Some days ago, I completed and returned my absentee ballot because I won’t be at home on the day that my state holds its primary elections. Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the continuing barrage of campaign ads and the unending media coverage of primary elections and caucuses leading-up to the July political conventions? The many political action committees and individuals who use enormous wealth to influence campaigns and elections make me wonder whether our “government of the people, by the people, for the people” still exists.
My tendency toward cynicism was brought-up short in recent conversations with the two Dominican Sisters from Vietnam with whom I live in community. Both Sisters are college students. One Sister has received course assignments related to our US political parties and current candidates. Discussing an assignment with her, I realized how difficult it must be to understand all this political activity when a person has spent a lifetime in a country that for generations has had only one political party. In a conversation with the other Sister, I tried to explain how an absentee ballot works. She responded, “This is very serious then. In my country, we can vote but our votes don’t really matter.”
The “2015 Democracy Index” of The Economist states that only 20 countries in the world are “full” democracies where a citizen’s vote does matter. This means that nine out of ten people in our world live in places where they have little or no influence over who runs their governments. Despite our problems, the USA is considered a “full” democracy. It’s important not to let our democracy erode further.
In relation to political activity, Pope Francis has reminded us: "We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern." (9/16/13)
We need to consider which candidates today demonstrate a sincere commitment to the common good. How do we “immerse” ourselves in politics? How are you preparing to vote?
Toni Harris, OP