Monday, February 16, 2009

How Do More People Get Involved?

Okay so, as I discussed in my last post, democracy requires a lot of work by citizens for it to be fully effective. The question becomes, how do you motivate people to spend the time required? (Image: CNN) Well, the question puts the onus on the politicians and other concerned bodies to make people care. Though this is not how it should be, it is how it ends up being. How do we deal with this and make the best of it?

Politicians need to make an effort to reach out to the masses on issues that count and get people to believe they're serious. Though this can lead to these politicians being dismissed as all talk, a solid base needs a strong presentation to get anywhere. To see this issue in action we can return again to the often-cited case of Barack Obama.

Early in his campaign, Obama got noticed because he reached out to his audiences at speeches and debates by discussing issues they cared about in a way they cared about. He didn't jump into a typical political speech, but spoke of why these things mattered. This strategy was effective in gaining support early on and motivated some people who would otherwise not have have become involved in the presidential race.

This method got heavily criticized by his opponents during the primaries and general election campaigns for being not specific or substantive. The critics claimed that the message of reaching out and motivating people could not contain the complexity of the issues at hand. This attack is hollow in that it is simply not the case. It is hard to disprove it because there is no evidence to prove it. In the case of Obama, he did not sacrifice being specific for firing people up.

Some pundits, along with his opponents, drilled it into the minds of many that he was not direct and specific, but compared to all of his competitors he was the most substantive. During the election he was also criticized by some pundits for making lofty claims. These doubts too were shown to be false, or at least minor in comparison to John McCain's stubborn view on the supposed strength of the economy.

Though the efforts by some politicians to make the public more active in the process of democracy may leave them open to attack, the public usually makes the right choice at the booth. There is no way to measure the effect of Obama's strategy on voter turnout, but this election had a very high turnout during a grim time. Compared to Canada's turnout around the same time, the United States turnout is all the more impressive. This turnout results in a better democracy; the turnout relies on making citizens care.