A Meditation on Election Day

How do you get politically involved?

Is it enough to vote?  Voter turnout in 2008 was 63% of the electorate.  I was among them, but it didn’t seem like much of an effort.

Is it enough to be an “informed” voter?  What does that mean exactly?  If you search the web, the idea and the benefits seems foggy even to political scientists.

Should we join a party?  The founding fathers wrote at length about the dangers of factions and party spirit, but then proceeded to found political parties of their own.

I confess I don’t like politics.  Folks seem more bent on winning an argument than they do listening to each other.  I don’t like all the angry emotions politics seem to generate.  I don’t like the way we tend to demonize the folks on the other side of an issue.  I don’t like the way parties seem more interested in staying in power than they do in solving the nation’s problems.  I don’t like the money that is allowed to sit in a dark corner, and speak as if it were the voice of the people.

What seemed to impress Tocqueville were our townships.  He wrote:

“The town or tithing, then, exists in all nations, whatever their laws and customs may be: it is man who makes monarchies and establishes republics, but the township seems to come directly from the hand of God… Yet municipal institutions constitute the strength of free nations. Town meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people’s reach, they teach men how to use and how to enjoy it. A nation may establish a free government, but without municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty. Transient passions, the interests of an hour, or the chance of circumstances may create the external forms of independence, but the despotic tendency which has been driven into the interior of the social system will sooner or later reappear on the surface.”     

I think I’ll start attending city council meetings.  Maybe if I listen I’ll learn something about what it means to be a citizen.

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