Wresting the future from apathy

Cougars, we just saw one of the best election turnouts since the ’60s. The people of America were called upon and, for once, we responded. The power in America is balanced between the people and the state. This past election represented people taking back power. More than an example of Democrats stomping Republicans, this election was a mandate for the government to try a new tactic. There are only two parties that have a realistic chance at power in the capitol and there is no shame at all in being runner-up.

This election showed voter apathy is finally on the decline. We have people getting involved in a very tangible way. It was easy, huh? Sending a message to the powers-that-be is a simple thing. Making them reform is only a vote away. The problem I see, though, is that we may wait to see if they change. This is not wise.

History has shown Republicans and Democrats rarely act in the best interest of their constituencies. And I fear that even though we just saw what we did, President-elect Barack Obama and the rest of our freshmen politicians may resort to business as usual. The reason being, most of them are so out of touch with normal Americans, it is ridiculous.

One of the biggest problems American politics truly has is not partisanship or majority tyranny. The biggest problem we have is that we the people are not supplying demands. John Adams believed government was an institution set up to process paperwork necessary to implement the desires of the people. He said society is the collective aims of the people. Government only provided the opportunity to allow people to do as they wish. Over the past few years of studying political science, it is obvious most students don’t feel government has been living up to its role.

Having power balanced between the people and the state is a delicate act. To avoid tyranny and bad policy, people must take an active hand in their government. Too many people believe money is speech. Even the Supreme Court said that political contributions are free speech. I submit there is no substitute for your wishes and desires. Only your voice clearly conveys what you want.

Money and supporting candidates is ambiguous at best because they rarely know exactly why the money was donated. They assume it means we trust them to do as they see fit. I submit that by just giving money and votes, we allow them free rein on our dollar.

Elected officials are our employees. We have the right to hand them a pink slip next election, and they know that. Politicians also know that we will not pay attention to them in office. They know we will not hold them accountable, and they know that they are free with the power of this nation. This was not the intent of our founding fathers.

Our nation is an experiment, and there is no denying that. After the problems we have been having recently it is obvious we are facing poor results. I don’t believe the problem is a Republican or Democrat one. I believe the problem is we allow too much for both of them. We need to check them.

A woman once asked Thomas Jefferson, "What have you wrought?" He replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." He knew full well the experiment would fail if we became apathetic. And we have. It is time for that to end.

Every day in Iraq our soldiers die. In Vietnam, our soldiers died. In every war we have fought, we have lost soldiers, and for what? They fought for our political power. As Americans we have more power in our voice than any other nation. We run the strongest, and in all hope, the most enduring nation in the world. But we live like politics doAn’t matter to our everyday lives. We spit in the face of those who fought for that power and for us. It is disrespect to the dead.

Students always argue in class about what should be done. Who was wrong, who did what and why, but rarely is that analysis turned back upon ourselves. We always try to blame politicians for all the problems we have. I think the real issue is that 50 percent of America’s power is vested in the hands you are holding this newspaper with, and most of those hands will never send an e-mail or a complaint to their officials.

Lets change that. As Cougars we are 36,000 strong. We have voices from the rich, poor, black, white, brown, Republicans, Democrats, independents, Green Party and others – we have everything. Next week I will begin a campaign that is open to every single Cougar, from the janitors to President Renu Khator herself. It will include taking handwritten perspectives on issues big and small directly to the legislators.

I’m not sure if it will work, and I don’t care. If this fails we will try something else, but I want everyone on this campus to realize they have a voice in politics. My professors have been preaching that I have a voice for years now. I am going to take them to task. In this campaign there will be no discrimination along any lines. There will be no argument. This campaign is about returning power to the people – where it belongs.

Niccolo Machiavelli said when democracy goes bad, it becomes anarchy. It is scary to think he may be right, but when people threaten to kill a democratically elected president because they think he may be this or that, I would say we are getting close.

I am begging for your help in this. Let’s make a movement. Let’s make sure our soldiers didn’t die in vain. Let’s put this nation on a track that the people decide, not the one the politicians decide.

Khan, a political science and history junior, can be reached via [email protected]

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