copyright 2003 by Tracy Marks   tracy@windweaver.com  
On the Web at http://www.windweaver.com/politics/politics.htm
Politics Index at http://www.windweaver.com/politics/index.htm



Have you given up on politics? Do you avoid watching or reading political news or becoming informed on issues and candidates? Have you stopped voting, even in Presidential elections?


We live in a critical time. Decisions made by our government today may destroy the future of social security and keep the U.S. engaged in wars against terrorism and wars for oil for the rest of this century.  Hundreds of U.S. troops are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghanis have been victims of war. Rather than explore and deal with the sources of terrorism, our government is creating conditions which can only breed more terrorists.


At home, American suffer from unemployment, rising health care costs, and increased insecurity about their economic and personal futures. We have a President we cannot trust, and a government which favors the rich and powerful. Meanwhile our media does not address the real concerns of most Americans, but diverts our attention with celebrity gossip, sensational and catastrophic stories, and political coverage which treats the elections as win/lose horseraces, focusing on polling, fundraising, and endorsements rather than seriously exploring the issues.


Some of us react with indifference and boredom, others with anger or despair. Our indifference may mask anxiety and discomfort which we prefer to ignore. Our negative feelings are difficult to face, and rage, hopelessness and powerless may trigger similar unresolved feelings from our personal histories which we would rather not experience.


One response is to tune out politically, and to focus on our personal lives, trying to convince ourselves that we cannot make a difference, and with our busy schedules, our time is best spent upon work, family, friends and relaxing diversions which only temporarily help us escape from our ever-increasing anxiety.


Another response is to deal with our uncomfortable feelings about our country and our future, to begin to transform our despair into hope, and direct our anger into action. But we may face innumerable obstacles, internal and external, in our attempts to do so.


First, we must care enough about ourselves and our future, about our families and friends and their  future, and if we can open our hearts wide enough, about people we do not know in this county and other countries, and about the earth and environment which sustains us.


We must care enough to be willing to feel and express our feelings about our political reality, and to work at dismantling the inner messages and rationalizations which paralyze us or shut us down emotionally. We must make the effort to create instead new internal messages, ones which recognize the difficult obstacles in our paths, but enable us to take slow, small steps toward overcoming them.


We may be apolitical because of boredom, despair or anger, but millions of people feel bored by political news, or angry or hopeless, and they still vote, and keep informed and even become engaged in political action.


If we decide to overcome our political disengagement, we can in time experience the motivation, determination, connectedness and renewed hopefulness that political engagement and action can awaken.  We can find others who share our feelings and values, and from the energy that such community can bring,  begin to take action to defeat Bush in 2004, to elect a different President – one who is committed to the welfare of all the American people, to the security of U.S. borders, and to a policy of international peace and cooperation.

A democracy cannot remain a democracy unless the voices of all or most of its citizens are heard.  As citizens, we all have a responsibility to become involved in the political workings of our country. When we don't vote, we passively support the current establishment, or the first choice of other voters.


When we vote, we actively influence the political process. If we take independent political action, we have more influence. When we band together with others to form activist groups which contact our congressmen and senators and receive media attention for the stands we take, we are indeed heard, and have an impact upon elections, and upon the future of the United States and the world.


Finally, by helping to create a political climate favorable to jobs, the economy, health care, transportation, family services, the environment, security and a host of other considerations that matter to all of us, we create a more viable future for ourselves personally.





Let's begin by considering the reasons that we may have for giving up on politics, and counter them with more realistic, motivating and empowering attitudes. Many of these counter-arguments acknowledge the validity of the feelings and thoughts that we may have which have turned us off to politics. These counter-arguments are, in many cases, more cynical than idealistic. But they move beyond cynicism to embrace an attitude that is committed both to acknowledging the realities of the present world, and changing them.


We'll begin with the initial reasons, and then explore the deeper psychological and sociological reasons which may not be conscious. You  may wish to ignore those which don't relate to you, and focus instead on those which echo your current feelings and attitudes.



