The Case for Taking Action against Apathy Part I

New guest author Keith O’Dwyer flies his figurative glider onto the U.S. Capitol lawn to speak against the proliferation of money in politics.

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

-Robert M. Hutchins


In 2012 the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance conducted a study that found only 58% of the nation’s eligible voters participated in the presidential election. There has been a growing trend of dissatisfaction with the political system, but it is matched by growing numbers of citizens falling into apathy rather than action

Much of the growth in apathy likely stems from frustration in the lack of changes and seeming entrenched corruption of the political process. This trend is disturbing as it provides a greater voice to the few who actively participate in the political system, creating a system that is far less representative of the public. It also means that the very systems that citizens are frustrated by are becoming more entrenched by the inaction against it.

A great strength of a democracy is its ability to reform without requiring upheaval. Regardless of political stance, one can surely look at the Tea Party as a case of how organized and dedicated voting blocs can shape politics. This, however, cannot be achieved alone. If the political system is to see change, it must better represent its people. All the more reason we must encourage each other to vote, and to engage, challenge, and discuss with one another policy and politic rather than treat it as impolite conversation, or worse a bore.

If disliked candidates or parties stop receiving ballots they will lose elections. No matter how much money is thrown towards a group, it must ultimately receive the votes to succeed. Conversely, groups that are considered “fringe” or “unviable” are actually just as capable of winning under the right circumstances. These terms are often used to purposefully disqualify candidates in the public mind and promote desired candidates for interested parties.

Those citizens that feel monetary interest is ruining the political process, it is all the more reason to vote. If politicians see taking certain campaign contributions is a risk to getting elected, many will stop taking such contributions. When institutions offering influencing contributions stop receiving them the funds, the ability to reduce the voices of others will be lost. Money is its own kind of voting power, particularly in our market driven economy.

Businesses are ultimately driven on generating wealth; success and failure are based on the ability to generate profit. By purchasing from institutions that do not attempt to influence politics or  do influence policies more responsibly, the political sphere will also change. Successful businesses learn what their customers want and how to market to them. If the profitable sector is in responsible political practice, successful businesses will partake in such endeavors.

In the end, it is the collection of citizens that have the real power. Large institutions, whether government or private, ultimately operate and succeed so long as individuals support them; whether this is willingly, unwillingly or unwittingly.

Every one of us has power, but only so long as we believe it and act upon it.

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