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Political Apathy Should Worry us All

Updated on January 18, 2013

There is no doubt that political apathy is a problem in the United States. It is a problem because fewer people are partaking in our wonderful American democracy, and I sometimes wonder if that is not a key reason so many buffoons are getting elected to public office nowadays. You see, political apathy is a problem that, for the most part, afflicts young, college educated people, with degrees and great credentials. In any healthy society, these are the people who should be leading the search for candidates who can better serve us than the ones we are left with. But the age group of which I speak, people ranging from age 18 to 30, have seen their share of the vote decline dramatically.

To understand the scale of the problem, consider this statistic; In 2008, Barack Obama won 48% of young voters. Not a majority, a plurality. Obama simply won more youth votes than John McCain did. This was no small number, of course. It certainly contributed to Obama's thrashing of McCain on election day, when Obama won 52% of the vote overall. In 1992, Bill Clinton won with about 44% of the vote. Again, only a plurality. In fact, since 18 year olds were granted the right to vote, their share of the vote has trended down, not up. Even when a candidate like Barack Obama comes along, they still come out in smaller numbers than everyone else. And what are these reasons many people cite for not voting? In order, here they are...

1. Lack of Transportation. This is a common, but very weak, excuse that many give for not voting. If one is extremely poor, and can afford no obvious mode of transportation to the nearest voting booth, than they can be forgiven for not voting. But I find it highly unlikely that, say, college students, have no access to transportation. It is more than likely that, instead of hauling themselves over to the voting booth, they merely wished to spend an extra four hours in bed. In other words, this excuse has another definition: laziness.

2. My vote doesn't count. As an excuse, this reason is somewhat understandable, and I can, at times, empathize with those who hold such views. After all, given the increasingly nasty rhetoric, and the prevalence of annoying campaign adds on television these days, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of "one person makes no difference". But that is just the point; This thinking is a trap. People's individual votes can and do count, and they have counted before. There are any number of examples where candidates were elected into office by a margin of 84 votes.

3. Politics. Another excuse people often make for not voting is that they think politics is a boring business left to boring people. Set aside the fact that these people likely have quite charming and interesting buddies who vote in national elections. If person A refuses to vote because they believe politics is boring, they allow person B to cast person A's vote for them. People who choose to adopt this voting policy cannot honestly complain to the rest of us when the country goes downhill.

4. Don't know, don't care. Of all the excuses, this one is the absolute worst. It shows complete ignorance on the part of the person who says it. If the person in question had the barest hint of political understanding, they would realize that the people in public office have a say in how others live their lives. In other words, yes, they do care. They just don't realize it yet.

Since young people are less likely than other people to vote, they do only themselves a disservice. Other, older Americans, who are sometimes wiser about public issues, take this right far more seriously, and it shows, in how politicians refuse to compromise in Social Security or Medicare. For the time being, both programs effect mainly older Americans. And both are helping bankrupt the country. Young people who choose not to vote are aiding in their own future misery. No wonder some have taken to calling them "Generation Screwed".




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    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      You are right about number four. That one scares me. Things in this country can go from bad to worse very quickly.

      Voted up.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      A great hub! Apathy is rampant in our country and not only about politics. You know the old adage about things that trickle downhill? I sometimes wonder if the apathy we are seeing hasn't been taught by our leadership. Enjoyed this hub very much. Voted up.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
      Author

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      Michele Travis,

      Yes, that one scares me two. They all scare me, because these are the people who have the most to lose. They would let democracy fall, and not realize it until it was too late.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
      Author

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      lrc7815,

      Good points there. People certainly deserve the leadership they get if they are not willing to vote. Thanks for the vote up.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      You missed the most important reason why we do not vote. Two absolutely, horrible, worthless and failed parties that represent no one. Voting the lesser of two evils is hardly a worthy cause. Obama won hands down because the other worthless party only cared about the rich and had no plans at all. I honestly have no idea of one thing of substance Romney had. I have no idea why anyone voted for someone with no ideas. If a third party showed up and had anything to offer, they would have won by default. Thanks to the electoral college and the state I live in, I really do not have to vote. Name one thing that the people ever voted for that the Federal did not like that ever past. I am wondering how the legalized Marijuana is going to turn out? Will we get 12 unelected Supreme Court Justices to tell us that are votes do not count? What we have is Rome and money is making all the decisions in this country.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
      Author

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      I assume you mean I missed out points 2 and 3? You as much as said that you don't feel your vote counts, and that the reason is politics, both of which I cover in this hub. Those are both reasons that you don't vote.

      All I can say at this point is, try to learn a few things about our nations Constitution, the national government, the role of special interests in Washington and the power that a united citizenry can hold and has held throughout history. Then make a decision as to what you should do. But political silence is political consent.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      We are way past apathy don't you think. Armed with all this knowledge what are we going to change? I am probably the minority that gladly calls evil out and I do not purchase their goods. Why does every American still buy poison from places that have constantly worked against them? Because its all about being a consumer and picking the agenda that embraces your perceptions. In reality we all pretend that doing what we are told and going in debt as we punch the tickets we are told to punch, gets us nowhere in life. We still believe that the imaginary program will reward us for our great efforts. How many more generations will die in their beds as retired cynics trying to tell their children its all a lie.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
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      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      Sanxuary,

      Do you really think that change is impossible? If so, than you are mistaken. If more people voted more often, politicians would fear their constituents more. It is possible to hold politicians accountable; you do that by voting for or against them. That is where we can start changing things.

