This chapter on democracy, citizenship, and elections I thought was a much better read than a few of the previous readings that we have encountered. This reading can be broken up into three sections. These sections are as simple as they seem, democracy, citizenship, and elections. The section on democracy goes into great detail the origins of democracy and the roots of such a practice. The first paragraph of the chapter sums it up very well. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change the weather. Meaning that people are going to do what they want to do and in today’s society that something can be anything. The source of democracy is the individual. With out individual thought and action democracy is not in play. The chapter describes that as the enlightenment was occurring, the ways of the old such as nobility and inheritance were at an end and a new class of merchants, traders, and capitalists rose to power. This new class of people was limited of course to white men, but this was the first step towards individual decision and governance. Liberalism is defined in the book as a lack of government and a strong focus on individual liberties which today is not what liberal stands for. Today when I think of a liberal I think of a person that is looking for more legislation and more government control rather then less. It was this very struggle that lead to the formation of various revolutions most notably the American revolution and the French revolution. In both cases there was a concern from the people where as the masses were being controlled and oppressed with very little say in the matter. This would lead to the famous “no taxation without representation” quote and would set the stage for war. Democracy has two major components and they are voting and citizenship.
What is citizenship? Here in America it is being able to call yourself and American and being considered apart of this country legally. As citizens we have certain rights as the book points out which are worth noting and they are civil, social, and political. Civil rights pertaining to the protection of rights amongst the masses, thus the state provides things such as defense, law, and means that those rights of the individual are protected. Social rights being that each citizen has the rights to fair wages or equal opportunity at an education. The last being political where as people have the right to vote on elected officials that make our decisions for us. Now not every person in America is a citizen and during the times leading up to the civil war we treated certain individuals as less than ourselves with the 3/5 compromise. There are illegal immigrants in our country who use our resources and take our jobs. Women for the longest time could not vote. The history of citizenship is a little muddy and over time has become what drives democracy forward. Our rights as citizens of America are what make us Americans. The right to vote, bear arms, assemble, practice religion are what make this country what it is. No where else in the world are you ever going to find that. In Russia for example with the upcoming olympics has a law in place that only allows for the practice of three different religions and any other religion is of limits. We as citizens can think how we want, act how we want, and we can vote how we want, and that is what makes us Americans.
Now I am not to big into voting. In this recent election I was able to take my first trip to the polls and for me it was a new experience. Formal elections are confusing, long, and they can change the fabric of a nation. When you look at the issues people vote on they can range from things like job creation to abortion. People vote on the issues that matter to them. I love the maps of the 2004 election because they do a good job depiction how close a vote can be. The election that year came down to a recount and one state changed the vote, one state. Looking at the map we can see that the geography of an area is what ultimately determines its political affiliation. States that went blue in the 2004 election were states that hold a large portion of the population and have each have a major city. New York, California, and Illinois all went blue mostly due to the fact the vast majority of the population lives in the big cities in those states and those people are typically poor or seeking government assistance. Democrats are more how can we help you and Republicans are more how can you help yourself. So areas of poor people naturally go blue since democrats help the poor more than republicans. Voting is important because it give American citizens the chance to be heard and make a difference in who runs this country.
Politically I’m not looking to get into a debate on who is right and who is wrong, which system works the best, or who is the best man for the job; what I am after is a better country and a better world where people can make choices and live free lives away from hate and violence.