Building Back Better
When President Biden proposed his Trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, called Build Back Better, I had high hopes that maybe this would be something that Republicans and Democrats in Congress could find a compromise on and work together to make happen. I was clearly mistaken. We are being governed by a gerontocracy made up of people who are more loyal to their old ways and party than they are to the people they represent. Not only that, this group is comprised largely of one very specific demographic: old and white.
And we keep electing them. We keep electing them despite the fact that they, in a very literal way, do not represent the majority of the population, in ideology or demographics.
One of the first things we can do to begin building a better and freer country for our children is to vote. This is often looked at as a weak response to the things that have been happening recently, but it actually has some of the greatest long-term ramifications for the direction of the country.
The key, though, is to make voting a viable solution. How do we do that?
For starters, we need to break this practice of voting strictly on the basis of one single issue to the neglect of all others. The best example of this is conservative Evangelicals who only vote for candidates who are vocal about their anti-abortion stance. Just because a candidate checks off all the anti-abortion boxes does not mean that they are the best candidate for the job.
It holds true for those on the left as well. Voting blue no matter who is what got Joe Manchin and Kirsten Synema elected, and they seem to be working tirelessly to stand in the way of the administration actually accomplishing anything.
We need to make informed decisions about who we vote for.
We also need to be seeking out or encouraging young people to run for office. A recent piece by The New York Times (subscription) spoke to young voters. The feeling among all of them, regardless of party affiliation, is that the people in office do not truly represent them. They believe these (mostly) men lack “willpower” and “imagination”.
A third thing we can do with regard to voting is make voting work. Election reform is important. We need to ensure that everyone who can vote does, and that we are not erecting barriers to doing so. But we also need to be voting for people who do things, not just those who stand in the way of things. I honestly believe, and I am not sure there is any polling or evidence to back this currently, that a big part of why things are in such a stalemate in Congress, and have been for literal decades, is because we are voting for people who stand against the other guy rather than people who want to get things done.
Those oppositional attitudes are bleeding over into our everyday lives as well. We do not want voting to work, we simply want our party to win. We view voting as symbolic. It has become ethereal. We have come to view it as somewhat of a religious exercise that lacks any real-world impact. Like genuflecting during mass, we go to the polls and do our right actions and neglect our actual responsibility associated with those actions. As a result, only the worst elements of human nature present themselves. Children die at the hands of bullied adults and we shrug. Racism regains credibility and is even encouraged. Pastors can sexually take advantage of their parishioners and move on to the next church, or even start their own new church, like nothing happened.
Voting matters. It has real-world impact, from top to bottom. As a result, it is one of the things we can do to build a better world for our children.