In 2012, the United States’ population hovered around 314 million people. Of the 314 million, about 219 million people were eligible to vote. Out of those 219 people, only 126 million showed up to the polls.

Out of 219 million eligible to vote citizens, almost half of them stayed home from the polls on Election Day. 

Plato once said, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” He could not have put it any better. Although the lack of motivation to get to the polls is problematic in and of itself, it signals a much larger and troubling state within this nation.

Voting is such a simple thing to do, and large portions of voters are not even going in with knowledge of the platforms and opinions held by the candidates they will vote for. They simply vote down party lines. If we’re beginning with only slightly over half of eligible Americans voting in the last general election, and we’re narrowing the field even more based upon people who have done their research and people who have not, things begin to look a little bit scarier. The number of educated Americans voting for our elected officials becomes miniscule.

Going further down this dark road, people turn out to the polls because campaigns work as a hyping mechanism. They get people excited, and then they motivate them to action, regardless of how intelligent a thought process behind such action. Without campaigns and promotion, poll numbers would sink even lower.

The conclusion this leads us to, therefore, is that if people can’t be personally motivated to go and educate themselves on the candidates that are running, or to even turn out to the polls when they are eligible to do so, why would we think that Americans in general are becoming educated on or caring about anything else in government? Campaigning and elections are exciting times, but they are the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, the most important part is what the elected officials actually DO, the policies they enact and the laws they create.

The American people, truly, seem to be apathetic towards the government of this country and what it chooses to do.

James Madison once said, “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression.” In this country, power was not meant to lie within government, or in the hands of any elected official. It was created to lie in the hands of the electorate, the common citizen. Whenever we disregard public affairs and policy, refuse to educate ourselves, or ignore what is going on in Washington DC, we are handing that power over, entrusting the government to make decisions and call things as they will.

The consequences of American apathy are oppression and tyranny. Yet, the battle is not complete, and there is still power in the hands of the common citizen. To fight back against a government that would seek power at the cost of liberty and attempt to placate the common people into a lack of accountability, we must seek to be educated. There is a world of information that is, literally, at our fingertips; taking the time to learn about the issues, have a basic understanding of what your elected representatives are doing on your behalf, and to hold elected officials accountable for their actions is crucial.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” As the polls have not closed, I do not currently know how many Americans have turned out to cast their votes today-my hope is that the number is much higher than the last general election. However, let us not focus on just turning out to the polls, although it is our civic duty.

Let us be an educated citizenry, one that realizes that power within government lies in the hands of the common people, as long as we are willing to hold onto it. Educate yourself. Involve yourself. Be worthy of the freedom you have as an American.

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