EXISTING ATTITUDES: "Who cares?"  Politics has nothing to do with me.  "Politicians don't address or act on the real issues" 

COUNTERARGUMENTS:  Those of us who do not care much about the plight of Americans and non-Americans that we don't know do care about our own personal futures and people we know and love. We want to be able to retire with social security income, and to feel safe we you leave your house or fly in a plane. We may want to find  better jobs rather than hold on in fear to our current jobs because no better choices are available. We want our salaries to increase each year and at least keep up with inflation. We want our states to be able to afford at least adequate education for our children, and trained and available firemen and policemen. We want to stay healthy and not suffer from illnesses caused at least in part by environmental pollution. We want that we and those we love are likely to be alive ten years from now.


No President is going to fix all or even most of what is wrong with this country or the world. The capacity of any one person or his administration is limited; the difficulties and the oppositional forces too great. But some the candidates are likely to be committed to taking action on issues which are important to us personally, and to help create the conditions in which we can feel more confident of having a viable future.




EXISTING ATTITUDES: "Politics is confusing and overwhelming"  "I don't understand the issues or difference between the candidates"  "I don't know how to vote or who to vote for" "I don't know what to do to have an impact"


COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Politics IS confusing and overwhelming, and  we don't like feeling stupid, ignorant or confused. But we don't have to know all - or  follow the daily political news. We can read an hour a week, or even an hour a month. At http://www.ontheissues.org/  or http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/special/president/issues/index.html, we can inform

ourselves about the candidates' stands on issues. We can learn about the voting process at http://lwv.org/voter/index.html or http://www.vote-smart.org,  and explore news sites from http://www.webwinds.com/classes/news.htm. As the primaries and Presidential election approach, we can read a newspaper guide to the issues and the candidates. We will never understand all the intricacies of the issues or the candidates' experience, but we can still make informed decisions.


The links at the end of this article provide additional online information and guidance. Many political action websites also have user-friendly forms which enable us to quickly contact our Congressmen  and senators, or sign petitions in support of issues or candidates. 





"All politicians are crooks"  "Politicians are liars"  "They will say anything to get elected."

"They say one thing and do another."  "It's all about money and power."



SOME politicians are crooks and liars, will say anything to get elected, and are intoxicated by power. But not all. Many candidates today are sincerely committed to their ideals and values; if they may fail to actualize many of their aims or intentions when in office, they are likely to fail because of the power of opposition forces and because of the necessity of compromise on some of their values in order to manifest others – not because of insincerity or lack of commitment. Better a leader who succeeds in 50% of his aims in creating a more viable future for Americans, than one who takes us entirely in the wrong direction.

Politics is a joke."  "Elections are a farce."  "Big corporations run the country." "Political news is all about gamesmanship, polling and tactics and has nothing to do with real life".


Big corporations DO have considerable power to control the political agenda. But grassroots campaigns, when large and strong enough, can expose the corruption and begin to make small changes to alter the system. The election of 2000 was a farce, but this does not mean that the election of 2004 will be also. Only a small portion of political news does address the real issues, but at least that small portion exists, and hundreds of alternative news sources are springing up – especially upon the Internet -  to provides a larger, more accurate and more informative presentation of national and international realities.




EXISTING ATTITUDES: "I don't like any of them" "They all say the same thing"   "In order to get to where they are in politics, they sell themselves out so that I can't support any of them".

COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Politicians, like all of us, are fallible. In order to gain the political power to make a significant difference in this country, politicians have to raise money, make promises, disarm their opposition, and compromise.  Like it or not, that is the existing system, and the nature of human beings. We struggle to tolerate imperfect people in your personal lives, and likewise must struggle to support imperfect people in an imperfect political system.


In 2004, failing to vote – or voting for a minor candidate – is voting for and supporting Bush and keeping him in office. If we can't wholeheartedly support a leading Democratic candidate, we may be able to halfheartedly support a  candidate – one who is at least a better alternative to our existing President. Or we may be motivated by protest rather than support  - by our opposition to Bush and his administration's policies.  The danger is that we allow our criticism of individual candidates to lead to apathy – the apathy which can only help re-elect Bush and continue the downhill spin which our country is experiencing both nationally and internationally.


