This November I did something important to me; I voted. What’s more, I voted for the first time. The morning was cold and the dew on the ground was frozen on the field I walked across towards the polling center for my university. To add on to the excitement it was also my birthday, so naturally one can tell it was pretty momentous. It’s a memory I will hold for a while.
This moment will stand in my mind as the first step into politics, and the daily self-verification that my vote or my say does matter (it doesn’t). Reflecting on the world and the politics of today, a good amount of people take the simple route and jump aboard the bandwagon pulled by an elephant or a donkey. They won’t question why these animals are the best choice to lead, but when it comes to me, I’d rather walk and hope that maybe a wagon pulled by a horse will pass by.
Today, politics have become a joke fueled by media and supported by the majority of our nation that do the bare minimum to get a fuzzy idea of what’s actually going on. This frightens me. “We have not seen the intensity of political conflict and the radical separation between the two major political parties that characterizes our age since the late nineteenth century,” Richard Pildes explains in his article, “Why the Center Does Not Hold: The Causes of Hyperpolarized Democracy in America.” He brings to light a sad truth about today’s politics; not only is the divide between left and right miles apart, it’s stubbornly so.
The idea of split ticket voting was to allow voters to vote for anyone, not just people in their party, this was when the idea of a divided congress was more of a way to balance the government. The hope was that the pros and cons of both parties would shape bills into a more centralized manner that would suit everyone’s ideals. This was just not the case.
Going back to Pildes, he comments on recent voting trends, “split-ticket voting has declined sharply: more voters express consistent, partisan political preferences by voting for candidates from the same party across all races, whether for the House, the Senate, or the Presidency,” the problem this entails is that voters are moving away from educated decisions in politics. The message they are sending can be translated to “I believe my party is right for this nation and not the other” and this is reflected by the exact people that are voted in this way.
The way I see split ticket voting is that one votes for whom will best do the job, regardless of the party affiliation. I myself did not vote straight ticket nor do I ever plan too. To put it in relatable terms consider squares and rectangles: all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Straight ticket voting is favoring only rectangles in the hope that most of them will be square, whereas split ticket voting is favoring the rectangles that are more likely to be a square thus producing a better result
It is truly sad to see the national reaction of the past election. The fact that entire states, not just people, are threatening succession ultimately showcases how severe the polarization of our government and people have become. This raises the question of why and who is to blame.
When considering those at fault in something involving a whole nation one can never blame one source for the problem. One factor to consider is the media and how people respond to what they learn from; “People who are poorly informed about politics but watch a good deal of TV cast their ballots for governor and senator disproportionately on the way candidates look,” says Gabriel Lenz in his paper, “Looking the Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens to Vote Based on Candidates’ Appearance.”
Although Lenz focuses on the television aspect of politics, he brings up a good point: we believe what we want to believe. His argument involves research into how voters respond to the superficial aspects of candidates through the influence of media. Readers should already be aware that there is bias within news. The most notorious for this is Fox Channel, which is the news source for Republicans, both extreme and regular alike (note that I use Fox as an example for media in general, in no way against Republicans or for Democrats respectively).
What Fox and other news channels do is appeal to the extreme ideologies of the parties instead of support the middle ground. What is even more startling is that contrary to popular belief, these news channels don’t do this because they truly support the parties; they do this because it’s entertainment, and entertainment brings in viewers, which in turn brings more money.
This is the truth of media bias and this is why I urge readers to devote at least 5 minutes of their time to newspapers or the internet to find true answers. This isn’t even just for politics either; it’s for every aspect of the world. An educated citizen is the one that knows when they are being brainwashed.
Another cause for concern is congress itself. For people who were elected to get bills passed and improve the quality of life in this nation, there is a lot of the opposite going on: nothing. This nation needs to be run by people who actually care about doing something for their nation rather than their party, but instead our politicians are too focused on the ego of the party.
The solution to our government crisis is simple, and because of this, it is also the most complex. If the parties move away from acting like high school cliques and more like grownups, then maybe things might be done.
When I went to those ballots, I did not walk in as a Democrat or a Republican. I didn’t even walk in as an Independent. When I walked in, I walked in as Jonathan Campos, an American citizen. If everyone did this, our government would be much more ideal rather than ideological.
Lenz, Gabriel S., and Chappell Lawson. “Looking The Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens To Vote Based On Candidates’ Appearance.”American Journal Of Political Science 55.3 (2011): 574-589. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.
Pildes, Richard H. “Why The Center Does Not Hold: The Causes Of Hyperpolarized Democracy In America.” California Law Review 99.2 (2011): 273-333. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.