When the President is your neighbor (seriously, the White House was a very short walk from my DC condo) and Senators are like celebrities, you can’t help but think about politics all the time whether you’re truly interested. And that’s not even during an election year.
Thankfully, I loved politics. A love which was born during my senior year in high school when I read The System by Haynes Johnson and David Broder—a tome to political gamesmanship and failed healthcare policy. It was energizing. There was passion. You thought you could make a difference. So you tried.
You volunteered. You campaigned. You joined policy groups. You debated. You voted.
Then I went to dinner with my cousin. And she told me she never voted. I was shocked because I didn’t think this was an option. Politely, I asked why. She simply said that she didn’t feel like it made a difference in her life either way.
At the time, I was a law student (and overly idealistic, or maybe hopeful is the more accurate word) so I didn’t relate to what she shared. How could she not recognize the importance, even if symbolic, of casting her vote and having her voice heard? Jeez, people fought hard for us to have the right…
And then I grew up. Life became more complicated. It was harder to stay engaged in the circus of DC. Perhaps cynicism was the root cause (once you realize politicians spend more time on campaigns or derailing them than on bipartisanship efforts, your idealistic outlook withers). Perhaps my insanely busy work life didn’t leave time to care. Or perhaps it always felt like picking the lesser of two evils.
You’d think having children would make me hyperaware about politicians and their proposed policies, but lack of personal time and connectedness to the outside media (yep, mom life) definitely contributes to my political apathy. I have no time to digest news or stay on top of the Romney - Obama platforms. I've tried listening to NPR to/from work each day but it made me too depressed. I only have a sense of the big picture and not the nuances of their plans. Which I could easily see leading to the line of thinking my cousin subscribes to. I now get where she was coming from…though, I don’t 100% agree with her.
Have I noticed an overall change in my day-to-day life depending on the president or the party? Probably not. Will I ever? Doubtful. So why vote? Because I vote for the person who might not have a seat at the table. I vote for the families that wrongly suffer social injustices. I vote for the children who aren’t heard (and are likely ignored). I vote for women generally and their right to be equals. I vote for making a difference in the lives of others, not my own.
This is how I stay motivated to trust in and participate in our government.
You? What do you think of the election? Will you vote?
~ The Other Sarah