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Last week, Jeremi Suri reminded us about the importance of informed voting. Too many people vote for personalities instead of policy. That’s why we see the stagnation, hyper-partisanship and “public ugliness” he talks about in our politics today. But let’s talk about what your vote means.
Your vote is most important to whichever city you’re from. In "Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy," political scientist J. Eric Oliver called local government "the hidden leviathan of American politics."
These elections determine where your house, grocery stores and schools are. They also tax you, directly and indirectly. Property taxes are often determined by the local government and can be unrestricted. The local government also determines the business tax breaks that you’re obliged to pay for. Local politics affect you from your home to the workplace. Remember this the next time you blow off tablers outside of the SAC trying to register you to vote.
So voting is huge. Especially locally. But there are huge parts of the government that don’t work off of how you vote, either. This is where Suri and I may diverge. The rally to energize voters should be met with intense change from the top.
Consider that my influence on the system is not the same as Bill Gates’. Or Goldman Sachs’. I do not have the same political resources nor the same privileges. Corporations hold property, enter into contracts, enjoy free speech and are constitutionally protected. But when a corporation and I disagree, my interests are put in competition with theirs. And that’s a losing game.
If I’m concerned with the protection of natural resources in a way in which a corporation is not, what happens? The people decide, right? Well, no. I have nowhere near the same resources as a corporation when it comes to lobbying, media appearances, sponsoring a think tank, consulting my critics and contributing to political campaigns that will favor my policies. Corporations are just one example of the power players that set the national agenda.
There are others, many others.
What Suri is focusing on is the process; but we should take the product into account. We should encourage “lazy” voters to actually look at policy platforms, but we should be more publicly critical of the power players involved.
Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.
On Sunday, without surprising much of anyone, Hillary Clinton announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Clinton, as former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State, is one of the most experienced and famous people to run for the high office in recent memory. She, of course, came very close to receiving the Democratic nomination in 2008, losing to Barack Obama, who then obviously became president.
However, amid Clinton's announcements, few are talking about her decades of experience and fewer still are talking about her policy prescriptions, which have been numerous in recent days. Instead, all the attention from the press and the public has seemingly focused on Clinton's logo, a blue uppercase "H" with a red arrow — pointing to the right — overlaid on top of it.
The logo has been the topic of both praise and derision, namely the latter from Clinton's ostensible ideological compatriots. The New Yorker's editorial cartoon on April 13th, long a bastion of liberal, skewered the logo as ironic, given the arrow's color and direction. Closer to home, many found the logo disappointing and reminiscent of former state Sen. Wendy Davis', D-Fort Worth, first logo, which fittingly looked like a sinking ship.
In one respect, the fact that Clinton doing something as inconsequential as unveiling a silly little logo has garnered so much nonstop media attention speaks to her huge notoriety as a powerful person in the public image. In another respect, it serves to demonstrate just how broken American politics is, with the press groveling before the lowest common denominator, just using buzz words to describe a picture as pretty or ugly, in lieu of — for example — substantial policy discussions. Evidently, world of 140 characters has sadly made those debates passé.