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"History has proven time and time again that politicians do a horrible job of keeping themselves accountable when no one is looking. It’s time for us to not only fight for democracy overseas, but become active participators in our democracy here at home."



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By Segun Idowu
Segun is May 2012 graduate of Morehouse College, and Master of Divinity Candidate at Boston University School of Theology. 


It’s that time of year again. The American people are constantly reminded through advertisements and speeches that they are about to make the most important decision in the most crucial election of their lives. Again. Every election since anyone who wasn’t a land-owning White man could vote has been one that would determine the future of America. This election is no different.

Save a select group of confused people who, obviously, have been living under a mountain for the last few years (they call themselves “Independents”), most Americans have chosen the candidate who best represents them. Or, at least the one who is the complete opposite of the one they don’t want. Everyone is geared up and ready to put (or keep) their candidate in office. 

But, I’m worried that we’re preparing for the wrong day. It’s not November 6, 2012 we should be preparing for; it’s November 7th, and every day after.

Emotions are running rampant as we approach Election Day, much like they did four years ago. However, we saw much of that excitement dissipate quickly as the days grew more and more distant from that first Tuesday in November. People began to feel that change was not reaching them fast enough. They began to lose hope. They were bombarded with news graphic after flashy news graphic that Washington D.C. and Wall Street were playing with their treasure, their time, and their tolerance levels. 

They had voted for this human being to carry out superhuman feats and fix 300 million lives all by himself. Why wasn’t he doing it fast enough?

In a 2004 discussion at MIT, noted philosopher, lecturer and activist Noam Chomsky said, “If we want to stop being a failed state and become a democratic society, things are going to have to happen between the four year period [of elections].” I am not cynical enough to believe, like Chomsky, that my vote doesn’t count or that the election process in the American interpretation of democracy is a farce. I do believe, with Chomsky, that political engagement is not a Sabbath experience. Like bathing, it is something that citizens must do every day.

Citizenship requires more than a vote. It means making your vote matter to that politician by writing or calling them when they stray from accurately representing you. It means donating your time or your money to that political campaign to make sure your voice and your vote mean something to that person who is running. If we know that politicians respond to donors and lobbyists, we must become the majority of those donors and lobbyists and make the system work for us rather than against us, as we have allowed it to do for so long.

History has proven time and time again that politicians do a horrible job of keeping themselves accountable when no one is looking. It’s time for us to not only fight for democracy overseas, but become active participators in our democracy here at home. We must not place our faith in a mere mortal to solve our complex problems. For, what will we do when we cannot vote for that person any longer? 

No, it is up to us to make sure our nation is not wrestled away from democracy’s grasp. If we fail to look to November 7th, then Shakespeare was right to put in Cassius’ mouth, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

 


Comments

Jeff
09/26/2012 8:20am

Segun, there seems to be a disconnect between your (commendable) call for us to hold politicians accountable, and your apparent willingness to exempt President Obama from such accountability on the grounds that the promises he failed to deliver on would have required superhuman feats to achieve. Who, in your view, is more to blame -- President Obama, for having made campaign promises that he should have known could not have been kept without superhuman feats, or those who voted for President Obama, for naively believing that he actually could have delivered on those promises?

It seems to me that Nov. 6 is a perfectly appropriate day to think about accountability. It is, in fact, the only day that actually matters where accountability is concerned. Voicing your opinion is great, but politicians can ignore your opinion; they cannot ignore your vote. The only message of accountability that politicians universally respond to is the one where we vote them out of office when they underperform.

I assume you weren't a fan of Clint Eastwood's RNC speech, but one point he made is rock solid:

"Politicians are employees of ours.... And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go."

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01/30/2013 4:34am

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