You probably didn’t vote last Tuesday. You might’ve thought about it, but you probably didn’t feel like driving all the way home, or maybe you didn’t know how to arrange for an absentee ballot. But either way, you probably ended up speaking with the majority of Americans who stayed home last week discharging a chorus of dispassionate sighs.
But what does it mean?
To say simply that we have become apathetic is too simple, barely a half-truth. It is not our faults that we are disenchanted and polarized, that we would rather stay at home and watch TV than play our hands in choosing the direction of our government.
There is no one left to believe in.
When was the last time any politician rose up to seize the hearts and minds of the voters, to make them believe that they are being fought for tooth-and-nail on Capitol Hill.
Populism is dangerous. Fighting for the common person is a fight that political figures have too often lost: John and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Abraham Lincoln.
And what has it led to?
We have been disenfranchised, forced forever to choose the lesser of two evils – Democrats, Republicans – each one pandering to the middle of the road, backwash peddlers afraid to present any new ideas for fear of being branded a radical and forced out of our thin government.
Yes, we’ve been disenfranchised by the political and ideological monopoly controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties. We are polarized because we have no options, apathetic because we do not seem to matter to the average politician.
My only hope is that with the Democrats holding control of the House and Senate beginning in January, they can begin to push through legislation that will benefit the middle class, the working class, that chorus of disenchanted Americans who made their political statement through silence last Tuesday.
Expect Democrats to rally around issues like reducing government spending, which has spiraled out of control under a might-makes-right obsessed Republican majority.
But also expect them to confront health care issues that will affect all of us as we move out from underneath the umbrellas of our parents’ insurance.
Expect an increase in the minimum wage that does not come tied to a bill to cut the estate tax.
Expect them to actually review and work to enact the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Expect a congressional review of climate change – the most important issue of our generation, one that will dog us to our graves if we do not address it immediately.
And through all this, perhaps we can expect some voice to rise up from the dust on Capitol Hill to grab the American people and make them believe once more in the efficacy of our public institutions. We already see potential in figures such as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., whose charismatic ability to bridge racial, educational, economic and geographic divides has made him a firebrand of the party.
We can only hope he does not meet the same lead fate that met the Kennedys.
In the meantime, the American public stays silent. But remember the warning of Sir Thomas More who, in the age of tyrannical kings as England stood poised to separate from the Catholic Church, observed that silence is the same as consent.
The same holds true in this second age of tyrannical kings.