Democracy shouldn’t be a spectator sport.
Sad to say, but that is often what our form of government becomes. Collectively, we bemoan perceived injustices or complain about a policy or law but do little to change it.
Our form of government, though, is built around the idea that voters should — and must — participate.
Thomas Jefferson — a founding member of our government — felt the people were the best protection against tyrannical forms of government. Jefferson promoted an “enlightened” nation of voters who serve as a check against government overreach.
Yet it is a two-way street and that means voters need to participate in their government. Exercising the right to vote is the single most obvious method to be involved, but it isn’t a silver bullet.
Many of us, in one way or another, enjoy the fruits of our great nation. Thousands of men and women have served our nation over 200-plus years and made a down payment on our ability to live inside a democracy. Those sacrifices stand as an example and should be motivation for the rest of us to participate in our democracy.
Granted, that is often not an easy task. Especially now in a digital age where events move at light speed, going to a city council or county commissioner meeting after a long day of work can seem to be a daunting task. We all have lives, we are all busy, so taking three hours on a Monday or Tuesday night to listen to what appears to be boring discussion between elected leaders can seem senseless.
The public trust, though, makes it imperative that all voters, when they can, go to such meetings to listen and evaluate how elected leaders are doing and what they are making decisions on.
Often there is a refrain of “I didn’t know they were doing that” when a specific policy or ordinance is suddenly enforced. Yet we should know. Voters should never be caught by surprise by a new ordinance or law.
Our elected leaders work for us. It is that simple. They are elected by the people and serve the people and are accountable to the people. Not to their staffs, not to their friends and not to their political cronies. They serve the people.
Yet voters must take responsibility as well to ensure democracy works. That means going to the occasional council meeting. That means — at least from time to time — taking a gander at a city council or county meeting agenda.
Democracy only works through participation. So, don’t get caught by surprise. Get involved.