The principle purpose of this blog is to promote informed participation in the political process. Thus public apathy stands out as my primary enemy. To better understand my enemy, I began the new year by googling and yahooing. Unfortunately, apathy is not especially unusual. Google “apathy and politics” and you will find plenty of apathy toward politics, 155 hits in the news from all over the world. Similarly, Yahoo will return a 135 hits.
Consider what is going on in Russia. How will Russians choose who succeeds President Vladimir Putin? Are Americans as indifferent as Russians? How do we compare to the impoverished nation of India? In South Korea the natives have received the expert advice of a German scholar. Does he have a clue? From Brazil we have a report that the apathy is beginning to end. Would that not be a wonder?
When we talk about the American Republic, what are we talking about? Does the fact we have a republic mean we have elected leaders and everyone gets to vote on these people? Is having a republic about protecting everyone’s civil rights and due process under the law? Is a republic about having all kinds of lawyers with all kinds of nice, neat, fancy procedures? Don’t we have a great legal system? Then why do I have this terrible, awful, uneasy feeling of impending doom?
I have actively been participating in the Republican Party for about ten years. Belatedly, in my middle years, I had the realization I had not fulfilled my full responsibilities as a citizen. Even though I voted, I nothing to do with the choice of candidates. Before I did anything, others had already made their choices.
So I began to participate, and I have found the experience both inspiring and disappointing. While the people who do participate in politics often work very hard at it, the number of people who participate is surprisingly small. Even the number of people attending Prince William County Republican Party nominating conventions usually involves well less than one thousand people.
It has been said, perhaps first by Edmund Burke, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” If that is true, then we should be concerned about how many good men are needed to overcome evil. Do we have a problem? Is apathy more prevalent than in the past? How would one measure such a thing? I do not know. Yet even if apathy is not more prevalent, clearly, the piddling number of people actively participating in our political system is too small. If the average citizen is not interested, how long can a republic continue to exist?
Half of our income goes to pay taxes to operate our government. We live in an era of experimentation and specialization. Most of the scientists and engineers who ever lived are alive today. We have large numbers of skilled people doing things only they understand, and they too often understand too poorly. Our population is over 300 million and still growing. Our cities are ungainly and disorganized; our transportation infrastructure threatens to break down. Our soldiers are at war, and we hear rumors of greater wars to come. We are changing the face of the planet, and we are uncertain of the consequences. With all that and more, why aren’t more people interested in what their government does? I do not know, and I am afraid wiser people are just as puzzled. Consider what the German scholar thought about the problem in South Korea:
“As political parties choose their leaders only from among party members, they tend to form a cartel, excluding external figures,” the 39-year-old scholar said. “So, their political decisions are likely to be aimed at staying in power.”
Another problem of the party-based system is that party leaders tend to make the nation into their prey, which means ranking officials enjoy extra privileges such as high wages and pensions, Grabow said.
He said public apathy to politics is caused by those two problems.
So South Koreans are apathetic because there leaders leave them no real choice? I suppose that could true, yet if they remain apathetic, how will they gain a choice?
Do we have a choice? Are the choices in the USA any better than in South Korea? Whatever is the case, I think we are in danger of losing the choices we do have. Too many of us do not take the time or understand the need to exercise our political rights. When we allow others to exercise their political rights in our absence, their choices become the only choice we have.