CAMBRIDGE – The American political train has gone off the rails, and it seems farther than ever from getting back on track. There has been a lot of finger pointing, with commentators blaming issues like gerrymandering, rising economic inequality, the campaign finance system, and unbalanced journalism. But the public cannot address these genuine flaws in the system directly. What they can do is tackle another fundamental problem: low voter turnout.
The beauty of democracy is that, if people vote, they can effect change. It may not happen as quickly as they would like, and the candidates may not always be ideal. But voters can still help shape their country’s future.
Nowadays, many are politically disillusioned. With the rich and powerful pulling the strings, ordinary people feel that they have no influence on electoral outcomes. So, they conclude, they might as well not register or show up to vote. This behavior is most prominent among young people and some ethnic groups, particularly Latinos and Asian-Americans.
To be sure, complaints about US politics are not unfounded. Income inequality is on the rise, with the top 1% holding a vastly disproportionate amount of wealth, while middle- and lower-class incomes remain largely stagnant. And there is too much money in politics, exemplified by the influence of interest groups like the National Rifle Association.