April 4, 2012

Why It’s Hard For Me to Care About Politics

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As I have now been asked to write for this weekly politics blog at the Daily Sun, I feel compelled to explain my perspective and its trajectory. Hopefully through seeing how I got to where I am I will be humanizing myself to an often-unforgiving Internet audience.

When I was a sophomore in high school, then-Senator Barack Obama was running for President. Having been raised on the classic TV show “The West Wing,” I naturally dreamed of becoming a campaign manager. I wanted to call the shots, help write the speeches, and go door-to-door asking voters for their support. During election season, my AP Government class watched a documentary called Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore about an up-and-coming politician named Jeff Smith and his Cinderella-like run for Congress in Missouri. I was deeply inspired by the film and, having been spurred to action, started a voter registration drive in my district.

At first a bright-eyed young high school kid going door-to-door, I soon became frustrated with how few people were remotely interested in voting. How could people be so apathetic? What was wrong with them? Couldn’t they see that Democracy wasn’t a spectator sport? No wonder America was in so much trouble…

Despite this frustration, I continued my efforts by, among other things, making phone calls to Florida for the Obama campaign. I was again surprised at how little Americans knew about the most exciting Presidential Election in decades. (“Barack who?” “Senator Barack Obama, ma’am.” “Ohhh yeah he doesn’t live here anymore, sorry.”)

When President Obama was elected, I felt like the Lakers had just won Game 7 in the Finals (like they did in 2010; that’s right, East Coasters, you remember). I let out a triumphant yell and then breathed a long, cathartic sigh of relief. America was going to be okay.

Three years of unemployment, war, and a giant oil spill later, the census is telling us that 100 million Americans are at or hovering right above the poverty line, and that for every homeless person there are anywhere from 10 to 24 vacant houses.

As it turns out, that greasy-haired long board rider who had once told me “Voting doesn’t really matter, bro” as a sophomore was right. He was actually speaking for the 62.2% of voting-age America who did not vote in 2010. I came to understand that I had been right, too: Democracy is not a spectator sport. In fact, it isn’t a sport at all. Our country’s political system, run with billionaire owners, corporate sponsors, and professional pundits, has far too many spectators and political athletes to be anything but a game. If “to vote or not to vote” were a democratic vote of confidence in our political system (and one could easily make the argument that it is), then America would have effectively refused it a long time ago.

As I’m running out of space here, I won’t immediately go into an in-depth analysis of democratic theory, why the political system is corrupt, who benefits from it and how we might change it. Perhaps that will come a few columns later. But for now, you have some idea of why I don’t care that no one wants to endorse Mitt Romney or President Obama made the “brilliant” move to speak at Barnard College to get the women’s vote. They’re just playing. And frankly, I think basketball is much more fun to watch. At least World Peace gets some playing time.

Original Author: Daniel Marshall

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