Democracy matters even when you can’t cast a ballot

Our generation’s importance to the process


THE REAL MALL OF AMERICA: students, residents, and lawmakers take in sunset over the National Mall

Megan Brinkman, Editor-In-Chief

I spent part of my summer in Washington D.C. breathing in the same air as both congressmen and sunscreen-covered tourists. This was actually my second visit. I’d gone when I was younger, though all I remembered was staring at marble statues while my friends got to go to Disney. My idea of government then was about as cold and dead as the men on those monuments.

SUMMER IN THE CITY: Junior Megan Brinkman visits the White House as part of her summer journalism program

But something was different this time. Life seemed so busy, so possible in this city. Protesters laid out yoga mats on the Capitol lawn, and reporters broadcasted from the steps of the Lincoln memorial as I passed. Government wasn’t just middle school tours and summer interns. It was a living, breathing force and it was alive and well. My week in D.C. shocked me like a jolt of Red Bull.

And I came to a realization.

Our generation was born in the age of a firmly established democracy, a principle generations before us have lived for and died for. This is what drives our government, and our democracy is only as strong as our faith in it.

But we were also born in the age of indifference. Teenagers say that they have no impact. Adults disgusted with the current political climate say that they refuse to vote. Questions about character are overshadowed by charisma.  Attacks and insults make more news than principles and policies.

Our nation’s apathy epidemic is easy to defend: One voice doesn’t matter amongst the shouts of thousands. Why should we sacrifice our vote, our support, to a candidate that’s imperfect?

That kind of thought ignores the fact that our government has never been flawless. And that it never will be.

Democracy doesn’t mean that everyone is unanimous in their decisions. It never has, but it is evolving. Evolution is slow, but sometimes it takes one voice of reason to influence the shouts of thousands.

SITTING HERE ON CAPITOL HILL: Senators and Representatives call the Capitol building home base

So don’t waste your voice. Throw yourself into our democracy wholeheartedly. Start close to home. Speak out about the things that matter to you.

Do your homework. Don’t form your opinions from a headline or what your parents say at the dinner table. Informed decisions are not hasty ones. The results of this election and every election to come will shape our future, whether we can cast a ballot or not. Don’t ignore policies and platforms just because you can’t vote this time.

It is a civic duty to vote once you are eligible. But it is also a civic duty to vote responsibly. If you haven’t done so yet, get yourself to a polling place before 7:00 tonight. If you can’t vote, encourage those who can to do it. You can’t be a part of the solution if all you do is complain about the problem.