority of citizens are not involved in the government.

This idea of involvement cannot be stressed enough. But political contribution doesn’t have to be outwardly intense or time-consuming.

The high voter complacency between presidential elections decreases the accuracy of the votes. The voice of the people isn’t being adequately expressed. So, if college students do nothing else to get involved, they should at least register to vote.

Elections at the state level are just as important as presidential elections. Also, the vote for Senate is crucial to the success of the president. Without a cooperative Senate, the president won’t get anything accomplished. Get your friends to register and remind your family members to vote in every election.

Another great way to remain involved is to stay informed on the issues, especially with what’s happening in the House and Senate. Look at the senators and representatives to know who’s voting what way and what issues are at the center of political debate.

There are many more active ways to get involved: write letters supporting issues about which you are passionate, petition for changes in aspects of government, fundraise for your party, get your school involved, educate your peers about the issues or volunteer in political awareness organizations on campus.

Even though the election ended on Tuesday and our president has been chosen, our role in the government should not dissipate. Public involvement keeps our government by the people and for the people.

Katie Haggstrom ’14 haggstro@stolaf.edu is from Omaha, Neb. She majors in English.

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