The Election Is Not The End

Once campaign ads aren’t being broadcast 24/7, U.S. citizens tend to forget about politics in any real way. Midterm elections see a drastically lower percentage of participants, whoever won the new Alderman spot is forgotten, and everything “goes back to normal.” This is a symptom, not just of American culture as a whole, where most people don’t feel any sort of concrete connection to politics on a day-to-day level[1], but also of the way that the U.S. government is set up.

Let’s put aside the culture examination for a moment to look at the structural realities of the U.S. political system. Because we are a representative democracy, we vote for people to represent us in the halls of power whether they’re national or local, it’s easy to forget about what goes on when we’re not deciding who to vote for. Keeping track of everything happening at the local, state, national and international level is hard, if not impossible, especially when most of us are struggling to get by and have a million other things to worry about. It’s for that reason alone that having a representative democracy is 1000% times better than just having a straight democracy where everyone gets to vote on everything all the time. You need to have professional lawmakers. What is dangerous, however, is only remembering that those representatives exist every four years.

Elected officials, in their most perfect form, are supposed to wield power in a way that will benefit their constituents, and America. If they don’t act in the interest of their voters, the story goes, they will not be elected in the subsequent year, and everything goes back to being hunky-dory. Theory, in this case at least, is far from reality. There is a long tradition of politicians using their connections to help out their friends, family, and business associates, before any of their actual constituents, while remaining in office election after election simply because they had the power to put down all comers.

So, to keep it short, don’t just assume the election is the end. Keep an eye on your politicians, no matter the level. Hold them to their promises. Fight to keep them honest. Criticize when you see wrong. Because if you won’t, no one will.

[1] Or “Praxis” is you want to get real nerdy