OP-ED: Citizen Apathy and the Death of Democracy

By Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick

It may surprise a lot of people to learn that the recent shutdown in Washington was not all the fault of those folks on Capitol Hill.  A lot had to do with and still does with citizen apathy.

Reality:  the vote is only the beginning of democracy. Apathy can be the death of democracy.

While Congress, the President and a bunch of Tea Partiers certainly deserve all the brickbats thrown at them, it would be useful for the rest of the population to think a little more beyond being critics.

Most voters, if in fact they do show up to do so, are like sleeping bodies until the media shake them out of their slumber. When awakened suddenly by one megaphoned crisis or another, they react like others with “Wha?...Who?...What’s happening?) Then just as suddenly comes the frequent “Well whaddya want from me?” that graduates to “Let’s throw all the bums out!”

Well before that, after casting the ballot that put the “bums” in office, most then go back to what they were doing in the belief it’s the responsibility of those “bums” to take care of everything, instead of keeping an eye on them and registering ideas, criticisms and concerns of their own….leaving the thought control to the 11,000 or so lobbyists roaming the halls of Congress and elsewhere to do the thinking for them.

Anyone who doubts these realities might do well to review the statistics on how relatively few show up even to vote for a presidential candidates or even know who may running.  Believe it or not, there are some powerful people who rely on that voter apathy.  They’re often called political hacks of all parties, lobbyists for special interests and about anyone who does not want the “interference” from  you and me.  Because of this situation, it is not possible to simply blame all the Members of Congress, the President or the rest of the special interests who count on your apathy until they can suddenly scare you to be awakened and demanding prompt support for some stuff you have no idea of its impact….but you know there is a crisis you may or may not be able to understand.

 While it has been accurately asserted:  citizen apathy can be the death of democracy,  a sudden and misinformed citizenry when major crises are being blasted at them by the hour is just as dangerous and frightening.

So, while all the results of the recent non-action of our 535 legislative watchdogs plus the President are reviewed and graded, it would be wise for those in the responsible communications and media fields to promote energetic citizen involvement in the government they created and keep those they put in office hot on their toes in the knowledge the voters are not only  watching on election day.

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Honick is president of GMA International Ltd with offices in Bainbridge Island, WA.  He is an international consultant to business and writes on a variety of public affairs issues.

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