"The campaigning process is ugly and turns me off"  "The candidates focus mostly on attacking Bush or attacking each other"


Most of the candidates spend some of their time criticizing Bush, but not as much as the media would have us believe. If we listen to entire speeches, or read the text, we will discover that only a small percentage is personal attack upon Bush or another candidate. And unpleasant as those attacks may be, they sometimes have positive results – educating the public about another candidate's inadequacies or inaccuracies, or mobilizing the determination of the public to keep Bush out of office in 2005.


If the personal attacks most disturb us, we can vote for a candidate who is more invested in articulating his vision for the future then his discontent with the past and present. But we don't have to make up our minds based upon the 10-second soundbites from speeches which are often broadcast out of context. We can dig deeper. The media – an important issue in itself – thrives upon moments of conflicts, and blows them up out proportion, and out of context. For more reliable reports on national and international politics, we can check out Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, http://www.fair.org/, or Media Channel http://www.mediachannel.org/or some the alternative media links at http://www.webwinds.com/classes/news.htm.



EXISTING ATTITUDES: "They're all the same"  "There is no real difference between any of them"   "It doesn't really matter who is in office" 


COUNTER-ARGUMENTS: Yes, the Democratic candidates are similar in many of their attitudes, and because our existing political system, all must adapt themselves to political and business realities. But they differ as well.  Some emphasize foreign affairs, others health care. Some are committed to the Iraq war, others wish to pull out completely. Some want to repeal all tax cuts, some only the tax cuts on the wealthy. Each has different priorities, and a different set of experiences which will influence his/her priorities when in office. We can look deeper. Any of the current candidates in office would be significantly different in both domestic and international agenda and style than George W. Bush.



EXISTING ATTITUDES: "It's all about money." "They're all ruled by the corporations and lobbies that fund them – and so is the President"


Some candidates such as Dean are NOT receiving most of their campaign money from large organizations, corporations and lobbies, or from the rich and powerful. They are receiving thousands of small contributions from ordinary people. As a result, they are not making promises to serve the needs or profit motives of these large organizations, corporations or lobbies, but are making a commitment instead to the ordinary Americans who are supporting them.


Once a candidate is elected President, he will have to battle with the existing system and learn to function within it. This means dealing with the power of Congress (probably Republican), the Senate, corporate lobbies, oppositional political parties, and citizen's groups which oppose him. Like it or not, power is necessary to deal with power. Money is necessary to counter the power of the wealthy who are committed to their own interest and profit at the expense of the have-nots. Becoming more politically engaged means acknowledging and grappling with political realities, no matter how much we dislike them. But we can support ourselves to a candidate who is able to work within those realities without being corrupted by them.




EXISTING ATTITUDES: "One vote won't make a difference."  "I don't have the power to make a difference." "Only the rich and the corporate lobbies have power".


COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Every vote makes a difference. A few thousand uncounted votes in 2000 resulted in Bush rather than Gore becoming President. If we all felt our votes didn't count, then no one would vote. Many people exist who have more power than we do politically, and organizations have considerable power to override the will of the people, but every time we vote or write a letter to a Congressman, we influence the political process, and when we organize with others and are heard, we have an even greater impact.


But what if we vote or take political action and it makes no difference? The candidate we support is not elected; the "health care for all" that is important to us does not become a national policy. At least we feel empowered by taking action; at least we will strengthen our self-esteem and do not feel guilty or responsible for contributing to the political situation which ensues. We have no control over the consequences, but we  do have control over our own actions. And if millions of other people continue to take action, political change WILL occur.




EXISTING ATTITUDES: "I'm too busy. I don't have the time."  "I don't have enough time for my family or friends or time for a personal life – how can I have time for politics."


COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Many of us are busy and don't have much free time. But we set priorities. To create an hour a week for political involvement, we give up an hour television show or an hour's sleep. If we choose to make political education and involvement a priority, we can create the time. An hour a month is better than nothing.



