"Politics is too important to be left to the politicians," John F. Kennedy, Jr.
This week, President Obama participated in an MSNBC/Telemundo town hall on immigration hosted by José Díaz-Balart at Florida International University. The President made news for slamming the Republicans and their policies. He made it abundantly clear that he would do everything in his power to reform the immigration system, as it is no doubt one of the most important issues facing our nation.
Yet, one crucial issue of the evening was completely ignored by the media. I believe it was one of President Obama's most important points and the fact that he brought it up was newsworthy. It was his answer to Mr. Balart's pivotal question, "When is it going to be about people and not politics?"
The President pointed out that two-thirds, yes TWO THIRDS, of the citizens of the United States did not vote in the last election and that the group who had the lowest turnout was young people. He noted that war-torn, impoverished countries have a voter turnout of 60-70% and that if that same percentage of U.S. citizens voted, the state of our politics would be completely different. Mr. Obama went so far as to indicate that even the immigration policies would be different if more of us voted.
If more United States citizens voted in local and national elections, surely our politicians would make it about people and not politics. Our senators, congressmen, assemblymen and public advocates are the people who represent us on Capital Hill. They are our voice in the president's ear, yet our voter turn out in local and mid-term elections is even lower than in presidential elections.
If 60-70% of U.S. citizens voted, there would be no 1% and the middle class would actually exist. We would be able to send our children to college without incurring debilitating debt. We would not have to tolerate high interest rates, the soaring costs of medical care and government spending that is out of control on the local and national level. We would not be the richest country in the world with children living in poverty and we would not tolerate the abuses of banks and big businesses that fund Capital Hill.
As President Obama rightly noted, there are generations of people who fought and died for our right to vote and yet, two thirds of us stay home. In 2014, The Washington Post reported that, "General election voter turnout for the 2014 midterms was the lowest it's been in any election cycle since World War II, according to early projections by the United States Election Project."
We have the power to change the political landscape. But we stay home. We complain about how divisive and ineffective politics and Washington are. But we stay home. We watch while media pundits, reporters, and talk show hosts, on the left and the right, bash each party. But we stay home.
We have become a country of citizens disenfranchised with politics. But that is no excuse. It is unconscionable that we continue to rely on Washington, politicians and the media to make decisions for us without participating. We cannot continue to complain that we are powerless while two thirds of us do not vote. We have all the power when we vote. If we vote en masse and we get involved in politics en masse, then we have the power to make significant changes in our country.
We, the people of the United States, have the power to form a more perfect union if we get out and vote in our local elections and our presidential elections.
Politics is too important to be left to the politicians.