The Citizen’s Dilemma

By Devon Douglas-Bowers


While the 2014 Senate elections are several months away and the 2016 Presidential elections are even farther off into the future, the media is still hyping these up as if they are going to happen any day, most recently with the Chris Christie bridge scandal. However, the time has come for us to question why we vote and why we engage in this current system that oppresses us. We must realize the citizen’s dilemma.

Again and again, every election cycle, people are encouraged to vote; and millions turn out with the hopes that voting in a new politician will change the current system. Unfortunately, that is currently not true and has not been true for decades. It would be false to say there has not been major reform in the past, such as with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts; but, overall, we have seen that the government has become more and more oppressive while becoming less and less responsive to the people. We only need to look at what is currently going on – from the NSA spying on Americans to Obama signing the NDAA in 2012 which allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens. We also need to look at the roots of this problem.

In the US education system, we are embedded with a number of ideas from a young age. Two of these fundamental ideas stand out the most: 1) The US is a democracy, and 2) Voting is extremely important. Many continue to believe this long after grade school, eventually aligning with either the Democratic or Republican Party, and blindly supporting one of these two parties throughout the remainder of their lives. We are caught in this idea that voting is important and voting will affect real change, all the while ignoring that, time after time again, voting doesn’t actually do much at all.

While many Americans now identify as independent, they still support either one of two parties at the polls, election after election. This is an extremely strange phenomenon when considering that Congress maintains historically low ratings, even going so far as to be less popular than ” cockroaches and traffic jams .” And while both political parties are criticized on a regular basis for choosing their own political interests over the interests of the nation as a whole, Americans still show up in droves and pull the levers.

The US government has continued a number of policies that are constant, no matter which party is at the presidential helm; namely war, ‘free’ trade, and the surveillance of Americans. While there are differences between Democrats and Republicans, they are virtually the same on a majority of major issues. One can reasonably deduce the government does not truly care about its citizenry; rather, it cares much more about corporations and itself (the politicians, themselves), as can be seen by the fact that they have taken time to line their own pockets by repealing most of the STOCK Act and that they are bought and paid for by corporations. There is an ever-growing disconnect between the people and Congress, as many in Congress are millionaires and thus their personal interests align with those of the upper class and corporate elites rather than their constituents.

While may argue that the way to fix the system is through reform, namely campaign finance reform such as repealing the Citizens United case, and by enacting term limits on both chambers of Congress. However, even that will not work as this would have to be enacted by the very people who are benefitting from the status quo.

The situation doesn’t get any better when one considers the two political parties actually vote against their espoused values on a regular basis; or, rather, they actually agree on many things that go against their values. The NDAA 2012, which allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens, and the Trans Pacific Partnership are two recent occurrences that go against the Democratic Party’s ‘official’ stance of wanting to “do away with the security state that former President Bush created.” The Republicans, too, support the surveillance state as they recently praised Obama on his defense of NSA spying, something that runs contrary to their ‘small government’ agenda. No matter if the administration is Republican or Democrat, we, as a country, remain at war, remain at the mercy of corporations under the guise of ‘free trade,’ and are subjected to government monitoring.

Thus, the American people find themselves in a dilemma in which there are a myriad of problems facing them. The current political structures refuse to address these problems; rather merely serving as a valve in which to unleash steam. Voting does not help. Reform will not be enacted. It is time for Americans to begin to create new structures that work for the public rather than to continue engaging in a revolving door.


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