Someone asked me the other day why I am so interested in politics. They wondered why I watch CNN and C-SPAN, read political news and blogs, and pay close attention to the debates and public discourse of our political leaders and system. Their reason … and they admitted it … is that they find it all too distasteful and polemical to watch anymore. So here are my reasons for being part of the process by being a political junkie:
1. I want to be part of the solution by being an informed voter. So I pay attention to what candidates are saying during the election cycles – knowing they will likely not get everything done they promise during the campaign but it is important to note what they value and fight for once in office.
2. Even national politics are local. The decisions made in Washington affect my life in real ways – my taxes, the roads I drive on, the health care I have access to, the rights my family is afforded (or not), and the ways my son’s education is administered – just to name a few.
3. I want to participate in creating dialogue between opposing sides of political debates. This is hard to do but occasionally it can be an amazing process from which to learn and grow. (It can also be extremely difficult and painful – but I believe it is still worth the effort and risk.)
4. I want to know where my tax dollars are being spent. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t but it is a good thing to know. And if I disagree – I contact my representatives and let them know what I think about their decisions.
5. Every once and a while you see our leaders come together to do something good. This is rarer than I would want it to be, but it does happen. Examples – and you may disagree – are increasing the number of kids receiving health care and keeping insurance companies from excluding people based on pre-existing conditions, caring for our planet, taking care of those less fortunate, and providing income help to those who have lost jobs.
6. Being a participant and voting in every election since I turned 18 years of age allows me to complain with full confidence and integrity. (LOL!) I also know folks who never vote but whine all the time about elected officials. This drives me crazy.
7. C-SPAN can actually be fun to watch. It shows us the “sausage making procedure” that is our political process. It is often ugly and the ingredients are gross but the end result can be enlightening.
8. I want my son to be part of the election and political process so we watch TV together and discuss the issues. He is a very informed 13 year old. He is concerned with the state of our political system and how it will affect his future so he wants to know what is happening. That makes me proud. (He also wants to be part of a political protest march someday. We have marched against gun violence locally but he wants to march for/against something in Washington DC.)
9. I can impact my community by advocating for new laws that protect the rights of the marginalized, disenfranchised, and powerless. I can work to limit access to guns by person’s ineligible for purchasing them. I can work to expand the rights of families who need protection. I can convey to my elected officials what I value as they debate legislation. This is the power of one vote – one voice combined with others.
10. There are moments when I am proud of the system. Like this week’s celebration of Rep. Gabby Giffords’ service to the House of Representatives. The touching moment at the State of the Union and the next day's tribute were amazingly uplifting – from both sides of the aisle. It reminded me of how we can be as a people.
These are just some of the reasons I am an active participant in the political process. And obviously it is such a tough topic to discuss that I am sure some of you will disagree with my politics - but maybe we at least can agree on why we care.