It can be tempting to feel distanced from Washington, D.C. It can become easy to treat often over-sensationalized political discussions as though they exist in a world entirely separate from reality. Both poorly-constructed policy and unwise demands from the constituency often result from the apparent – and completely bogus – divide between politics and life.
First, all of human life is politics. The word itself comes from the Greek word “polis”, which is the name of city-states in Ancient Greece. Man is a political animal, according to Aristotle. That is, human beings are meant to live in community with other human beings. An isolated person loses something integral about his or her being – a quality only found in being open to experiencing others.
The daily interactions between community members have very real consequences within the community that each member respects, too. There is a central order in every social group. In order to make sure our community life is as whole and happy as possible, we invest in our relationships, our jobs, read the local paper, talk to the grocer — we engage.
But for some reason, national political life – as in, life in a national community of people – does not have the same level of engagement. In a 2012 poll carried out by the Medill School of Journalism, it was found that 93 million Americans did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. Several reasons why were because the nonvoters were too busy, because they felt pessimistic about the national future, and because they did not fully support one candidate or another.
However, there is no excuse for not engaging in national political life. Ignoring the vote or refusing to stay informed does not make a statement or prove a point. The American political system can only function if every citizen uses his right to have an opinion. When apathy takes over, the democratic republic is no longer a republic “by the people”. It becomes a state commanded by the few.
The problem with acting like policy is created and carried out in a vacuum is that it isn’t. Policymakers do not stand in a separate world and the legislature they discuss and create is not purely theory. Policy has tangible effects on every citizen, whether they were involved in influencing the policy or not.