You may not like politics, but they matter

Finn Witham, Reporter

It’s an election season and for many people, that means having to live through months of stickers and signs, flags and hats, arguments between friends and family, and social media feeds filled with ads for this or that candidate. As a person who is maybe a little too obsessed with politics, it has taken me awhile to understand the perspective of those who view all this with disgust. Any time I bring up politics, many people shut down. They say “I don’t care” or “I don’t know” or “I’m not old enough to vote, it doesn’t matter.” It’s understandable: people don’t want to get into arguments, they don’t want to have to deal with complex issues and it can be just plain boring. But, even though they may suck, politics matters. A lot. Government is how we collectively organize and regulate our society, so it reaches deep into our daily lives, our prospects, and our freedoms. Choosing to ignore it is choosing to let others (who may not have our best interests at heart) determine what our lives and our society look like. 

Now is an especially bad time to make that choice. In 2019, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that warned cataclysmic damage if carbon emissions aren’t cut to zero by 2050. According to Forbes, 70% of college graduates leave school with debt that is around $30,000 on average. Housing Wire reported that home prices are rising at almost double the rate of wage growth. And, Pew Research Center found that average real wages in America have only risen about two dollars since 1964. All of these issues can be directly tied into government actions or inactions. And they all have real, immediate, economic consequences on our lives. 

Many of these problems were caused by economic elites who have gripped and maintained power for decades in American politics. A 2014 Princeton study found that while these elites had a major influence on American law, average citizens had a “near zero” impact. And while much of this can be linked to systemic corruption, we ourselves bear some responsibility. In the 2016 election, about 100 million people didn’t vote. If “didn’t vote” had been a candidate, it would have won in a landslide. Even the Americans who do vote are usually not involved in politics outside of voting every two or four years. 

The only way we can regain control of our society and change the narrative is by voting, by organizing in our communities, by attending rallies and discussions and marches. And for that we have to understand politics. It may be stressful. But we have to make a choice: Do we want an inhabitable planet? Do we want an economy that makes everyone prosperous? Do we want more freedom and more opportunity? Do we want to be the ones who control our society and our futures? We shouldn’t be willing to give all that up just because we don’t love what we have to do to get there.