By David Ochoa
As the political typhoon that is the 2016 Presidential elections gets underway, the government is trying to push out bills and acts to make the government reflect their views. Defunding Planned Parenthood and immigration ravage the nightly news, yet, not many Americans seem to care. The American people are either uneducated on these events, are too busy to educate themselves, or simply do not care.
According to New York Times article, “Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years,” published last year, the 2014 midterm elections had a turnout of a measly 36.9%. The downward trend started during the 1968 election and took its biggest blow during the Watergate scandal that took down the Nixon administration, dropping from 46.6% to 38.2%. Even after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, voter turnout went up only 0.6% in the following midterm election in 2002, and 4% in the general in 2004.
The blame is not solely due to your average, everyday Joe. One month after 9/11, the USA PATRIOT Act was introduced into Congress. The Patriot Act is a bill that gives the National Security Agency the ability to spy on the American people without a warrant. The bill was passed through both Congress and President Bush on October 26, 2001, three days after initially being introduced. Few had even read the Patriot Act after it was enacted. Even President Bush admitted to not reading the act in an article published by The New Yorker, stating, “I wrote a little Post-It note, ‘Read Patriot Act’. I think they have it down at my Presidential library, so maybe one of these days I’ll set aside some time and read it. Ha ha who am I kidding? That’s not going to happen.”
Even candidates for the presidential election have made comments that reflect their own ignorance. From Trump’s “Mexicans are rapists” to Ben Carson’s “The holocaust wouldn’t have happened if the Jews were armed,” the people running for the position of the most powerful person in the world are not even educated.
As time goes on, Americans seem to become less interested in the world around them for many different reasons. A gallup poll, in September of this year revealed that three in four Americans think corruption is pervasive in our government. In a study by the Washington Post, they stated that one in ten Americans just do not care about politics.
Despite these setbacks, the issue does seem to be improving. Through the upcoming elections many Americans have become more educated on socio-political issues like health care, immigration, and foreign affairs. This is most notable with the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders funds his entire campaign off of individual donations from average citizens, refusing donations from political action committees and billionaires. At the end of September, Sanders became the fastest candidate in history to reach one million individual donations, surpassing the previous record holder, President Obama.
German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht once said, “The worst illiterate is a political illiterate.” Our very own Founding Fathers did not trust the American people with a true Republic for this very reason, a lack of knowledge among the people on various issues, but it does not have to be this way. You can go out and educate yourself on popular issues, turn off the Kardashians, and turn on your local news. Read a newspaper, other than this one, or listen to national public radio, all these things can help you know the bare minimum about what is going on in this crazy world of ours. Knowledge is power, and power is the key to a great society.