My favorite part of Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show always been “Jaywalking.” In the bit, Leno wanders the streets of Burbank, Calif. asking ordinary citizens simple questions all Americans should know the answers to “Who is our vice president?” and “Who were the Allies in World War II?” The answers are always wrong, and typically the lack of knowledge is hilarious.
This past week Jay went out questioning Californians about the upcoming governor recall. One young woman, when asked whom she would vote for, responded soundly that she would, of course, go Republican, but she was not sure which one yet. When Jay pushed a little further she finally settled on Cruz Bustamante, California’s current lieutenant governor and also a die-hard Democrat. Ouch. It may have been funny late-night material, but this very scene also serves as a sad reflection on the state of American politics and apathy.
Apathy in politics and government is a scary, scary idea. With apathetic citizens, few follow politicians’ actions in the governmental seats and even fewer actually vote. What does it all mean?
To begin with, it can lead to a tyranny of the minority. If only a select few are watching Congress and exercising their right to vote, then that select few will rule the country regardless of how the rest of the country may feel. As the saying goes, no vote, no voice.
This indifference to American politics has become so prominent that in a poll by CNN, two-thirds of those questioned were unable to name one of the nine democratic presidential candidates. We aren’t even talking about just anyone here – this is 66.66 percent of registered voters who were unable to name even one Democratic presidential candidate – men whose faces are splashed across newspapers, magazines and television all the time throughout the nation and world.
Granted, that’s good news for Dubya but distressing for this nation’s future.
So what’s to be done now? The presidential primaries are the most notable elections on the horizon. Everyone, right now, should begin reading and researching about every candidate they can. Even if you are diehard, pro-Bush, go GOP Republican, research the rivals across the left.
Knowledge is power, and there’s no better way to fight your ideological foes than by knowing everything about their arguments and thus being able to dissect them in a scholarly way.
Second, and possibly the most obvious in the battle to fight voter apathy, people should actually register to vote and exercise their right when election time rolls around.
Of course, some would argue that in today’s political climate one vote doesn’t matter. Following the nitty-gritty, down to the wire 2000 presidential election, it’s amazing that anyone can still say that. Even if you don’t think one vote can matter in the millions that are cast every year, think of it in simpler terms: every vote you cast cancels out your most aggravating political rival.
Beyond the simplest forms of democracy, students should jump at the chance to get involved in any facet of the political process that they can.
Not only will your voice be heard in the voting booth but also politicians do take note of those helping them. If more and more college students, considered the most apathetic of all voters, are working on campaigns, taking action and standing up for their beliefs, then more and more will the interests and views of the American college-age population be reflected and represented in Washington and capitols throughout the 50 states.
Maggie Bowden, Cavalier Daily University of Virginiabit