Democracy requires our efforts after Election Day

Alexander Chase

We’ve been writing about this election for far too long. For many of you on campus, the way it ended was a disappointment; for others, a begrudging victory or a vindication. But to believe it is the end would be to learn yet another wrong lesson from a campaign cycle full of them.

I joined The Daily Texan shortly after most candidates announced their candidacy last fall with the intention of writing about transportation and environmental policy. I wanted to help bring light to the sorts of obscure, simple changes that can greatly affect our lives. But I also did so because I knew that many of those changes require putting the right people into the right offices and checking the right boxes when key ballot measures come our way. As a Canadian citizen, I didn’t have the right to vote. I still don’t.

Like much of this campus, I threw myself into this election and sought to find the ways that we could guide change. In March, we effectively elected a new state representative for campus, and in April, our city opted to hold firm on its regulations of the ridehailing industry. But the marathon race for president was the one that captured most of our attention, for better or worse.

There are a few moments I remember while standing in my kitchen in June of 2015, before I ever considered writing for The Daily Texan, chopping zucchini and watching Jon Stewart play footage of Donald Trump descending an escalator in Trump Tower before declaring his candidacy. I remember hearing Marco Rubio lay out what I thought would be the new Republican climate policy in the second Republican debate — and repeating the same line over and over during the eighth. And I remember Bernie Sanders claiming that America is “sick and tired of hearing about [Hillary Clinton’s] damn emails” over a year before the election.

Covering this election has been a gut-wrenching experience, and not always because of the results. It gave students a chance to divide themselves behind different candidates over and over. We found new reasons to be fearful of one another and to lose faith in institutions that we should want to have faith in. And even as we get charged up to vote by Nov. 8, we were witnesses to a massively consequential moment in American history where nearly half of all eligible voters stayed home. We should be embarrassed about that.

After writing and editing hundreds of thousands of words worth of articles about national and state politics, I ask that you not mistake powerlessness over the Electoral College for inability to affect change over government institutions that affect you. If you care about immigration policy or policing, then help like-minded people get elected to the commissioner’s court and sheriff’s office on the county level. Work at the State Capitol to guide legislation in this next session and help make education in Texas fairer for everyone. Follow local reporters on Twitter to hear about the events that will affect you as early as you can. And most of all, erase the idea that democratic involvement ends at the ballot box.

Avoiding the issue is not an option. Unfriending people on Facebook who disagree with you and hiding deeper in a bubble of confirmation bias will only further insulate you from policy issues that do not affect you, but do affect elections. And please, if I can convince you of nothing else, do not threaten to move to Canada, no matter how great things seem there. They’ve confronted their problems and voted against anti-Muslim fearmongering. It’s our job to stick around and guarantee that our politics — on both sides of the aisle — is dominated by ideas, not fear.

Chase is a Plan II and economics senior from Winnipeg, Canada.