      What Evil? Whose goods?

      If you feel that too many Americans are purchasing unsafe products, than may I just repeat what I said; political silence is political consent?

      My perceptions of democracy is one where many more people vote, thereby holding politicians accountable, and encouraging compromise to pass legislation that works well and is supported by all. That is possible, you know.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      You our voting for two parties of already chosen candidates who receive over 70% of their funding from Corporations. These people are picked and paid for by the people who they represent not the American people. Entire TV Net works prove this point daily with countless agendas no one even cares about. The average person does not have the time or the money to raise real petitions that challenge this insanity. Even when they do it will be undermined at all levels of our Government if possible. What Evil and Who's goods? Every American should back every strike in this country. They should not by products from Corporations that have an endless record of wickedness. A good example. Do you really one person on their own is going to defeat Walmart in a discrimination suit? Yet our own Supreme Court told 1.2 million women to do exactly that. Every time the people lose, its permission for anyone who is willing to deal with a hostile work place that they can do the same. Why support evil when you can support people everywhere. Its not one place its many places and some our wise and others so concerned with profits that they will buy the whole Government to get what they want. Ask all the people living next to gas wells as they light there tap water on fire. Ask all the people who our dying from cancer because some shop set up in their back yards 15 years ago. If you want change then demand a Democracy and lets be done with this Republic. For change to happen we have to stop being consumers and start being citizens by purchasing our goods from people who care about all people. Reinvent local and small businesses and compete against globalism. Right now these places are dead and no infrastructure remains. I do not hate Corporations, there are lots of good ones but they are keeping us poor. Better wages would increase purchasing and small business owners were some of there largest customers. Some places are so low paying that everyone qualifies for Government assistance.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
      Author

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      Why not try Change.com? It easily sets up petitions, and many of them have been successful.

      I think you make broad generalizations in your last comment. In the case of the Supreme Courts ruling on Wal-Mart, there was little to do with any corporate money. The Court just made its ruling based on a majority interpretation of the Constitution. That is how the Supreme Court works; that is how it has always worked.

      Your argument seems to be that the federal government is beholden to special interest groups, and lobbying organizations. That is true. But special interests and lobbies are not exclusively made up of corporations. There are Unions. There is the Sierra Club and the Environmental lobby. The NRA.

      Many of these groups have some pretty efficient grassroots campaigns, and many of them actually support your causes. So why not support them?

      I will repeat what I have already said previously; study up on our government, the Constitution and your rights as a citizen, as well as what you are up against in Washington D.C. Political silence is political consent.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      Really, it seems to me that they have been destroyed by there own insanity. Stay with the facts and the truth and you might win. Murder by proxy is created by a nation that no longer negotiates and will not be stopped by gun control. If you think your vote counts I guess you deserve to be disappointed in your later years as truth consumes you. Can you believe we are still fighting for the rights of minorities to vote in this country in 2013. You our living a lie, wake up the war is only beginning.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      How low must we go? NO amount of petitions is going to change anything. Perhaps we are waiting for total collapse. I can not believe that after six years things are only getting worst. I really do not have to do anything, because others are far more desperate. I give this country six to twelve months then then the wheels come off. Once they come off six years of angry people is going to be unleashed, good luck. I am going to sit back and watch and tell you this nation is a lie and I have no idea when this is going to stop.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
      Author

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      Sanxuary,

      Really, do you buy into all of that conspiracy baloney about Sandy Hook? I am afraid I cannot stand for that; I find it the height of insult to the families who lost their loved ones. Let us not discuss "murder by proxy" at all.

      I know my vote counts, having been among those who actually cast one. Elections have been determined by very small margins before, and is, in fact, not all that unusual, even in this country. I believe I cover this, in point two.

      I'm pretty sure that, barring any decisions from the Supreme Court, the Voting Rights Act is fine. In fact, all people in this country legally have the right to vote. That will not change, but we must all make sure that everyone who wishes to vote has easy access to a voting place.

      What lie? What war? How low are we going, do you think? Petitions work quite well, I have found, if you just keep at it. Politicians under public pressure can be terrified into doing anything.

      As it stands, nothing appears to be collapsing. And the world and our country now seem far better off than they were six years ago. I certainly am not feeling particularly desperate, and no one I know does, either.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      Actually, this is a game of survival and most of the people I know have been playing it to long. The clothes they work in our the same ones they wear. The car is getting older and added another 100, 000 miles on it. 3 out of 4 employees are part time and work less then 30 hours a week. That means 75 percent of us employed are half unemployed. It has been this way for 6 years and continues to wear people down. I can count the number of small businesses on one hand in each city and only corporations are left. The refusal to employ or pay people a wage greater then survival adds up to self made financial suicide. Hiring and paying people is the best stimulus plan. Only the top still desires all and more profits. We live in a hypocrisy where businesses succeed all planned numbers and say great job to their employees. Left out was the fact that they exceeded all numbers on working people harder and paying them less.

    • Nathan Orf profile image
      Author

      Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

      Then, in view of what you have written above, why not support unions, and ask all of the people you know to support them? Why not even join a union? Because if more people were a part of the labor movement, I can guarantee that low wages for many years of backbreaking work would not be a problem.

      Corporations only trample over the defenseless because they have no way to defend themselves. Unions act to counter Corporations. So, why not join a Union, and ask all those you know to do so as well?

      If you do nothing, then everything that can happen to you will happen to you. That is why political apathy, or apathy of any sort, is utterly irresponsible. Political silence is political consent.

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