You. Yes you. You don’t live in a democracy. If you registered to vote, don’t show up to the polls. You’re better off going home and binge-watching Netflix. You cannot be an activist. You cannot change the world. You cannot make a difference. Just stop.
This, sadly, is what our political culture tells us. You likely awaken every four years to participate in an election that has little effect on your day-to-day, life and then return to your state of indifference, your political hibernation.
But this is not true. We have the responsibility as citizens to inform ourselves and vote. Unfortunately, we have the attention spans of goldfish, and a shiny object (e.g. Donald Trump’s hair or Marco Rubio’s boots) can distract us from the real issues that need addressing. Voters end up following the presidential race like reality TV shows just to laugh at the antics of the man or woman with the loudest mouth.
Do you remember the Princeton study released in 2014 that asserted the U.S. political process is more in line with the ideals of the wealthy than the masses? Your friends shared it on Facebook, captioned it, “OMG this is terrible” and never talked about it again. That was a regrettably brief lapse in our current political culture of indifference. We noticed something was wrong, got angry and … stopped talking about it.
This can be partially attributed to mainstream media outlets within the United States not reporting on the study, most notably CNN and Fox. Instead of being informed political consumers, we succumb to mainstream media’s messages without a second thought. Occasionally, someone or something will gain traction, but mainstream media significantly influences our discourse and hinders us from being politically active.
Journalism professor Robert Jensen comments on the selection of stories by the mainstream media.
“I would say there is journalistic bias, it’s toward power, it’s toward the conventional wisdom on things like the nature of capitalism and the position of the United States around the world,” Jensen said.
There is no conservative bias. There is no liberal bias. It is just who has the power and what they want us to hear. A real grassroots movement can upset the balance of power, and the media want to inhibit that.
The media may not provide voters with all the information, analyses and opinions needed to stay informed, but that does not excuse anyone from becoming indifferent to the political system. Our responsibility does not end at reading one article, hearing one side of an argument or accepting the “mainstream” opinion. Voter responsibility requires us to seek out what we are missing and become the educated voters a functioning democracy needs us to be.
The cost of our political culture if we do not accept this responsibility: everything. We lose everything. Our democracy fails, and we become spectators of our own lives. We cannot allow this to happen, we cannot let our democratic process collapse, we must wake up.
Kumar is an undeclared sophomore. Follow Kumar on Twitter @ImAbiKumar.