November is one of my favorite months in the year, especially for a month that is traditionally cold (but not this year, thanks global warming, for making Indiana feel like Alabama).
The best things about November include:
- Alabama playing LSU in the first Saturday of the month (Roll Tide)
- Alabama playing Auburn in the last Saturday of the month (Roll Tide)
- my birthday and the most frosting on a cake that accompanies it
- some of my favorite class discussions that I purposely save for the end of the semester, to keep both myself and my students excited and engaged (yeah, local government organization, I am talking about you!)
- and of course ELECTION DAY!
This November is very busy and very wonderful. Between the excitement in college football and the election, the opportunities I have gotten in teaching and in the media, this has been a very exciting November already and it has barely begun.
Last week, my colleagues and I discussed the important races, issues, and take-aways for the upcoming election in a panel combining both the historical context and current analysis.
I feel a little redundant and also obvious stating this, but this is a truly important election. I remember sitting as a student in college during the 2008 presidential election and hearing my professors lecture us on what a unique time in American politics that was and now, as the professor myself, I find myself telling my students the exact same thing. In so many ways 20016 has much of the drama that 2008 did, but with a negative twist. Both Democrats and Republicans seemed to be empowered with the themes of change and cohesion in the Obama/McCain races; while it would be in the parties' interest to forge similar bonds again this race, the rhetoric is undoubtedly more negative and caustic.
I worry a little for my students and the newest generation of voters that the undercurrents of fear and mistrust that characterize this race will permeate their conceptions of our political system and they will feel cynical and distant from it before they have even begun to get involved. I hope I am wrong and that my concern is invalidated. I hope that younger voters feel outrage if nothing else, demand more from their government, and voice those demands through the democratic processes. Recently, I came across new literature in the discipline that argued the mutually reinforcing relationship between polarization and engagement, as when the former increases the latter decreases and vice versa. If we feel more polarized in this election and fewer people are engaged in the process, the problems of polarization will likely exacerbate and become worse.
Being upset with the system is okay. It is good, really, because if you are truly dissatisfied, you should have the opportunity to share it. Refusing to participate in changing the system is not. Relying on others to do the work that we all should do undermines the founding principles of true democratic values.
I shared the picture below with one of my classes where participation is a struggle (photo cred @my_mo_says_im_pretty on Instagram). It could be because they don't care (which I don't believe), or because they are lazy (which I also don't believe), and it could be because they don't see why they matter. It is easy to complain, it is infinitely harder to work, but we *must* be willing to make the effort to change if we have any expectation of seeing it.