EXISTING ATTITUDES: "It's too difficult to vote"  "I can't take time off to go to the polls or stand in line"  "I'm out of town and can't be bothered with absentee voting"

COUNTER-ARGUMENTS: If voting is important to us, we can plan ahead to have an hour available on election day, to share child care with a neighbor, to wake up an hour earlier, or to make arrangements with our boss to miss an hour's work. We can register to vote or learn how to fill out absentee ballots on the Web. Once we decide we care enough,  and are willing to take responsibility as a citizen for shaping the future of this country and our personal futures,  we can endure the inconveniences of lines at the polls and a missed hour of work on election day.



EXISTING ATTITUDES: "I'm not political"  "My family isn't political"  "I'm a Republican, so I vote Republican and don't need to pay attention to the Democratic candidates."

COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Our identities are not fixed in stone. We do not have to be stagnant beings, defined entirely by self-images forged in the past.  We are all in process.  Saying "I AM NOT political" is really saying "I WAS NOT political", because our future self has not yet emerged, and we have the freedom to change.


EXISTING ATTITUDES: "Bush is going to win anyway."


COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Bush is only going to win if you let him win - if we  don't vote, or don't take a stand against him, or support of causes in which we  believe. The future is not determined, but we can determine it – and negatively – by remaining indifferent and uninvolved.





Whatever reasons we give for our political apathy, many people who vote have many of the same attitudes – and yet they still vote, and in some cases are politically active as well. This may reflect the fact that our reasons for not voting or being politically engaged are not the real reasons or the entire picture. We may not have acknowledged or come to terms with our deeper attitudes and feelings.


Let's look at some of the deeper psychological reasons, and then at some interpersonal and sociological factors which may also contribute to our  political indifference, anger or despair.


The psychological reasons may be related to: not being in touch with our  feelings, not wanting to feel discomfort or confusion, and not being able to deal effectively with our anger, despair or powerlessness. In some cases, our reactions to the political scene may  trigger – often unconsciously - feelings or memories from our personal history which we do not wish to re-experience, and which we have not resolved.


The interpersonal and sociological reasons may be related to: not feeling connected to people who are politically concerned or involved, not wanting to feel or think differently than those around us or experience conflict in our personal relationships, not feeling support from our community in regard to political awareness and action, and not being motivated or engaged by the media's coverage of political issues and events.




Some of us may have a gripe against the world at large. We may not to want to admit it, but we are still angry with our fathers or mothers or authority figures in our past for abusing or neglecting us. We may, consciously or unconsciously, want the government to be the universal mother or father – the parent that we never had. We may expect the government and political leaders to provide for us more than is possible, or to compensate for what we lack.


We may, as a result, have difficulty accepting or supporting a political system or political leaders which do not help us overcome our personal discontent, or which contribute to it even further.

Some of us may even be stuck in behavior patterns related to passive-aggressive anger, preferring  to remain disengaged and complain rather than take responsibility for making our lives and the world better.


Political action is a constructive outlet for anger. Our rage can empower us  rather than paralyze us.  If we can't actively support a candidate, then we can at least actively protest against some of Bush's policies and the orientation of the current administration. If redirecting anger into assertive support FOR a cause is not possible for us, then we can take action AGAINST policies with which we disagree. Rather than allow our anger  to keep us stuck in passive complaining or destructive behaviors, we can find constructive outlets for expressing and redirecting it. 




Some of us may feel depressed about our lives, and wrestle with despair about our future. If so, grappling with national and international issues may further trigger depression and despair that we do not wish to experience. Therapeutic help in dealing with depression – and perhaps the grief from the past that may underlie it – may make a difference, and enable us  to feel more engaged in your own life and in politics. Expressing and validating our feelings will unblock our energy, clear our minds and free us to make important changes in our lives.


We may also become surprised and pleased to learn that choosing to become politically involved – especially with others who share our values – helps us  express and redirect our personal despair and depression, and turn it into motivation, enhanced self-esteem, and an increased sense of possibility. We may not be able to quickly overcome our despair and depression, but we are likely to discover that by connecting and acting with others politically that we transcend some of the symptoms which have previously immobilized us. Indeed, our personal depression may be influenced  and exaggerated by the sociological and political conditions; taking action may help dismantle at least some of the causes which contribute to our personal unhappiness.




