Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
Though the 2000 presidential election held some high drama and was close, both in terms of electoral votes and the number of popular votes cast, there was still a disturbingly high number of people who didn’t bother to make the trip to the polls.
It’s easy to dismiss these people as uninterested, unmotivated and ignorant slobs who have no interest outside of their own living room and cannot see past their own television set.
The fact is, however, that a very large portion of the non-voting public includes people who used to vote faithfully but don’t anymore because the system hasn’t changed. In fact, to many people – including myself – they believe it has gotten worse.
As a reporter, I have often covered stories of government corruption and malfeasance. As an editorialist, I have often lamented about these incidents. Sometimes I make recommendations and offer solutions; sometimes I just bitch.
Lots of other journalists do exactly the same thing. In a country the size of the United States with a government the size of ours, there is rarely a shortage of corruption and malfeasance to report.
It is because of this phenomenon of endless corruption, malfeasance and dishonesty that I believe most Americans have simply decided to forego the political process. That’s a shame, and here’s why:
As a wise man I once knew put it, “For every law they pass in Washington, that’s one less right you have.” That’s absolutely right because the fact is, regardless of how you feel about politics and politicians, everything they do affects you, your family, your business, your life.
You can withdraw from politics and choose to ignore its machinations and players. But you have to remember that our politicians practice politics for a living; it’s their full-time job. So they’re not going to ignore you.
Here’s an example. Many people, by now, have seen the famous “Bush 2000 Map” – the red and blue one. Red stands for areas of the country Bush won; Blue stands for the areas Gore won. That map of the U.S. is almost totally red, yet Bush lost the popular vote by 500,000 and only won the electoral vote by one ballot.
If 98 percent of the land mass voted for Bush, imagine how many millions more votes he would have received in the popular vote, and how many more electoral votes he would have won, had even 20 percent more Bush supporters gone to the polls.
By comparison, imagine that Al Gore would now be president if 20 percent more of his supporters showed up at the polls.
The obvious solution to the political problems in our country today is to get more involved in the political process.
I’m not trying to give you a “rah-rah” speech or a civics lesson, but rather, I’m simply trying to say that perhaps the reason why not much changes in Washington – the policies, the faces, the priorities – is because not enough people care enough to see that changes are made.
There are scores of small political parties in this country (and some, like the Libertarians and the Constitutional Party that aren’t so small any more) that would love to have an opportunity to “run things” in America.
Imagine how much differently the 2000 election would have turned out if 90 percent of the 50 million or so voters who didn’t bother to go to the polls voted for Libertarian or Constitution Party candidates for president? For Congress?
Get the drift?
Politics do matter or, at least, we can make them matter more to us, if we’re willing to put forth the effort to retake control over our future.
There is going to be a president, a vice president, and 535 members of Congress fighting for control of your life, whether you care about which aspect of your life they’re fighting about or not.
Remember that the next time you want to sit out an election because you’re tired of “nothing changing.”
Purchase Dougherty’s investigation of the military vote’s suppression in the 2000 elections and find out if all the votes counted.