We are in Day 4 of the government shutdown, and according to experts, it’ll get worse before it gets better. Never before has the divide between the ruling elite and the rest of the country been clearer. Congressional approval is hovering at 10 percent, but none of them really seem to care. Disillusion, particularly among twenty-somethings, is a matter of record. We tend to stay out of politics and the voting booth in general. “My vote doesn’t matter,” we say, and unfortunately, this current mess is total proof of that.
So how did this happen? Our federal system means that actual representation of your individual views depends on where you live. This is the dirty secret that rears its head every four years as all eyes turn to the so-called “swing states.” As a Californian, you cannot imagine how disillusioning it is when the election for the most important leader is the world is called before your polling station even closes.
This is the same calculus that is currently playing out in Congress. Members of the “Tea Party” hail from districts where their seats are completely safe. Due to gerrymandering, it would take an act of God for their districts to consider voting for anyone other than the GOP. Re-election is the only thing that keeps elected officials in check. So when you don’t have to fear losing your seat you can do whatever the hell you want. Exhibit A: the behavior of these Congress people during the shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner refuses to bring to a vote a bill that would end the shutdown. A recent head count shows that enough moderate Republicans would side with the House Democrats to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR) to reopen the government. But, thanks once again to the structure of our system, it is widely agreed that this would cost him the speakership. He serves at the pleasure of the party and bringing the CR to a vote in defiance of the Tea Party and their supporters would certainly bring about his removal. Moreover, the powerful backers of the Tea Party (ever hear of the Koch brothers?) would most certainly dedicate themselves to his defeat in the next election.
Now I could end this post with the classic “Get off your butts and DO something” cliché. I could chide all of us for not being more civic-minded—that unless you vote you have no right to complain. But that would go against the point of this article. The system is broken and simply telling you to volunteer and vote is only a placebo.
But what you can do is remember this moment. This is the moment that our American political culture is being unmasked for the monster that it is. Dare I say it?: this is our “Emperor has no clothes” moment. The answer is not smaller government or larger government. It’s not to protest outside the Capitol or start a third party. The harsh reality is that there is no clear answer or solution at the moment. We are stuck in limbo, at the mercy of a few. But let’s remember this moment. Remember this feeling. Hold onto the anger and frustration because the time will come when there is an opportunity to make your voice heard. It may not be until 2016, but the time will come and when it does perhaps if we all shout at the same time, our voices will be heard.[divider] [/divider]
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