Don’t Blame Congress for the Government Shutdown: An Open Letter to America

Dear fellow rational, reasonable Americans,

As we continue to watch our government sit idle due to stubborn, childish politicians who are unwilling to accept the will of the people, I am reminded that we live in a representative democracy, which means that Congress only exists in its current form due to the will of the people. Now, I understand that corporate money and PACs now play a large role in influencing the outcomes of these elections, and addressing that issue is crucial for the future of our nation.

However, there is another issue of great importance that seems to be missing from our national dialogue: poor voter turnout, especially among the youngest voting demographic (age 18-29).

Many of those in Congress who are currently unwilling to compromise were initially elected in November of 2010. However, because it was a midterm election (and not a presidential election), voter turnout was considerably lower than it was in 2008. This is to be expected, as every presidential election draws more attention and votes than do midterm elections. However, in the November 2010 election, our country saw a considerable drop in voter turnout, especially among youth voters. As a result, in 2010 our Congress experienced its largest seat change since 1948.

In 2010, only ~40% (2 in 5) of eligible voters in America actually voted.  Among those age 18-29? ~20% voted (1 in 5).  

In 2012, as predicted, those numbers improved due to a presidential election, but many of the same congresspeople who now preside over the government shutdown were able to narrowly escape defeat, and were awarded re-election by the voters. Now, we find ourselves disapproving of Congress more so than any time in history, and there's an overwhelming feeling that we are powerless. We have a nation run by stubborn, out-of-touch congresspeople who are fueled by corporate money... and there's nothing we can do about it.

But there is something we can do about it. We can vote. 

In November of 2014, there will be another midterm election — the first since 2010 — and we will have a chance to voice our opinion about the 113th Congress.

Many will continue to claim that our government is doomed, controlled by private money, and that voting is pointless, thus justifying their absence in the voting booth in November 2014. However, the sad irony is that this very mindset is more likely to make things worse, and certainly won't make things better. As the old saying goes, "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the power and influence of corporate money and special interests may seem untouchable, and that's a fair assessment. In the coming years, much will be done to reverse this trend and remove the overwhelming influence of money from the political arena. However, the easiest way to ensure that these super PACs and special interests continue their quest for complete control (and, consequently, that Congress continues to represent their interests instead of ours) is by throwing in the towel. By allowing ourselves to feel powerless, we are actually empowering these same people whom we falsely believe are already in complete control. A self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak.

So what are our options?

A. We continue to do the same thing over and over, and expect different results. We continue our apathetic approach to politics and government. We continue our trend of staying home on election day, then continue complaining when the results of the election we didn't take part in don't represent our interests. We continue feeling entitled to prosperity and a hard-working, efficient government despite our own laziness and apathy when faced with the opportunity to create it ourselves;


B. We stop doing what we're doing, because whatever it is, it isn't working. We stop waiting for politicians to change, and we start changing ourselves. We stop getting all of our news from hyper-partisan echo chambers and start trying to sift through the opinions and get to the facts. And, most importantly, we stop expecting our government to work for us when we aren't willing to work for it ourselves.

In a little over a year, we will have the opportunity to choose which option we prefer, and to voice our displeasure with the 113th U.S. Congress. History tells us that we will see a repeat performance of 2010, and it's hard to argue that we won't.

Unless, of course, something changes.