Recently I’ve been talking to a lot of my peers about voting; it’s importance, how I got my absentee ballot from Massachusetts, and what my vote will mean in the upcoming election. At an affluent liberal arts school, I assumed I would get answers like, “I’m definitely voting Obama,” or, “I wish more of our nation’s demographic would vote.” I’m afraid to say I have found quite the opposite. I was talking to a student who took a year off to be part of the independent committee that redistricted the state of Arizona. As a political analyst, he mentioned all he needed to do was watch Saturday Night Live and Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to know what was going on in the world of politics. I was discussing the subject of voting with a student from North Carolina who mentioned she would not be voting this year because she doesn’t like either candidate and doesn’t feel informed enough to make an educated guess. I had a similar conversation with a friend from Utah.
Wasn’t it our generation that was so fired up about the election four years ago? Didn’t 5 million more people vote in 2008 than 2004?
This sudden pattern of apathy towards our political system was at first very frustrating to me; and then it was confusing; and now it makes sense. As Joshua D. Wodka pointed out, “candidates will say and do almost anything to win a presidential ticket,” and I think the public is starting to notice. In this campaign more than in the past, candidates are speaking for money as support rather than votes. According to Demos, candidates who out-raise and out-spend the opposing party win the federal election 90% of the time. This explains why Congress spends 30-70% of their time in office fundraising: because money is heard louder than votes in a presidential election.
The projected total for money raised in the 2012 is between $9.8-$11 billion. Most of this money comes from Super PACs or individual donations (at least on one side) that sway the problems a candidate focuses on, regardless of what the public cares about. The Romney campaign has taken $838,481 from PACs while the Obama campaign has taken none. However, this is information the campaigns choose to disclose. Just like their talking points, candidates hide facts from the public what may look bad. It is clear what issues Governor Romney will focus on when he has taken $676,080 worth of disclosed donations from Goldman and Sachs.
With all this money coming from business, how is the public supposed to believe what each candidate says? How are we supposed to be a popular sovereign nation when the decisions of government have already been made for us? A lot of people are apathetic right now because the public no longer has a major role in our own democracy. It feels now more than ever that our votes don’t count as much as they used to and people are responding with hopelessness or apathy.
This is not healthy voting behavior for a democracy, to say the least.