Are the people in your lives apolitical or do they share different political views than you? If so, you will need courage to differ from them, and to dare to express or act upon your values, especially if your are regarded as "unpatriotic" for not supporting the current administration.


A dedication to bettering our country IS patriotic, and in a democracy, dissent is not only patriotic, but also necessary for improving existing conditions. On a personal level, the self-esteem that results from daring to be different and daring to speak our minds is well worth the risks and discomforts involved in the process.


A first step for many of us may be reaching out and finding others who share our feelings and attitudes. Hundreds of email groups (mailing lists) exist which can provide support and help us connect with likeminded spirits, educate ourselves politically, and feel empowered to express ourselves  openly. In our communities, we  may be able to find political action or support groups where we can feel free to express our feelings and beliefs, and empowered to act upon them.


The first step in reaching out is the most difficult, and the most alone. Once we take that first step, we are likely to find that the support, energy and motivation of others enables us to overcome many of the internal and external obstacles which we previously encountered.






The quality of the media – television, radio, newspapers – has deteriorated in regard to political coverage during the past decade. Today, fewer than a dozen mega-corporations control the media, and are motivated by profit rather than meeting the needs of the public.


Key decisions – particularly in regard to what the media addresses and how it does so - are made behind closed doors without awareness or input from the public. Journalists and television news personalities feel constrained by pressures not to criticize government policy, or alienate advertisers or corporate sponsors, or stir up political controversy which may have an adverse effect upon their bottom line. Considerable attention is paid to the stock market and elite issues of concern to the upper middle class, since they are the audience which advertisers seek to reach. The media neglects addressing  the real concerns of the lower and lower middle class.


As a result, political news becomes bland and onesided, focuses upon personalities, or avoids the issues and treats the election as a game or horserace of winners/losers in which the tracking the polls becomes more important than informing or educating the public. The most basic issue – the influence of corporate power over the media and the government and its effects in undermining democracy, is not addressed at all. Investigative reporting is reduced to a minimum, issues are not explored in depth, and candidates are only given  twenty second soundbites to explain the complexities of their attitudes or proposals for the future.


The news becomes entertainment, focusing upon celebrity gossip, sensational and catastrophic stories, and political oneupmanship. Talk show hosts who are entertainers, rather than informed reporters adhering to professional standards of journalism, quote politicians inaccurately and out of context, and stage sham debates with guests who are no more informed to further provide misinformation to the public, or push their personal agendas. Uninformed, inaccurate and biased discussion serving elite interests– as well as the continual focus upon polling – influence the political decisionmaking of most Americans,  and therefore election results.


Those of us who cannot support the current system, or candidates who operates within it, may be motivated to become involved in issues of media reform,  election reform, or any political reform which tackles the underlying foundations of our current system. Informing ourselves via web sites such Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting http://www.fair.org, Common Cause http://www.commoncause.org or Media Channel http://www.mediachannel.org, may lead us to become politically engaged in changing our political and communication systems. 


Such action may be the most important of all, because without a democratic media free from the control of business and government, and without a fair election process, we become more and more of a plutocracy - a government ruled by the wealthy and serving the wealthy - rather than a free and democratic society.






We do not have to be politically informed on a daily basis to make a difference in this country; we do not even have to become a political activists. Registering to vote, educating ourselves on the candidates and issues before the primaries and Presidential election, and then voting may be the best that we can do, and enough to fulfill our responsibilities as U.S. citizens. But the more we  inform yourselves, and engage in take political action, the greater the difference we will make in shaping the future of this country and own personal futures. We are also likely to discover unanticipated benefits – an increase in self-esteem and personal empowerment, new friendships, and a sense of community with likeminded people.


What do we  need to do to become more politically engaged? Reading this article is a first step.


A second step is allowing ourselves to CARE more deeply. To care about ourselves and our futures – our jobs, income, health care, neighborhoods, safety, personal freedoms. To care about our family and friends and people in our lives, and their happiness and future. And if possible, to care about all Americans, and human rights everywhere.


