Fighting the pull of political cynicism

Warning: this is yet another post about politics. Ugh…I know. Hang in there; it’ll all be over soon.

The election season is simultaneously a frustrating and enjoyable time for me. I enjoy talking about politics, and I’m always frustrated to see the way that campaigns and public discourse deteriorates over time. I enjoy talking to friends and family about political perspectives and hearing about how people make the decisions they do. One of the most common sentiments that I hear from people is some variation of one or more of the following: I don’t care, all politicians are crooks, my vote doesn’t matter, etc. This kind of political cynicism is very common and understandable. Are politics twisted at times? Yes. Do politicians have egos and pursue their elections with a certain selfish aim? Absolutely. Does that make politics worthless as a national concern? No, I don’t believe so.

Politics and and public policy are infuriating at times, but they do matter. They have a tremendous impact on the people of this country, the world, and future generations. Not everyone has the disposition to read and ponder the arcane language of some obscure piece of legislation, but it’s worth remembering that those pieces of legislation have a real impact on people’s lives, and they deserve our scrutiny and consideration as a result. I also think the best chance that the average person has to impact these things is vote. How do you as an individual have an impact upon the economic situation in this country other than your vote?

I understand the anger and frustration with politics and our obsession over it during election season, but I also think that we must be careful that we don’t go too far in our anger. Political cynicism is tempting because it’s an easy and seemingly reasonable retreat from the 24-hour news coverage and obsessive nitpicking over trivial minutia that goes on in the final days of an election, but it’s ultimately the most dangerous position of all, because cynicism leads to apathy. And apathy among the masses leaves our nation and its future in the hands of those who are unlikely to protect it.

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

~Plato