Why politics matters

Dylan Doyle

 

Column by Dylan Doyle, contributing writer

As a journalism major, I’m expected to keep up with the news.

Our professors don’t just encourage us to pay attention to current events; they require it. Since political journalism is what interests me, I do my best to take in as much political coverage as possible from a diverse range of sources.

I will be the first to admit that I fill my social media accounts with far too many political commentaries, and from time to time my friends rightly call me out on it. But the most infuriating questions I get usually begin with a why.

Why bother? Why care so much about politics?  Why spend your time talking, writing or thinking about it? Isn’t it all rigged anyway? Why argue with that Facebook friend about Donald Trump? Don’t you know you are not going to change his views?

There exists a strange sort of apathy around political discourse in the public eye. Even the recent presidential election season, with all of its circus and buzzing controversy, only enticed about 31 percent of Americans to follow it “very closely,” according to a 2016 Gallup poll. Compare that to the 60 percent of Americans who describe themselves as sports fans.

Some more context: 80 million people watched last year’s final presidential debate, the largest viewership the event has ever had.

Compare that to 112 million people who tuned in to see the 2016 Super Bowl. Of course, these numbers do not take into account the countless people watching either event at viewing parties, sports bars or restaurants, etc. Factoring those in, the gap between the two is likely much larger.

Why did so many more Americans care about guys running after a ball than the choosing of their next leader? Why did Beyoncé and Bruno Mars garner so many more viewers than Hillary Clinton and eventual president Donald Trump?

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to disparage your interests or the multibillion dollar sports and music industries. I admit I never got the hang of the whole sports thing, but I definitely get the appeal of Queen Bey. But let us be honest with ourselves – at the end of the day, even Beyoncé is just an entertainer, and Peyton Manning is just a guy chasing a ball.

I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but stay with me here. How much impact do celebrities or athletes actually have on your quality of life? They are not the people deciding whether or not you will have health insurance next month, how long you will be paying off student loans or if your mom will be able to pay for her medication with her Social Security check.

You can choose to ignore pop culture and carry on through life perfectly fine. I avoid all mention of sports, and the worst thing to come from that is a glaring gap in my trivia night game. The same cannot be said about politics. The reality is, politics affects you whether you care about it or not.

People are representing you in the local, state and federal governments – if they never hear from you, they are free to take your silence as acceptance of their policies, even if those policies hurt you and your loved ones. It’s simply a matter of realizing you have a voice and making that voice heard.

That being said, you have to be informed on the issues first, and that comes from consuming news from lots of places and critically thinking about it. Forget about sites like Breitbart and ThinkProgress that have obvious political slants and agendas. Find unbiased information and form your own conclusions. You just might be surprised to learn your political affiliation does not match that of your parents or friends like you thought it did.

If you pay taxes, drive on roads or use the postal system, you cannot opt out of politics. The decisions made by politicians will directly affect you whether you like it or not – that is just the way it is. After you realize that, it only makes sense to concern yourself with politics. If we, the little guys, never wise up and band together, the rich and powerful will always crush us. Crack open a world history book and see for yourself.

It is up to you to use your vote and your speech to force the government to care about your interests and the interests of your voiceless and downtrodden brothers and sisters.