We all know the cliche: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If we know this and believe it to be true, then when it comes to the election cycle we’re definitely insane.
Every year we’re bombarded with advertising that’s mostly negative. We get our full share of speculation from the various media pundits and, because we’re special, we get to hear the candidates debate issues that someone else decided were important for us to listen to. Then there’s the telephone solicitations, bulk mailings and, if we’re lucky, the door to door visits. All of this leads up to the culminating event: Election Day.
And then what?
Candidates get elected, some of us are happy and some of us aren’t. Then we sit back and wait another year for the cycle to begin again. In the meantime we complain that our elected officials aren’t doing the job we elected them to do. Do we really think just voting for a candidate is enough? Are we being naive to expect them to do their job and get it done? We may not want to hear it but a career politician’s primary objective is to get reelected. It’s the reason why they call themselves career politicians. Politics is their job and they don’t want to be unemployed. This is why they stay in constant fundraising mode. They need to replenish the “war chest” for the next cycle.
We need to do a better job at holding our elected officials accountable. We must remind them that we’re the ones who put them in office and the ones who can vote them out. We need to be actively involved in the political process.
Here are some things you can do:
- Find out who your local representatives are: This is where the rubber meets to road. Starting with your community first will have the most impact on your daily lives. Find out who’s on your local councils. Find out who’s on your school board. Get their address, phone number, and email address.
- Find out who your state representatives are: Stand Your Ground, Voter ID, Right to work, and many other laws impacting us today originate at the state level. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) marries state legislators with corporations to create ‘model bills’. Redistricting (or sometimes gerrymandering) is also decided at the state level.
- Find out who your federal representatives are: Although these are the people who get the most attention in the media, they’re also the ones we have the least impact on. Members of the House of Representatives are elected based on congressional districts determined at the state level. Not only is it important to know who your Congressman or Congresswoman is, it is extremely important to know the demographics and boundaries of your district.
- Stay informed: Keep up with what’s going on in your community. Attend a council or school board meeting. Watch your local news channel. Find out what legislation is being proposed and when the vote will happen.
- If you’re not satisfied, write: Exercise your rights. Let your elected officials know how you feel. Organize letter writing and phone calling campaigns. Start a petition. Let your voice be heard.
We should not allow ourselves to become sheep who blindly follow our elected officials.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility.
The Marketplace is an educational and charitable organization formed for the purpose of promoting and supporting programs, initiatives, and events that address the needs of culturally diverse and economically challenged youth.
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