The Importance of Civic Engagement in a Divisive Political Climate

With politics becoming increasingly polarized and dysfunctional, it is crucial for more Americans to actively participate in civic life to ensure a more constructive and inclusive future.

In a recent survey conducted by Pew, Americans described the state of their politics as divisive, corrupt, and messy. The level of polarization and dysfunction in the political landscape has left many feeling disenchanted and tempted to tune out. However, withdrawing from civic life can have negative consequences, as it allows unreasonable zealots to shape the future. To avoid this outcome, a greater number of circumspect individuals must participate in politics. This article explores the ill effects of negative polarization, the importance of civic engagement, and provides practical ways for individuals to get involved.

The Impact of Negative Polarization

Since 2016, voter turnout has been relatively high, but not because the public is enthusiastic about the direction of the country. Instead, Americans view people from the opposing party as immoral, dishonest, and close-minded. This negative polarization has been exploited by politicians like Donald Trump, who can mobilize both ardent supporters and those who vehemently oppose him. To counter this trend, it is essential for more Americans who are alienated by negative polarization to actively participate in politics, not just during elections but in political life more broadly.

The Need for Civic Participation

Civic participation goes beyond simply voting in elections. It involves engaging in political discourse, understanding different perspectives, and seeking common ground. If social media is used primarily for attacking rather than understanding or persuading, it is time for a change. Empathy for individuals on different sides of society’s thorniest debates and a desire to preserve relationships despite ideological differences are crucial. By actively participating in politics, individuals can contribute to positive-sum compromises and improve the current state of affairs.

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Practical Ways to Engage

Engaging in politics doesn’t mean becoming a political junkie or permanently staying engaged. A pragmatic approach involves participating in politics starting from the day after the Super Bowl until the general election on November 5, 2024. This limited timeframe allows individuals to research candidates, vote, and actively contribute without overwhelming themselves. One crucial aspect of participation is not skipping the primaries, as they significantly impact the choices available in the general election.

Altering Primary Elections

The average turnout rate for primary elections in the United States is only 27% of registered voters, compared to 60.5% for general elections. By increasing turnout in primaries, individuals can alter the primary electorate and influence outcomes. Ceding primaries to partisan extremes guarantees dissatisfaction with the choices available in the general election. To have a say in all down-ballot offices, it is essential to cast informed votes in both primary and general elections.

Effective and Sustainable Engagement

Engagement in politics should be effective and sustainable. Hours spent on fruitless online arguments or doomscrolling through headlines only harm mental health without yielding results. Instead, consider giving campaign contributions to preferred candidates or supporting the opponent of a particularly pernicious candidate. Help register reasonable individuals to vote or organize peer-to-peer efforts to increase voter turnout among like-minded acquaintances. Contact close races and offer assistance as a volunteer. A few hundred dollars or a few days of effort can have a far greater impact than hours wasted on online arguments.

Conclusion:

While politics can be stressful and frustrating, it is a necessary aspect of society that must not be ignored. Charles Krauthammer once wrote that if we don’t get politics right, everything else risks extinction. In a divisive political climate, it is crucial for more Americans to actively engage in politics, fostering constructive dialogue and seeking common ground. By participating in elections, altering primary outcomes, and engaging in effective and sustainable ways, individuals can shape a future that is more pleasant and inclusive for everyone. So, after the game, take a moment to consult a primary-election calendar, register to vote, and make a difference.

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