6/5/14

Costs of Political Disengagement

English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting
English: Ballot Box showing preferential voting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are an awful lot of reasons not to vote in elections. Both of the big two political parties have lost their way, and voting for third party candidates often seems futile. Few have the stomach to vote for someone without any real chance of winning. The differences between the candidates we find on our ballots seem trivial, especially here in Mississippi where even the Democrats can be more conservative than the Republicans elected in many states. It is difficult to have much confidence that anyone we elect is going to keep their promises once in office. It is exhausting to hear candidate after candidate pander to our religious neighbors while ignoring or demonizing us. When all these reasons are added up with the rest of them, voting seems like a real waste of time.

The problem with not voting, of course, is that the system moves on without us. Our refusal to vote does not stop anything. People are going to get elected whether we vote or not, and by not voting, we surrender providing any input into the process. By not voting, we are giving up. Here in Mississippi, I am not sure we can afford to give up.

In the Congressional race in District 4, Trish Causey ran in the Democratic primary. She ran as a progressive activist, something I hadn't seen in the nearly 15 years I've been in Mississippi. In fact, this election was the first time I've had the opportunity to vote for an even somewhat progressive candidate in Mississippi. Trish's candidacy was also noteworthy in that Mississippi has never elected a woman to Congress.

Trish lost the primary to Matt Moore, but she picked up 44% of the vote in the process. While I was disappointed by the outcome of this race, I cannot help feeling somewhat encouraged that there seems to be at least some progressive presence in the 4th District. Perhaps this is something on which we can build.

I know it is tempting to disengage from politics and tell ourselves that we cannot change Mississippi for the better. Go along to get along. Keep our heads down and our mouths shut, and maybe the Christian extremists will leave us alone. Except that they aren't leaving us alone.

Our conservative politicians are on the verge of banning abortion. It is difficult to imagine we will see marriage equality come to Mississippi anytime soon. Our system of public education is being neglected, and we continue to push abstinence-only sex education. Church-state violations abound.

Those of us who want to change the course of this state do not have an easy road ahead. Progressive communities are small, scattered, and poorly organized. We already lag far behind neighbors like Alabama and Tennessee with regard to organized atheist communities engaging in visible activism. I wish I had some answers, but all I have right now is a growing sense that the present situation is intolerable.

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