Last year, I was talking with a guy I went to college with about starting a blog. The basic idea was to provide people with information regarding various political issues in an effort to make people comfortable with contacting their elected officials.
Why is this worth discussing now?
As the midterm elections approach, you will be exposed to dozens of political ads on TV, on the internet, and anywhere else you can think of. Most ads will attempt to smear the opponent, but elected officials know that there is more than one way to frame their reelection.
Political Scientist, David Mayhew, lays out three ways for politicians to promote their reelection. Most of what you see will be negative “advertising.” What is relevant is the combination of the last two categories, “credit claiming” and “position taking.”
Americans are busy. They are busy with work, with family, with life in general. Not everyone has the time to investigate what their representatives are doing. But! That doesn’t mean that Americans should get a free pass for completely abdicating their interests in keeping tabs on their representatives. The power of the people is not some “blind watchmaker theory” where we elect a person and let him do as he pleases, leaving him unrestrained, unaccountable, and disinterested in the constituency. So while Americans aren’t always as involved as they could be, every so often, circumstances arise where the entire nation is suddenly made aware of what is going on in politics.
In trying to get elected or stay elected, politicians will sometimes utilize those two methods of political posturing. We are made aware of what policies they have worked to achieve. We are made aware of what policies they would like to see achieved or defeated in the future.
Normally, this is done for the purpose of guiding voters in November, but we are more than just mere voters. We are the ones with actual power. We are the ones who have delegated power to elected officials. Your exercise of power is not limited to voting. You can and should write to your representative. You should call your representatives. Remind them that they are YOUR representative.
If you aren’t usually informed regarding politics, what better way to get involved that to respond to a campaign ad. The information is readily available, it isn’t just news hearsay. They are the words and ideas of the candidate himself. Voice your support for a policy, voice your concern regarding misplaced priorities, and voice your opposition to policies.
Whatever the case may be, let your elected officials know that they are not running to implement their own agenda, but to represent you.
We want to live in a nation brimming with civic virtue, but virtue requires engagement. There will never be engagement until we get past the idea that all we have to do is vote. Do more.