People in the Ukraine were willing to die to protect democracy; too many of us do not even vote.
By Carl Petersen
“The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes. But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?”
-Tom Perkins

I am not a fan of term limits. Nor do I think that we need to reform the way that campaigns are financed. While either of these methods could help to improve our Democracy, they do so in a way that removes responsibility from the people. If we are willing to return 90% of incumbents to the House of Representatives while only 13% of us approve of the job the Congress is doing, then we only have ourselves to blame. If voters are so lazy that we are content to get our information from 30 second commercials instead of independent research, then we get the government that we deserve.

There are not too many people who think that the government we have is working. In fact, the level of dissatisfaction has gotten so bad that 65% of people surveyed by Gallup said that they were dissatisfied with “not just the people in charge but the type of government they run.” This measure of “American’s Dissatisfaction With [the] U. S. System of Government and Its Effectiveness” has showed a steady rise since 2002 when just 23% of American’s said that they were somewhat or very dissatisfied “with our system of government and how well it works.” However, before we start “Talkin’ Bout A Revolution,” perhaps we should first try showing up.

One in four eligible Americans is not even registered to vote. In the last Presidential election only 58.2% of those eligible bothered to cast a ballot. With all the issues facing our country, 93 million eligible citizens elected to ignore their civic responsibility. Only Iowa and Louisiana managed to increase the turnout percentage for eligible voters. That same year 132 million votes were cast in the final voting for American Idol.

The picture gets even worse when looking at the statistics for the midterm elections. In 2010, only 37.8% of people within the voting-age population turned out to vote. This was consistent with the turnout of all the other off-year elections since 1974. The drop-off was even more significant among the younger population. While voters under 30 represented 18% of the electorate in 2008, they were only 11% of the electorate in the 2010 elections. Meanwhile, senior citizens comprised 21% of the voters in this election. They make up 13% of the general population.

For anyone who does not think that their vote counts, consider the way that issues affecting these constituencies are treated by their representatives. For example, Americans owe over $870 billion in student debt, but legislators played chicken with a bill to stop interest rates from rising. Paul Ryan argued against increased federal financial aid by saying that these are “simply being absorbed by tuition increases.” However, he did vote for Medicare Part D, which specifically “made sure that there was no cost-containment provision” to force drug companies to cut prices. Through 2012, this program had added $318 billion to the national debt. Ryan’s attempt at ending Medicare as we know it also specifically exempted voters over 55.

Elections are like the lottery – you have to play to win. They give us a chance to stand up and be heard. They also give us a license to complain when our country drifts off course. This should remind us that the voting booth should only be our first step in getting involved in our democracy.
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