As Barrack Obama’s second term comes to an end, the time for election season begins anew. This year, the sheer amount of candidates seems almost overwhelming, along with the numerous big name personalities from both inside and outside of politics.
This year, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Hilary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders lead in the polls, and with the advent of social media, the voting public has had no problem making their voices heard. However, the number of American’s turning out to vote is dismally low. According to the Washington Post, only 36.4 percent of eligible Americans turned out for elections in 2014, the lowest recorded rates since World War II.
So what has made us as Americans, a country that prides itself on the freedom to elect our own representatives and leaders, so apathetic to the cause we were once willing to go to war over?
Some claim they simply don’t feel that they have much of a choice with the leaders, or that they are simply choosing between the “lesser of two evils.” I would argue, however, that the issue lies not with our leaders or elected officials, but with us as a people.
For one thing, we have grown accustomed to the ability to vote. Those wars that we fought for the ability to elect our own officials rather than be ruled by a dictator, a king or oligarchy are all so far in the past that they are practically forgotten by all but the staunchest of historians. We have the tendency to take the immense privilege we have here in the United States for granted, and I am certainly as guilty of this as anyone else.
The biggest issue facing the voters these days is that our politics are far more partisan in recent days and the results of this have been nothing but ugly. Despite the fact that politics have never been a very clean sport, the verbal assaults and mudslinging have only gotten worse, now ceasing to simply be relegated to the realm of tasteless attack ads on television and radio, but have spilled over into the heart of American connectivity, and into the sphere of social media.
It’s become difficult to navigate Facebook without running into a shared post from a friend or family member, usually with a headline somewhere along the lines of “This Meme Sums up the Idiocy of ‘Government Logic’ Perfectly” (pulled from www.youngcons.com) or “Top Florida Newspaper to Lazy Rubio: ‘Either Do Your Job Or Resign!’” (pulled from www.occupydemocrats.com).
It’s become almost a sport to mock the other side of the political spectrum as being inept, lazy, stupid, or corrupt. No longer are the articles about helping the voters informed on the hard issues such as healthcare, abortion, crises in Ukraine and Syria, and the economy, instead they form an echo chamber for like minded people to congregate around and spout off similar opinions.
The art of mediation is in its death throes, if not already dead in this modern era of politics. People no longer want to hear about people who walk in the middle, or try to make peace with both sides. We’ve made the mediator into a position of weakness, rather than one of strength.
We don’t view these people as mediators, but instead as people who refuse to take a side in the debate of Democrat versus Republican or Liberal versus Conservative. When politics becomes more about bashing your opponents than standing up for your beliefs, more and more people are turned away from it.
It doesn’t come off as strong to take pot shots at your opponent, instead it comes off as embarrassingly juvenile, and distracts from the real issues.
It was a Casting Crowns song that said, “Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against when we judge the wounded,” and that sentiment could not be truer in this day and age.
Perhaps it is time we all stepped off the attack this election season, and instead reflected on what truly matters to us, not what upsets us about the other side. Perhaps then, when there is an attitude of mediation and cooperation, will our voter turnout once again rise.
–Cody Stuart, contributing writer