Wikipedia defines “Apathy” as follows:
Apathy is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation, or passion. An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical, or physical life and the world.
In the US only about 57% of eligible voters vote in presidential elections and only about 40% of eligible voters vote in midterm national elections. This is not the kind of participation that supports a vibrant and effective democracy. According to the Pew Research Center the US ranks very low on the list of world democracies with regard to voter participation. So why is this?
Clearly there is apathy and there are multiple possible causes. In no particular order we can go through the litany. There is widespread frustration with our political representatives and the political process. Nothing seems to get done, at least very little of consequence. When something does get done it seems to favor the political elite and not the broad electorate. Many people believe that their vote will not make a difference, so why vote. They come to this based on their experience over many years. There is widespread frustration that the government does not work for them personally. They continue to struggle financially and socially. In many locations and for many segments of society their are stringent voting regulations that act to suppress voting as opposed to making it easier and thereby encourage voting. This is usually portrayed as suppression of voting fraud despite there being no specific evidence of excessive fraud. Large segment of society just have higher priorities. They struggle to support themselves and their families due to lack of adequate work or pay. There is no time to pay attention to politics, candidates and elections. Also common is a lack of understanding of simple civics. There is not an appreciation for the value and consequences of their vote. In many cases voters are faced with a choice among bad alternatives. They must vote for the least worst choice. Finally voter understanding of their choices is influenced by an abundance of ‘fake news’ and negative campaigning.
The apathy seems widespread as evidenced by many polls. So what to do? Government will only work as it was intended when we find and elect people who are willing to break from the yoke of our currently strongly polarized political parties. We need independent thinkers. We need to take money and special interests out of the political process so that these independent minded candidates can successfully compete. To achieve any of this we need to start by talking about this, sharing our views, and educating ourselves.
Photo by david_shankbone