Third, we may need to SHIFT OUR PRIORITIES, to make space to devote an hour or more a week or even a month to political awareness and action. This may mean diminishing, to a small extent, the time we spend in another activity which in the long run is not as important.


Fourth, we may need to be willing to EDUCATE ourselves politically, to allow ourselves to feel stupid, confused, ignorant or overwhelmed as we begin to sift through the enormous amount of relevant and irrelevant political information available in order to learn about the issues and the candidates and make up our minds who we support.


Fifth, we  have to be willing to feel, to DEAL WITH THE DIFFICULT FEELINGS that such political awareness may awaken, and to grapple with anger, sadness, disappointment or even despair. But we may discover that in doing so, we are also rewarded with increased self-esteem, fulfillment, hope and satisfying new friendships.


Sixth, if we are so inclined, we are likely to find help, support, and satisfaction when we SEEK COMMUNITY and join with others in a discussion of the issues, a sharing of feelings, and joint action - in protests of policies with which we disagree, or on behalf of a cause or a candidate.


Seventh, we need to be decide to begin the process of converting our apathy into engagement, our anger into action, and our despair into hope. A passive indifference or disengagement from politics does not serve us personally, or your country. A democratic society can't remain democratic unless its citizens inform themselves and participate in the political process. If we don't vote or engage ourselves politically, we support the current establishment, the candidates that other people elect, and the policies that other people support.


It's our future. We can have an impact personally and politically. We may not be able to control  the consequences of our actions, but we can change our attitudes; we can CHOOSE to vote and choose to take a stand FOR or AGAINST a cause or a candidate.


If our actions fail to have the results we seek, we can continue the battle, uniting with others to have a greater impact in the future. At least we will have taken responsibility, enhanced our self-esteem, and become more engaged in the world around us.


If our actions have favorable results, and our chosen candidate is elected, and laws are changed to support our favorite causes or policies, we can celebrate. We can rejoice with others in our shared victory.  We can also claim some of the credit, and experience both the internal and external rewards


Our lives are at stake here. Our country. Our world.

It's OUR choice.



For political news sites, see the author's links at:




Project Vote Smart  http://www.vote-smart.org


Index of American Political Parties



League of Women Voters Voter Information





NYU Voting Information Library



National Mail Voter Registration


Register Vote


Register  to Vote Online




Politics Online  http://www.politics1.com/


Evote.com  http://www.evote.com/

Political Information


Politics.com  http://www.politics.com/

CNN Inside Politics


National Political Index






Know the Candidates


VoteSmart on the Candidates


The Green Papers http://www.thegreenpapers.com/

On the Issues http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm

CNN Election 2004



Guide to 2004 Election http://www.politics1.com/p2004.htm

Democracy Net  http://www.dnet.org/

Presidential Primary Dates




Speakout.com  http://www.speakout.com/


E-ThePeople http://www.e-thepeople.org/

Voter Voices 



Hundreds  of political email lists at:






MoveOn.org  http://www.moveon.com/

Citizens for Participation in Political Action



Political Activism resources



NetAction's Virtual Activist Training Guide


Working For Change http://www.workingforchange.com/

Eactivist  http://www.eactivist.org/




Democratic National Committee


Democratic National Convention



Democratic Underground


Democrat Debate Transcripts





Congress   http://www.house.gov/

Senate   http://www.senate.gov/

The White House   http://www.whitehouse.gov/



Common Cause http://www.commoncause.org/


Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting


Institute for Public Accuracy




Media Reform http://www.mediareform.net



NOTE ALSO: The author is politically involved in Tikkun http://www.tikkun.org and recommends its magazine, mailing list and local groups to people new to politics who wish to be involved with others who share their values.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Special thanks to my friends and the members of Tikkun community who helped me to define many of the reasons why people opt out politically as well as Paul Lachelier, a lecturer in Cambridge, Massachusetts on "why Americans don't vote". Other sources that have been helpful include Joanna Macy's out of print but still available Despair and Empowerment in the Nuclear Age and the League of Women Voters web site at http://lwv.org/voter/index.htm.


Web www.windweaver.com