Don’t Just Vote: Democracy Demands Active Participation

I voted Progressive. I hope everyone voted. I know some at UVM probably saw Tuesday as the perfect excuse to enjoy a longer weekend. I did too, but I still hope everyone voted. It is important. A simple paper ballot given out once or twice a year, however, is not the difference between democracy and some other form of government. Think of it this way: connecting an arrow, filling in a bubble or (goodness, no) punching a chad, takes, what, five minutes at most? And say you do this twice a year from the age of 18 to 78; add it up, you have spent a whopping one hour of your life being democratic. All the rest of the time you will have to follow the rules of your boss and the bank. Think of it-was there a vote to see who the next UVM president would be? Was there a vote to see if the shuttle service should be outsourced? Was there a vote when the IBM office nearby decided to cut its wages? Was there a vote when school sports were cut? Was there a vote to see what powers UVM Police Services should have? I don’t agree with other Cynic columnists. I don’t think Burlington has gone down the drain. I love this place; maybe they should move to Texas. The Progressives have done a good job. But especially when we look nationally, just voting appears to be even less adequate. First, our president did not receive that majority of the popular vote, but some Congressional Democrats still think that debating the issues at hand is unconscionably unpatriotic. Doesn’t sound too democratic to me. Are we ever going to see a ballot asking us: Should Enron officials face jail time? Should real workers’ wages not have risen since the seventies? Should thirty-five million Americans still go without health insurance (this question takes on special significance to a large number of graduating seniors)? Are they ever going to ask us if we should spend less on an endless war and more on social spending? Never. Are they going to ask us if we think that six million children should starve to death every year? Never. Are they going to ask us if we agree that Enron’s millions should have bought more influence than the millions of voters in energy policy? Never. Representation in our government is a matter of cost. We have to vote but we also have to do more. We have to start building an alternative to a Washington consensus that has the priorities completely backwards from California to Argentina. And for those who took Tuesday as a long weekend, remember, the weekend we enjoy came from workers uniting to fight for livable conditions. They did more than just vote. To gain real democracy, we should follow their lead.