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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Voting essential for all community members

Published: November 14, 2014
Section: Opinions

The results from last week’s election give an interesting perspective on the current American political mindset. Americans consistently elected Republican candidates in all offices, in all divisions of government. However, most of the progressive ballot initiatives also passed, leaving the United States with progressive policies (such as increased minimum wage and legalized marijuana) and conservative legislatures, an interesting combination. Analysts, I’m sure, will go on to interpret the meaning of all of this, psychoanalyzing voters and determining the methods and intentions behind the vote. However, the answer is much simpler. This election had the lowest voter turnout since World War Two, at 36.4 percent, so it’s no wonder that the results seem so strange.

Voter apathy is one of the largest problems facing the United States. People feel as if their vote does not matter, and whether or not they vote in the election, their vote will have no outcome on the end result. This sentiment can be alleviated in several ways, one of which would be adding more seats to the House of Representatives, which has not been done since 1911, and is vastly overdue. While there was merit to the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, it is important to realize that the U.S. population has increased about 200 million from 1929 to 2014. In 1929, each congressman represented about 300,000 citizens, while currently each congressman represents about 700,000 citizens. An increase in seats would not only help alleviate strain for congressmen, but it also would allow each voter to be more connected to politics on many levels. It gives more votes to the Electoral College (taking away some of the importance of swing states) and it has the potential to significantly decrease the gridlock in Congress.

In this election, what did the Democrats do wrong? Firstly, the ballot initiatives show that progressive policies and ideals are wanted by the American people. An interesting campaign to look at would be Gary Peters from Michigan. He campaigned with President Obama, and he was one of the few non-incumbent Democrats who won a seat in Congress. He embraced the Democratic Party’s leadership and ideals. In other words, he ran as a Democrat. The rest of the Democratic candidates have been trying to run as moderate to right-leaning candidates, who hate taxes and love guns. You know, like Republicans. If Democrats ran as true Democrats, they would be far more likely to be elected than if they ran as Republicans.

Secondly, the Democrats allowed poll predictions to “prepare them for the worst.” Most of them “knew” they had lost before they had started. Modern election statistics, while accurate and important, are not written in stone; they can, and have, changed. The Democrats should have approached the negative predictions as a challenge instead of a death sentence. They should have worked harder to get voters to the polls. Basically, they should have campaigned better. If progressive ballot initiatives can be passed, progressive candidates can be elected. The Democratic Party needs to get its act together. It need to stand by its values and run as the progressives they are.

The last, and probably most important, issue with this election is the amount of money involved in modern politics. While this is currently seen as a progressive issue, it is something both sides of the aisle should be concerned about. If we allow wealthy individuals and corporations to buy our congressmen, which is what they are doing now, then we are not a nation “for the people.” The FEC reports a total of $1.5 billion being spent on elections this year. We cannot pretend that this doesn’t affect the outcome of an election. If one candidate can buy more airtime or larger signs, they’re more likely to win. Does their ability to purchase these things define their worth as a politician? Probably not.

This election should have been an eye opener for the American people, we need to vote, we need to care. And we need to pay attention. If we apathetically allow either or both parties to tell us what we want, we lose our value as a democracy. We are still the “great American experiment.” Let us prove wrong the statement that democracy eventually falls into the hands of an oligarchy. Let us prove that people have the power and the will to change our nation. So remember to pay attention, and most importantly remember to vote in 2016.