The question of the day is what happened to civics education? Do students still take government in high school (or any grade for that matter)?
Certainly there will always be a range of engagement but more and more recently I am feeling as though people are so unengaged. One of the things that I liked most about the 2008 Presidential Primary is that it created an environment to talk about the role of delegates (and super-delegates) in the party nomination process. People were paying attention to the National Convention. Additionally, there was much dialogue about the Electoral College and getting to the magic number of 270, similar to the 2000 Presidential Election. Although that conversation centered more around the Electoral College and the popular vote.
My growing concern is the level of engagement in state and local politics. I get that some people are not interested in politics, but this is unlike fashion or reality shows or cinema or sports, this, politics has a direct (and sometimes) immediate impact on our individual lives. The city council member who opposes a large scale development project in you neighborhood that will drastically change the character of your neighborhood. The state senator who is challenging the incumbent who voted against same sex marriage, and their victory would bring NY one step closer to marriage equality. YET, no where close to a majority of eligible voters participate in Primary Elections (where in NY are quite competitive). Here in NY, like many states, district lines are being redrawn. In NY, it is done by the party in power, in the state Senate, Democrats currently have a narrow majority, if we cannot hold this majority in the upcoming election, we will not redraw district lines, the Republicans will, and the districts will continue to be drawn to skew their power and representation. I'm sure you will here more from me on this topic in the days and weeks to come.
So where does the change start? I'll be the first to admit that up until 2006 I only voted in the Presidential election, but then something clicked. The prior 8 years I was pretty transient, I voted absentee in Virginia through much of my undergrad, and didn't participate in the Primaries because I just never got the sense that "my vote mattered." At some point, after spending some time in Pittsburgh I decided it was time to register in PA. I registered with the Green Party. I was at the point in my life where I was fed up with "politics as usual." I, mistakenly thought this would change things up, really, it just locked me out of primary elections since there weren't competitive races on this party line.
In 2004, I was working in NJ but still registered to vote in PA, on my day off I drove to Pittsburgh, a 6 hour ride to simply VOTE. I voted for Kerry. We all know how that ended but the point is that I take my civic responsibility seriously. and it's only gotten more serious as the years pass.
part 2 will be posted in the coming days...more random thoughts and personal stories :)