General primary elections are being held in Illinois today, making this the perfect occasion to discuss our broken system of politics.
I don’t think there are many left in America who don’t think our political system could use some repairs. Commonly, people point to those in power, those corrupt politicians, as those at fault. This is too easy of an answer, in my opinion. I think the true problem is more systemic and related to the will of the people.
The largest voter turnout is during presidential elections. Even then, it’s rare for more than 50% of the voting-age public to perform their civic duty. When it comes to smaller, local elections, the voter turnout is even more bleak. Given the corruption we often see in politics, it’s no wonder people have thrown in the towel. They feel like their vote doesn’t matter. When they look at the people up for election, they find themselves dismayed.
I remember the 2008 elections. Since middle school, I had been beyond exciting to vote. Finally, my time was here! I watch the debated and researched the candidates as much as possible. As election day neared, I found my enthusiasm waning. The presidential candidate pool had been narrowed down to John McCain and Barack Obama, neither of whom I was very excited about. My disposition stood out among my peers. Anyone my age who was politically inclined seemed to think Obama could solve all our problems, my roommate especially. John McCain left me equally dismayed. Since I didn’t completely agree with either on major issues, it ended up being their rhetoric on a few smaller issues that decided my vote.
How on earth did we end up with such craptastic candidates? I’m sure they thought they had a good plan for the country, but I had my doubt either one knew anything about the ‘average American.’ How did we even end up with these candidates in the first place?
That is the all-important question. How do national politicians make it to Washington D.C.? Remember those tiny, local elections with pitiful voter turn-outs? Most, if not all, national politicians got their start at the local and state level. What happens when these local politicians are voted into office by a small fraction of their public? Just to throw a number out there, let’s a 30% of the voter-aged public votes for mayor. What happens? The mayoral candidate only has to satisfy the needs and desires of those 30% in order to win. The candidate does not have to give a damn about the other 70%, even though his or her decisions will affect them as well.
As far as I’m concerned, this is where the problems with politics start. Imagine if we at least had 50% of the voter-aged public participate in local elections. Suddenly, that candidate has to meet the needs and demands of more people. If this happened all over the United States for every local election, the face of every national election would change.
I argue that, in most townships, the mayoral candidates are repetitively pure of political corruption. Most probably run for the first time with dreams of making their community better in some way. As time progresses, they realize they only have to appease a minority to keep their job. If one of their grand dreams for benefiting their community is supported by the 70% but not the 30%, they drop it in favor of being reelected. Thus the path of corruption begins.
Are we really surprised when national politicians favor the needs of corporations over those of the people? How do you think they got their job in the first place? It’s easy for a politician to work for a corporation when the public has turned a blind eye. I’d be surprised if any national politician is truly working for the people. How could they when working for the people is not the factor that got them elected time and time again?
I admit, I don’t know a whole lot about local elections. Today is the day of the Illinois General Primary, but when I Googled that, all I found were definitions for ‘general election’ and ‘primary election.’ I probably don’t know much about the election I will be participating in today. In the end, my tiny voice probably won’t mean much. Still, I will go. I will go and I will tell all I can that I am going to vote in the hope that they will too.
If we created a demand for more information on these elections, more information would be come available. If more people voted – if we all voted – these local politicians would have to satisfy us in order to earn their job. I imagine, if enough people voted for local elections, that a lot of the corruption would slowly make its way out of government. It might take a few decades, but I can see it happening. Unfortunately, that process can’t start until more people start to care about local elections. I encourage you all to look up when your local elections are and whose running. The person you vote for might go on to become president of the United States someday. Make sure you choose wisely.
P.S. Don’t even get me started on the Electoral College. That’s a blog for another day.