COMMENTARY: Presidential election cycles seem to arrive earlier each round, much like the holiday shopping season. As with every presidential election cycle, voters dust off their voting identification cards and ready themselves to perform their civic duty.
More than active participation in the democratic political process, the majority of political engagement happens through conversation in social media circles and through printed press editorials. Participatory democracy has become an online argument rife with name-calling and political polarization.
The majority of American voters consider democracy to be a passive act of voting once every four years or every two years during contested races. The excitement, vitriol and participation of the American voter is generally centered around the presidential race.
No matter how exciting or terrifying a new candidate is for either of the two major parties, the electorate that shows up and shows out will likely fall along statistical averages. This provides for an average of 55 percent voter turnout for presidential runs and even less voter turnout during midterm elections, averaging around 45 percent.
What action looks like
As American voters, it is important that political participation move from online forums and into action. Races can be won by the amount of money, volunteer time and grassroots support candidates employ. Currently the most active voters are the ones who have always decided races, leaving out many voices in the political spectrum.
It begs the question: How can political solutions and a democracy work without the active participation of the voter?
The political process in this election cycle has become similar to reality television. Although it may not be the case, one could definitely posit that the current theatrics in media coverage of this 2016 presidential election may be the only way to engage the American voter. What should be a respectful discourse of ideals and values is instead a media circus.
Instead of looking to a presidential candidate to solve the nation’s problems, the electorate should be more active now than ever before. The voter should be just as invigorated around congressional, midterm, gubernatorial, and local elections.
We as citizens of a great and powerful nation have the ability to influence our communities through participatory democracy. Participatory democracy is not only showing up to polls, but also encouraging thoughtful discussion on important issues, as well as donating time and money to organizations that support a healthy democratic process.
The only way to find a collective solution
The populace of this country needs to move beyond cherry picking news articles and conversations that further isolate political views and enter into a dialogue with neighbors in hopes to achieve a bipartisan society and political process.
After the presidential election, serious matters of economic prosperity, national security, environment, and the unification of a people divided will remain. No one candidate for office will solve all the issues at hand — instead, these issues are relegated to the American populace, proving that more than ever participatory democracy is the only way to find a collective solution to societal ills.
Barrio is a native New Mexican and recent NMSU graduate. He has been covering Southwest music culture through several online music publications and has a passion for political activism and public discourse.