The results are in. The midterm election this November concluded with a huge upset for the Democratic party. Republican party members secured a whopping 246 seats in Congress, making it the largest GOP majority since the early 1940s. It also marked the lowest voter turnout in the US since 1942 with a measly 36.3 percent of eligible voters actually casting a ballot.
This means two things: the first being that over the next two years, the forecast is bleak when it comes to productive Congressional action, and the second being that frustration, apathy, or inability are boxing Americans from ballot boxes.
But why does this matter to us? The problem with such a pronounced conflict within partisan divisions in government is that it makes it nearly impossible to pass any new legislation, especially any educational reforms that would work to solve the problems within our academic system that we all face on a daily basis. The government becomes unable to fulfill its ultimate purpose: to protect its citizens through the passage of policies that work with our best interests in mind.
Instead, it turns into a sitting duck. The government becomes a mere symbol of American shortcomings, a reminder of our inexcusable inability to compromise and to rise above our differences. In short, students should care about partisan divisions because it is impossible for the US to become a better place for everyone to live in if our leaders can not decide how to define the word “better.”
These problems have real-world consequences. Last year marked one of the greatest political disappointments since 1996: the government shutdown resulting from Congress’s hardheaded inability to compromise. After failing to reach a decision regarding government spending and the Affordable Care Act, the government shutdown meant significant economic distress for government employed families who were pushed into unpaid leave, and forced many businesses, educational programs, and non-profit organizations to put their work on halt.
The threat of this happening again within the span of Obama’s last two years in presidency is looming as newly elected and newly re-elected Republican representatives openly voice dissent to some of Obama’s pushes for immigration reform and environmental policies.
It sadly seems the nation has learned nothing from the 2013 debacle. However, voters are not currently stepping up to the plate to fix the problem. No state in the nation rose above 60 percent when it came to eligible voter turnout. California was ranked within the top ten states with the smallest voter turnout, tieing with West Virginia and Nevada at a pitiful 31.8 percent. In a country that prizes democracy, these statistics are shameful.
The power to vote gives Americans a unique voice within the government. It allows citizens to be active. It allows us to have a say in what direction our nation is headed. This year’s dismal numbers proved one thing; there is a flaw in the system. The only question is to where the flaw lies. Speculations of what the causes of this year’s decline in voter participation usually fall within three major assumptions: that people were unable to vote due to scheduling or location conflicts, that people were too frustrated with our current leaders to vote, or that people simply did not care enough to make their way to voting stations.