dukeengageseattle2012

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“Anyone who says they are not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water.”

Many organizations that my fellow DukeEngagers in Seattle are working with register voters, including mine. Thus, inevitably, we as interns are told to go out and register voters. I personally have been as far as Everett, a forty minute drive, and as close as the food bank downstairs in the Solid Ground building. Registering voters is always a struggle because most people simply don’t care. I can’t personally blame them, as the narratives painted by certain media outlets are incredibly pervasive. Even when there are opposing narratives from both sides of the political spectrum, one is clearly more visceral and easier to relate to. Scapegoating is a fine art in politics, but even when the subtleties are removed it is still easy for an individual to blame the government for their problems. They see government as a destructive, parasitic institution that takes away their hard-earned money without acknowledging that it also provides essential infrastructure, emergency services and safety net programs. It certainly doesn’t help that Washington’s regressive tax structure benefits the wealthy and overly burdens the working class (as well as Duke Engage students, who have no income but make plenty of purchases.) Many of the people I’ve talked to have lost faith in the government and the power of their vote. They feel so disconnected from the process and the outcomes, even though the legislation that is passed affects them daily. It always perplexes me how ignorant and unappreciative we can be about things that we now take for granted. People throughout history have fought, struggled and died for their basic right to have a say in government. One of the major causes behind the American Revolution was taxation without representation, yet there are people now who willingly give that representation up while still paying for it. Voter suppression is a useful tool for different groups trying to maintain their power and so many people have bought into it. Washington State in 2009 allows previously-incarcerated people to vote under certain conditions. I told this to a gentleman at a food bank only to be rebuffed. He claimed that it would be a felony for him to register to vote, which would be true under the old law. When I told him about the new law, he became visibly agitated and stubborn, claiming that he knew better because he read the news. The two possibilities then were either that he was ignorant or that something he had read or seen made him believe that previously-incarcerated people could still not vote. Given that the majority of previously-incarcerated people are low-income people and people of color, I would not be shocked if it were the latter. One of the biggest problems is that these individuals typically don’t know that there are groups, working against their best interests, actively trying to suppress their vote, and that their suppression plan is working so well. That means occasionally, these people view individuals who actually are trying to empower them with apathy, if not outright hostility. The idea that a powerful political party has tricked the majority of a certain group into believed that they have their best interests in mind while actively working against them seems straight out of a dystopian science fiction novel, but the truth is all too real.

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2012 by .
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