Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. He understood that no system, including the American system he helped create could withstand the inevitable attempts at usurpation and corruption that existed then, and still exists today.
Unfortunately, the words of Jefferson are not being heeded by a large contingent of the American public, and as a result, corruption and ineptitude abound in government. It’s not like the people don’t know that this is the case. On the contrary, polls show that from a national level on down, the voter disapproval is staggering. Our last president struggled to get his approval ratings to 30%. Congress was actually down into the single digits, this even as the makeup of the house and senate has changed dramatically in the last few years. Yes, voters disapprove of the very candidates they put in office, yet in many cases continue to vote for those same candidates time and time again. When voters do look for change, they’re looking for something different, a break from what is perceived as the status quo.
But what does that change look like? Don’t ask the typical voter; there’s a good chance that they didn’t know who, or even what they were voting for. For example, Los Angeles recently held a citywide election for various offices, one of those being for mayor. The second largest city in the United States was electing its mayor, ostensibly a fairly important event. The turnout was abysmal, one of the lowest in history, despite the fact that there were nine candidates on the ballot, and all-except the incumbent mayor, campaigned and debated vigorously. Most voters in Los Angeles chose to stay home though, many not even realizing that there was an election at all! The result was that a patently unqualified, corrupt politician was easily re-elected, with an embarrassingly small number of votes.
This is how it happens. Not voting, or not properly investigating who the candidates are, is tantamount to leaving your door unlocked. Eventually somebody will come in, especially if they know that door is unlocked. Everyone has a complaint about something, but when the opportunity arises to do something about it, the apathetic voter just sits back and lets it just happen to him or her. This is the kind of thing that Jefferson warned of. He understood that if you can’t decide what you want, then somebody will decide for you.
Maybe that’s the issue. Maybe people just want to be told what to do, and they elect someone that will do just that. The possibility exists that democracy, for some, is just too much trouble, and takes too much time and effort to bother with. That’s fine if they want their own lives to go in that direction, but what the apathetic voter doesn’t understand is that their apathy affects the entire democracy, not just their little corner of the universe.
The United States has all the resources it needs to be the envy of history. It won’t happen by itself though. The voter, the people must make it happen. A crooked, unqualified politician certainly wouldn’t promote these ideas. Why would they?
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” Benjamin Franklin