Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Politics is more than sport

For some, politics is sport. Someday, someone might develop online fantasy politics, like fantasy football. In sports, only the athletes need to show up for there to be a game. In the sport of politics, however, who shows up makes a difference.

Not everybody thinks that their individual participation is all that important. People who are focused on trying to meet the needs of their children may not feel they have the time or inclination even to pay attention, much less to get into the game. Though it might not seem worth it, paying attention makes not just a difference but a significant difference. Voting for Congress in 2010 elected people who suddenly brought to the table issues that no one dreamed would ever return, all because they were paying attention and saw an opportunity to take us back to a time before the social safety net.

Paying attention makes a difference to those among us who find themselves without health insurance for themselves or their families, either because they are out of work or because their employer can no longer afford health insurance. If you pay attention, you might discover that government is not the problem but the only solution to some problems.

It makes a difference who is nominated to the Supreme Court. With the court consistently issuing 5-4 decisions, one more dependably conservative or liberal on the bench could well determine whether Roe v. Wade will be overturned, completely eliminating personal decisions about abortion and quite possibly even the use of contraception.

In 2010, the election of a large number of extreme conservatives and the entry into the electoral process of the unlimited corporate contributions allowed in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision began to make changes that no one thought to be possible. These congressmen walked the United States to the edge of an unprecedented and unimaginable default on its debts. Who could have guessed that there are serious proposals to move back to a time before Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

Being registered to vote must make a difference since state after state—including Florida, Arizona and Indiana—has cooperated with the incredibly well-financed American Legislative Exchange Council and its radical agenda of suppressing voting. ALEC has pushed through state laws restricting requirements to vote that will have outsized impacts on only some populations. If we are not paying attention, encouraging everyone to make sure they are legally registered, many will not be voting.

Politics is like sport, but the stakes are about our lives, our country and our children’s future. It might be worth showing up.

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